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.

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.

Content Marketing: Figuring out You Versus Them

Serving what your audience wants is crucial to maintaining one
Serving what your audience wants is crucial to maintaining one

I went to a baby shower a while back. All of the dishes served had some form of nuts in them – almond string beans, peanut-encrusted chicken, carrot cake (with walnuts). You would’ve thought the momma-to-be loved nuts. Actually, she hated them but the hostess thought everything was better with nuts and people liked them.

The hostess, in this example, is an old-school marketer. She is serving up what she wants to serve, what she thinks should be served. She’s mistaking general popularity with what her guests want, when in reality, the guest of honor doesn’t even want it.

 

 

Are you Serving Content Only You are Interested In? Continue reading “Content Marketing: Figuring out You Versus Them”

Are You Listening to Your Members?

Each member is unique, needs may be similar but it's up to you to discover thatI finally listened to all the people who were telling me to visit Oregon. It was an amazing trip — beautiful weather, friendly people and way too short.

On my return flight, a red-eye, from Portland to Houston, I sat next to a woman who was feverishly playing a handheld blackjack game (circa 1986, with digitized sounds and cards that looked pixelated). I couldn’t even suggest headphones or ear buds because this gizmo wouldn’t have had a jack for them. I closed my eyes and tried to rest.

“Is that sound normal?”, she asked.

I opened my eyes and tuned into what she was asking about. I nodded. She nodded.

“Do you fly much?”, she asked as soon as I closed my eyes again. Continue reading “Are You Listening to Your Members?”

Just a Spoonful of Sharing Helps the Business

London's changed quite a bit since Mary Poppins' time. So should your messaging.
London’s changed quite a bit since Mary Poppins’ time. So should your messaging.

Dirty marketer alert: I’m going to be frank with you and the words may not be pretty. If you’re running a business or a member-based organization, there are things you are going to want to say. If you’re in business, you’re going to want to make money. It’s not ugly, it just is. Your customers or your members don’t really care about what you want to say, unless it just so happens to be something they also want to hear.

The truth is this: you have stuff you want to say.

They have stuff they want to hear.

If you’re good at what you do and you keep your audience in mind, everything you create will overlap and be what you want to say and what they want to hear. Sometimes, just sometimes, you have things you want to say that they don’t know they want to hear. So how do you deliver your message in a way that is palatable to them? That’s when you need Mary Poppins as your marketer – and just a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down. Yes, I just referred to your important marketing message as medicine — and if it’s something your audience doesn’t want to hear or know they want to hear — that’s how it will be initially met if you come at them and try and force feed them your message. Continue reading “Just a Spoonful of Sharing Helps the Business”