Viral Content: How To Make Your Material Buzz
BY Thomas Johnson STAFF CONTRIBUTOR
When your content goes viral, it helps confirm your credibility as a trusted authority and go-to resource while building valuable links to your website.
You’ve heard of videos “going viral,” driving an astounding amount of traffic to a website or bringing unprecedented attention to a brand. Viral content – a feature article, blog post, or infographic – can, when done right, garner the same sort of highly-shared, attention-grabbing publicity, which is a highly desirable goal for you and your firm.
If you can get your content widely published and have reputable sites link to your site, you’ve just developed and sent into the virtual world your own invaluable and lasting marketing ambassador.
While your content usually needs to be SEO-driven to capture Google algorithms, there are times when you want your content to focus not on SEO, but instead to create buzz. For buzz, you need a hook. While there is no guarantee that your content will go viral, there are four major hooks that will act as social marketing propellant:
Content is only as useful as you make it. Your audience has a problem to solve, a question to answer or a need to fill. What benefit does your content bring to their table? If you read over your content, and cannot answer why you wrote it (other than to fill space), or why anyone would read it, or why anyone would want to share it with a friend (or twenty), start over.
Hard To Find Elsewhere
If someone else has solved the problem in the same way, or answered the question with the same answer, why would anyone be interested in your response? Make it different. Do a web search to ensure your content isn’t already out there with the competition’s name on it. If it is, take it as a challenge to bring your best work to the game.
Be specific, not vague. “Five Ways To Approach Your Custody Issues,” “Seven Forms Every Veteran Should Have On File” and “Ten Ways To Save your Estate” are all attention-grabbers. Readers love lists, especially anything that starts with “Top 10” or “Five Easy Steps.” Everyone is competing for their attention; simple, concise and immediately understandable go a long way to keeping their eyes on your content. Infographics also fit into this category. Copy that shares specific information, whether as a table of numbers, some concise charts, or even great photographs paired with the right content, tend to be shared as fast as someone can hit “send.”
Hot is the most important hook you have. Hot can be urgent content or something that is currently on everyone’s mind. If you want to grab their attention, make your message urgent. Let your readers know that the status quo has to change. “Why The Broken Social Security System Means You Might Not Get Benefits” is stronger than “People Are Wondering About Eventual Retirement.” “Three Estate And Trust Changes You Need to Make Before The End Of This Month” is more likely to be shared than “Ten Estate and Trust Changes You Might Want To Consider.” Think about how your content is looking at an issue you can help fix, a deadline that must be met, and a way to avoid future discomfort.
Another way to make your content “hot” is to link to a recent event or to controversial topics. Obviously, you do not want your company’s name or your brand attached to anything unsavory or unpleasant, but there are plenty of newsworthy, hot button items for your angle. Internet safety, privacy issues, the economy, the ways men and women communicate (and the ways in which they do not), government spending – all are topics that seem to grab comments and spur discussion, and all can be connected somehow to your content. Bring emotion to play: pick a topic your readers will want to defend to the ends of the earth, or will want to argue about endlessly.
Not up for controversy? Find out what is trending. A big celebrity divorce? Look at their public custody battle, and tie in how your firm works with parents to manage creative scheduling. A sports figure declares bankruptcy? That may directly speak to how you can help leverage estate and trust issues for your clients.
Works On All Levels
In addition to the hooks, think about how your headline will read on your website, on your company Facebook page, on Twitter, and even on a mobile device. Smart, succinct headlines are the norm. Your headline has to be strong, but it cannot be too long, too wordy or too clever. Work to strike a balance.
Make It Matter
There are no hard-and-fast rules about what content will catch the public’s attention, but, in general, you’re more likely to have luck with an emotional trigger. Audiences tend to share information that bolsters their own views and refutes someone else’s (“See? I told you our trust needs updating! This article backs me up!”), or that urges the reader to act quickly (“Mom, you should speak to your estate attorney about this ASAP!”), or that engages the reader’s heartstrings (“Can you believe how backlogged the system is to support our returning veterans?”). When audiences share content, it is most often to sustain a conversation, to annotate or clarify their point of view, as an act of support, or as a call to rally for change.
The bottom line? When viral content works best, it works because the content is worthwhile enough to garner so much attention. The viral part organically happens, and that is in the hands of your readers. They need to think your content is something others should know about. So, jump in and give them something they’ll want to share.