Ever had a piece of content go viral? It’s a heady experience. Maybe it took off immediately and you watched the share count go up like a rocket ship. Or maybe it was a slow burn, but week after week, you kept shaking your head at how unbelievably well that one piece of content did.
Any time this happens the most powerful response (after “That did AWESOME! I rock!”) is to try to do it again. Ad agencies get irked when clients tell them “we want it go viral” because they’ve gotten this request so many times. Everybody wants their stuff to go viral. Who would say, “we’d like this to go largely unnoticed.”
Sometimes we do get lucky. We see a piece of content get more shares than anything else we’ve published that year. We all immediately wonder, “how do I do that again?”
Viral every time
If you could just wave a magic wand and make something go viral every time, you’d probably be too rich to bother reading this post. You’d be out giving Elon Musk and Richard Branson a run for their money.
Odds are you don’t know how to make things go viral every time. Hey, neither do I. But I do know how to increase the chances of it happening. I’m about to show you how to increase the chances of going viral for your stuff, too. Not just viral wildfire once – and maybe not every time – but often enough to make your competition jealous and to leave your audience enthralled.
Audience, audience, audience
Oops. Gave it away. There’s the secret. Want content that spreads like wildfire? Get into the hearts and minds of your audience (mostly the hearts, but more on that later). Find out what they really, really want. What they’ll love. What they are secretly wishing, covertly dreaming, you will share.
Trouble is, even they may not know what this content is. They need you to show them what they really, really want. In some cases, they won’t even be able to tell you what they want. This is why surveys sometimes flop. Your audience needs you to take their unmet needs, enthusiasms and fears and weave it into something better than they ever imagined.
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
This applies directly to content. Your audience needs you to make the content equivalent of the jump from faster horses to a car.
They believe in you
Here’s another secret: Your audience is hoping you’ll wow them. They think you’ve got a shot at showing them the content that’s better than what they could imagine themselves. That’s why they followed you in the first place. It’s why signed up for your list or bought your product. They think you’re a good bet for good content, good services, good stuff. They believe in you, baby.
If they didn’t already think you might have a shot and delivering awesome stuff, they would have bailed on you already. It’s not hard to unsubscribe or to unfollow. And never buying from you again… that could be as easy as breathing if they’re not into you. There’s lots of other messages to listen to and stuff to buy.
The “don’t like” button factor
This is the secret downside to sharing anything. If your content is lame, every time you post you’re inadvertently reminding your audience your content is lame.
It’s like when an email marketer sends one too many promotions too close together and they see a spike in unsubscribes. Or when a company blog publishes something they thought was funny, but their audience did not.
This factor is what’s behind why some small business marketers are anxious about publishing anything. Their instincts are not wrong. They sense intuitively that while there’s a chance to please their audience, there’s also a chance to bore them or even alienate them.
Give them what they want
What you’ve got to do – on your side of this partnership with your audience – is to figure out what they want. Fortunately, there are a slew of ways to figure out what your audience wants.
These break into two types of tactics:
In other words, there are a bunch of online marketing tips and tricks and tools to gather information about what your audience wants. Then there’s a whole body of work about the psychological drivers behind why people share.
You need both approaches working to have the best shot at getting your content shared.
What’s cool about this exercise is that you can apply what you learn to content creation or curation. You can turn the volume up a notch again just by reframing “sharing” as digital word of mouth.
Sharing is 7% of Word of Mouth
We are so focused on social media and the rest of digital marketing that sometimes, it’s easy to forget the real world. If you own or run a local business, you’re probably not guilty of this. You know all too well that foot traffic is as important as all of social media. Word of mouth is king.
So it can help to see that getting people to share your stuff online is a bit like getting people to mention you to their friends. And digital word of mouth, while incredibly powerful, is only 7% of all word of mouth. That’s according to Jonah Berger, the author of Contagious, Why Things Catch On.
17 technology tricks to find out what to share
Now that we’ve got you thinking big, here and the individual tactics to accomplish the larger goal: Get your content shared. If you try even a few of these things, I recommend you keep a text document open to capture ideas for blog posts, videos, and other content projects. You’re going to be seeing a ton of great content as you travel through this tactics. No reason to not capture as many ideas for future content creation and curation as you can.
1. Check your social management tool (this page shows how to view this report in Scoop.It). What were your top 20-30 shares in the last three to six months? By clicks, by reshares? Do you see any trends?
2. Now flip that report upside down. What are your 20-30 least successful shares in the last 6 months? See any trends, commonalities?
3. Check out what your competitors are sharing. Use BuzzSumo to see what their 20 best shares are for the last six months or for the last three months.
4. Flip that report upside down. What are their 20-30 least successful shares in the last 3-6 months? See any trends, commonalities?
5. Use Buzzsumo to see the most successful posts or other content for a given keyword over the last 6 months. You can also compare the share counts for different content formats.
6. Use Buzzsumo to find the power-sharers or influencers in your niche. Which of their shares have done best? Consider following top sharers in your niche.
7. Flesh out your Scoop.It Interest Graph and Interest channels to find more influencers (and thus what’s been shared most for them). There are instructions here in item #6 for how to use the Interest Graph and Interest channels.
8. Use Twitter hashtag tools Hashtagify.me or Keyhole.co to see which tweets got the most engagement for a given hashtag. You can also use those tools to find more influencers.
9. Run a survey either on social media, on your site, or via email. Or do one better and do a survey on all three fronts in a coordinated way. Offer a nice gift for anyone who participates, and then maybe a larger prize drawn from the pool of participants.
10. Use polls and quizzes on your website. These are great engagement devices. They increase time on site, too. And, of course, they give you lots of information about what your audience thinks about different topics, issues and ideas. They also reveal where their knowledge gaps are.
Want your polls and quizzes to be extra engaging? Show how a user’s quiz or poll results compare to other participants. Everybody wants to know where they stand.
11. Use the link click reports from your emails to see which email content gets the most action.
12. Use Google analytics to see which pages on your site are most popular – and least popular.
13. Use the analytics insights from all your social media accounts (Twitter analytics, Facebook analytics, Pinterest audience insights) to see which content has done best on those channels.
14. Check out Q&A sites like Quora to see what kinds of questions people are asking.
15. Read Amazon book and product reviews that are related to your niche or topic. This can be a goldmine of insights about what people want to know, what they like or dislike about a product, whether it did what they wanted it to do and more.
16. Use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool and other tools to see what people are searching for in your niche.
17. Read the blog comments both on your site and on major sites in your niche. What do people want to know? What are their opinions about different issues? What are they struggling with? What information do they want that they can’t find?
The psychology angle
The psychology aspect of sharing is where the real viral wildfire starts. You need to know what kind of content people are wired to share. Fortunately, that’s not too terribly hard to find out. Some super-smart people have already done decades of research on this. They’re willing to share their findings with you.
Here’s a few choice resources on why people share and how to leverage these drivers to get them to share your stuff, too:
• This presentation by Jonah Berger, a Marketing Professor at The Wharton School and the author of Contagious, Why Things Catch On, is a fabulous talk. If you’ve got an hour, and you really want some deep thinking and fresh ideas about how to create content your audience will go nuts for, this is more than worth your time. It’s one of the most interesting presentations I’ve heard this year, and it’s laser-focused on getting people to share more of your content.
• The New York Times report The Psychology of Sharing is one of the best, most authoritative sources on why people share or don’t share. It’s essential reading to look deeper into your audience’s heart.
• This Quick Sprout infographic is nice eye candy if you want a faster take on why people share.
• Triple SEO’s post about why people share is also awesome.
• Ogilvy’s SlideShare, Why do people share on social media? Global survey results, is another juicy resource of research and insights.
Knowing what your audience wants you to share could be lifelong work. This isn’t a definitive list of all the ways to get into their heads, but it’s enough to make you dangerous. Got any other tips you like to use to see where people’s heads are at? Tell us about them in the comments.