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How to go viral on the Internet!

Feb 23, 2017 Posted by Anders Östlund
Online marketing has exploded over the last decade and the entry of social media has only added to the flood of online opportunities for marketing, self-promotion and the information overflow that has come with it. In such an environment it has become much harder to get your message through. Surely money still talks but is not so dominating as it once was and at the same time it has become much easier for a small company or even a single individual to be heard and sometimes get a reach that 25 years ago would have cost a fortune. This very interesting change of marketing fundamentals makes the message more important, especially the packaging of the message.

Goal

Defining the goal with your post is of course the first priority. Are you interested in traffic to your site or social media profile? Are you interested in sales? Are you interested in promoting your personal or business brand? Are you interested in increasing the followers you have in social media? Are you interested in advocating for or against something or somebody?

Defining a precise goal will help you to gather the proper content, package and spread that content in a way that fundamentally increase the chances of your post going viral.

Encourage people to comment, like if they agree and share. People usually react positively if you ask them to act if they support your message. If they don’t support your message they don’t and then they are not part of your target audience anyway.

Also keep in mind that at the end you want clients, therefore one client is worth more than a thousand clicks, likes and shares. You can’t pay your bills with likes anyway. 
 

Message

The message is different from your goal as the message is supposed to be what drives the users to continue towards your goal where the goal is the intended action you want the users to take. The message must be designed to achieve your goal without necessarily stating it clearly, as when you see a discount message outside a store which triggers you to go inside to look up the discounted goods but end up coming out of the store with other products in addition to the discounted goods. The message from the store was about the discount but the goal of the store was to make you purchase other items, typically higher margin goods. The same logic applies online.
 

Write For The Internet

Keep in mind that keywords are very important to use on the Internet. What are the unique and not too uncommon words that you can use in your content that will match search phrases people use on the Internet? Try to integrate them in your texts, especially in headers and meta-descriptions. That effort will pay-off very well in the long-term as your content will be indexed by the search engines and will generate traffic for a long time.
 

Easy to Understand

It should be very easy to understand your message. Use clear headlines that explain the exact take-away from the article, use graphic that are easy to get. Keep in mind that people understand images much faster than they understand texts.

Promise a very clear takeaway for your audience and deliver just that.

Look for viral inspiration on the Internet. There are many good examples out there and surely some of them will apply to your industry and content. Let yourself be inspired by the examples, maybe some of the ideas can be applied to your post?

If you use different platforms for your content you might benefit from using different formats. Think video, photos, info-graphics, texts, academic, non-academic etc. Think about your target audience – what style will they prefer?

Design has been proven to be much more important then previously thought. People trust you more if your site looks really good, modern and professional.

Let readers know that it wont cost them much time to read your post. Label it as a one-minute blog post or a 30 seconds blog post. Get to the point fast and let readers you will do just that.
 

Content That Adds Value

The content you use to get your message across must be of high quality. Quality is being useful for the person who consumes your content. That can be to make the user laugh, providing new knowledge to the user, making the user feel exclusive, providing the user with business opportunities, products or services at reduced price and other, similar, value propositions.

Try to find out what trigger the reader, all people have triggers that once found will make them act. Trigger their curiosity, eagerness to show off, give them smart advice, and help them crack psychological codes. It is a constant challenge to penetrate the brains and feelings of others; to understand people’s behavior, group psychology and other aspects of human behavior and mind-sets.

Try to create clear and easy to understand calls to action in the post. Tell readers what they should do to succeed and make your call to action be the most obvious way to achieve that success.

Make it personal and emotional. Out yourself a bit. The more open you are the more likely you get a response. The reader will feel emotionally connected with you.

Try to relate and emphasize with your audience.

Help the audience be first with new ideas or solutions to common problems, people like to be the ones who are able to put new knowledge on the table before anybody else. Being a thought leader is one of the most caved attributes in a world flushed with information.

Being provocative is certainly something that can engage the audience but it also carries certain risks, as you don’t want to alienate people. Provocative ideas can be ideas that challenge current business practices and dominating opinions. But, as said, be careful and always base your propositions on facts.

Humor is always a good way to connect. An easy to understand message in one funny message is something that almost always works well. The only thing to take into account is that different people have different humor. Some will not laugh at any joke that is even remotely dirty. Differences in references are also important to consider. Depending on the age of the target audience, where they live and where and how they grew up they might or might not get what you are referring to. Getting this wrong might make the joke fall dead to the ground.

Inspirational messages can have a wonderful effect on people. If you paint a positive but realistic picture of a future that your audience can relate to and feel they can be part of you will certainly catch their attention and they are very likely to listen to you also in the future.
 

Test

Testing your ideas is always a good idea. Maybe you can ask some friends or colleagues for their feedback. Maybe you have enough resources to have focus groups where you can discuss and get personal feedback.  

Analyze your post again; can it be made shorter and more efficient? The shorter the time it takes for the user to understand your message the more likely it is that the user will proceed to the next step and that is really all you want.
 

Time and Place for Posting

Different people are online at different times. Try to find out when your target audience is online and try to post when they are online. In my experience it is easiest to catch people’s attention during office hours Tuesday – Thursday. Whatever people say they use Internet and social media for private business at the office. Also, Mondays and Fridays are bad days for connection as people are tired, angry and busy on Mondays and busy thinking about the weekend on Fridays. A bit exaggerated of course but it still matches sales statistics from my online businesses rather well.

Choice of device optimization also plays in here but considering that computer usage is now about the same as mobile device usage there is no real reason to separate the two.

Think about which platform you should use for sharing your message? Which one is more intellectual? Which one is more for fun? Which one for companies? Which one is social? Generally it is better to use many platforms than few, it increases the chance of success.
 

Evaluate, Adapt, Conclude and Start all over

After you have posted you should of course evaluate your results. Look at the numbers of shares, clicks, likes, conversions, comments etc.

Analyze why the post performed better or worse than previous posts. Use your creativity to create a new post based on these experiences or change the post and try it again later. Maybe it wasn’t the content but how it was presented? Maybe the message was unclear after all?

  • Try, analyze, conclude, adapt and try again.
  • Improvise, adapt and overcome.
  • Measure, analyze, conclude, adapt – try again.
     

Summary and conclusions

There is no doubt anybody can achieve to go viral on the Internet. It could happen out of pure luck and without intention but it can also be the result of a well planned and thought through effort.

There is also no doubt about that the chances of going viral increase with the number of attempts.

So, just go for it. Try it until you make it! Happy hunting!