Why I Will Never Write a Post on How to Create Viral Content

Don't think of viral content as a goal

Do me a favor.

If you have a financial consultant of some sort, visit their website. If they have a blog, search for “funding retirement by playing the lottery.

Find anything? Did they pen an e-book, create an infographic, record a podcast or video on the subject? No? Why not?

Because it’s not a valid investment strategy.

 

 

The same is true of viral content. Having a post go viral is not a sound content marketing strategy.

Don’t believe me? let’s look at some of the things that have gone viral in the last few years:

  • A dress of indeterminable color
  • A woman wearing a Chewbacca mask laughing
  • A site where you could create an avatar of yourself Mad Men style, oh and (bonus!) you could pick where your avatar was hanging out
  • A guy who answered questions dressed in his underwear

If you’re still with me and haven’t already handed in your human card, opting to go live with the apes because they have a finer appreciation for “good” content, then you should begin to see why I don’t believe you should shoot for viral.

 

Viral Content Bends to the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

While we all claim to be deliriously busy, we spend hours in front of television each night or lose entire weekends to binge-watching shows about fictional presidents and then don’t bother to vote. We wouldn’t dream of missing an episode from our favorite zombie show but then turn ourselves into zombies by chasing after fake creatures on our phones.

We’re not rational.

We don’t make rational decisions. Not when we’re buying. Not when we’re deciding how to spend our day. Not when choosing what content to share.

As a marketer, or someone who’s trying their hand at marketing, you can’t create a strategy around something as unpredictable as a lightning strike, winning the lottery, or the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

 

The mob is fickle, brother. He'll be forgotten in a month.

 

What Can You Do to Get More Views and Shares on Your Content?

Quite simply:

Give them what they want, whatever your ideal customer needs, longs for, desires. Create content around that. It may not catch on with the same fire-starter speed of whatever caught Drew Barrymore’s eye in that movie from the ’80s (what was it called?) but it will get shared, and your site will likely get marked as a resource if you continually provide great content. But….

 

 

Build an audience. Creating amazing content your audience loves only works if they know it’s out there. You need to use social media to build an audience so that you have a great number of people sharing your content. This may involve paying for views. Facebook has created an advertising tool that lets you get very granular in audience selection so as to place your content in front of the right eyes, not just any views.

 

 

Give your audience something to do. You built an audience, you’ve created awesome content but if you don’t ask, you wont receive. You must give them something to do. You see these types of requests a lot because they work:

“If you like what you’re seeing, join our email list.”

Allowing someone to come to your site, digest your content, and letting them leave without asking anything of them, is like smiling at someone at a drive-thru window and then getting upset they didn’t ask you out. You need to ask them to do something or give them something to do, otherwise they’re just passing through.

So give up the dreams of viral content by trying to understand the whims of the masses (after all, that’s the very design behind the “protection” of the electoral college, right?). Instead, concentrate on finding and building your audience, creating content that interests them, making sure they see it, and asking them to be a part of something bigger. That’s the way you win them over and keep them coming back.

Or ignore me and spend your afternoon taking pictures of articles of clothing in different lighting.

Why Your Homepage Content Stinks

Elephant in the room alert.

My home page design stinks.

It stinks because I’m not a graphic designer.

Thankfully my first year plus in business has kept me so busy the project I had worked on to redo my website with a designer fell by the wayside. But a lot of my business comes through word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business so my website stinking is not my main concern.

But if you’re a small business who wants more customers, or an association or chamber looking for new members, your homepage can’t stink.

Does My Homepage Content Stink?

I’m going to stick to what I know best: content. So here’s how you know your homepage stinks from a content perspective. Ask yourself:

Does my copy read like a college entrance essay?

Clear writing makes good website copy.

Don’t use highfalutin’ words, even if you know what they mean. Keep it simple. Tell your potential customers’, or prospective members’, how you can solve their problems in the simplest of terms.

Otherwise, you’ll only confuse them and let’s face it, no one wants to feel confused.

Does my copy read like my 5 year-old nephew wrote it?

Casual is good. A distinct tone is wonderful.

Adherence to basic grammar rules, if you want people to give you money, is still absolutely necessary.

Is it obvious I am a disenchanted English major who always wanted to write the great American novel?

Wordiness is just as bad as words that are unintelligible or words that can only be decoded by NASA engineers.

Do I mention clearly what I do and where I am?

Contant: you get what you pay for.You’d be surprised how many people use pat (aka meaningless) industry words to describe what they do.

Also, while many of us do business on the Interwebs, letting people know where you are means you’re less likely to get a call in the middle of the night wondering if you’re open.

And please…don’t advertise events without telling us where you are. You may assume your audience knows “Columbus” but there are something like 22 “Columbusses”, “Columbi,” “Columbus” (whatever) in the nation and who knows how many others in the world.

If my lack of fact checking is bothering you, Google it and leave the number in the comments.

Does my tone fit my brand?

This post is lip-smacking sarcastic for me, but it’s not a complete departure from my blog’s tone. I’m casual in my own business writing. That’s how I prefer it but I was an Econ/Poli Sci major so if you want dry and erudite drivel, I can do that too, but it’s not me. So I don’t.

If someone hires me, I write in their tone, not mine.

You have to think the same way on your website. Don’t choose a tone for your site that’s different from who your business is. It will only confuse people when they go from reading your social media and content marketing posts to doing business with you.

If your homepage design stinks get a graphic designer (and then get me one too) but if your content’s not up to snuff – if it’s not attracting your ideal audience, or getting them interested in what you have to offer, if it doesn’t convey why they need you and convince them they should’ve called yesterday, your content isn’t working hard enough. 

Think of me as a personal trainer for your words.

 

That’s where I come in.<Queue my dramatic theme song. Something akin to Wonder Woman but without the 70’s disco beat.>

I’ll whip them into shape and make sure they’re doing their jobs. No cutting corners, just getting you more business and more interest.

 

 

Establish Your Business With Helpful Content

Telling your business story allows you to attract the right audience and connect with them. Help your audience with your contentBut attraction won’t keep them coming back.

Content will.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog, the most effective content is:

  • educational (telling someone how to do something)
  • informative (providing information they didn’t know)
  • entertaining

Here’s an example of a great piece I received from Hipmunk. It contains information that is relevant to me (I like to travel, but I’m cheap as all get out), educational (tells me I can save money if I buy now) and informative (I didn’t know airfares went up that much approaching July 4th).

Will this content motivate me to buy?

I suppose it would if I was planning a trip over the July 4th holiday, but I’m not. However, this is not a wasted marketing effort on Hipmunk’s part. Because they shared some valuable, helpful information with me, I am now beginning to see them as a resource for saving money.

They used their data and presented me with easy-to-digest information.

Well done.

 

You had a Motive. Where’d it Go?

motivation and storyYou had a reason — for going off on your own to start a business or accepting a job. You had something that sparked your initial interest in the possibility.

For me, it was following the enchanting thought of being my own boss and making my own schedule. It was the thrill of climbing out of the corporate ivory tower to get back to people I thought I could help. It was being able to form close personal relationships and not be encumbered by a corporate structure.

That’s the story behind why I left my last company and went out on my own but it doesn’t explain why I chose to go into content marketing. If I talk only about flexibility, I’m leaving the most poignant part of my story out. Don’t do that.

Your Motivation is Your Story



We’ve all heard an actor ask, “What’s my motivation?”, to a director. Discovering the motivation tells the actor how to play a role and it also affects how we (as the audience) feel about the character. For instance we feel very differently about a woman with a starving child at home who steals a loaf of bread because all of her money went to pay for her husband’s burial versus a teen from a gated community who takes a 99 cent bottle of nail polish because she likes the feeling she gets of nearly getting caught. The bread is worth more but we have more empathy for the woman. While we may not be able to identify with the desperation she feels, we can understand that. Your audience will do the same when you share your motivation behind your current role.

If you leave out the motivation behind why you started a business or why you chose to be a part of your organization, you’re leaving out the best part — the part that evokes a response and is a foundation for building a relationship.





photo credit: Image via Flickr by AlsterJogger

photo’s story: the motivation behind building the Taj Mahal is frequently told as a love story but the building wasn’t built to win the heart of a princess. It was to commemorate her death. She died giving birth to the emperor’s 14th child. This amazing building was something he promised her on her death bed. It took 22 years to complete.