This week, Mark Thompson of Stay on Search was discussing content and the way in which it relates to social media and aggregate sites. “One of the best ways to know what type of content has the best chance of going viral is by being an active member in each community.” Personally, I think that most businesses using social media may not have the time or the budget to employ a social media guru to do all their writing, tweeting, digging and other social media verbs for them.
Viral content is an extremely effective way of pushing your company to the top of the online public awareness sphere. Though you may only be flavour of the month, if you churn out more new flavours than Walker’s Crisps during the World Cup, you’ll succeed in the long term. This is a credible strategy, but it begs the question – when you’re a business that deals in solutions, products and services that don’t appeal to the online or tech-geek community, how do you go viral?
The ideal method to leap this particular marketing hurdle towards the revenue finish-line is simple: make yourselves mysterious. Don’t put your product on a white backdrop, on the homepage of your website. Experiment. Use silhouettes, use YouTube camcorder videos, and place adverts on sites that most people wouldn’t imagine being there in the first place. The more you stand out, the more consumers will become curious about your attitude and therefore whatever you’re offering to them.
Don’t serve up information on a plate, but don’t withhold either. This sounds a little paradoxical, but what I mean is this: list specifications, list capabilities and results, but allow the information to trickle out through the community, then confirm via the press. Doing so means that once the geek community has absorbed and discussed your move on the industry chess board, you can either confirm it to the press, or change something the community deems undesirable and side-step a potential venture failure.
If you take a look at the trending topics, numbers and words on Digg, there’s a few obvious results. Words like “the” and “of” turn up frequently, but this is a given – don’t be disheartened by the obvious. Taking a closer look at the list, “movies”, “games”, and, rather poetically, “time”, pop up too. This raises another interesting question – to “top # [product/form of entertainment] of all time” articles fare better online than a press release from a huge corporation?
Largely, yes, because the internet is a social animal, more so than it was ten years ago, and this is furthered by the simple fact that you don’t talk shop at parties. People love discussing films, games, music and books, because it’s not related to the rat race. But they also discuss politics, the mortgage and their student loans, and this is a niche of viral content that still isn’t being exploited. “Top 5 ways to manage a heavy mortgage and a student loan simultaneously” is something that I’d read, and I’m not even in the home-owner market yet.
Why would I read it? I, like many an English graduate before me, have a student loan to pay off, and it appeals to me due to the fact in the title. The fact is the number 5. Thompson claims that the use of numbers is a fair more visually appealing method of communicating statistics to people than writing the number out. “Five” sounds formal, “5″ sounds quick and sharp, and that’s the two main aspects o viral bit of content – it spreads quickly, and it’s smart.
When you’re next launching that large insurance policy, look at how you’re marketing it, because Reader’s Digest, post-working-hours television and the odd mention on your own website won’t cut the mustard. To hit the consumer where they’ll respond (with their mind and, hopefully, their wallet), you need to craft your titles. Blog a little, and Digg those blogs. “Top 5 ways not to go broke”, and be proud of your company, but be subtle.
Also, think about using a by-line. “George has been the CEO at Insurance, ltd. for 10 years, and you can find the many ways he’s helping people through the recession [here].” Make people enjoy your content, enjoy you, and the work is done. One link by a non-company individual on Facebook, Digg, or Twitter, and you’re laughing, because you might just be the next big thing. David After Dentist should be a good enough example.