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13 Tips for Facilitating Viral Uptake

  |  February 9, 2011   |  Comments

While a marketer cannot create a viral phenomenon on behalf of your brand, she can...

Yeah, you heard me, but I will deny it if you misquote me. I did not say we could reliably create a viral phenomenon on behalf of your brand, nor did I say we could guarantee zillions of free impressions. We can, however, create a smart platform and program to help facilitate sharing and exposure of your content and give it the best possible chance to soar.

Most of the great viral stories tapped successfully into the communal zeitgeist, often tickling their funny bone in an unexpected way. Most of them also had a plan to help facilitate sharing, not leaving it all to chance or hope. If you have the kind of content that can potentially appeal to or entertain the masses, then achieving "viral" status may be that much easier. Ninety-nine percent of the opportunity for something to go viral rests with the quality and/or mass appeal of the content and whether, in fact, it does meet the zeitgeist test. It's critically important to make sure that your content is appealing to your target consumers, and that it has enough value for them to inspire and facilitate sharing among their friends, who by association may very well be potential customers. That may be 99 percent of the work, but you're not done. Here are some tips to help spread the word.

Tips for Facilitating Viral Uptake

  1. Attention spans are limited online with so many content options. Don't burden your content with unnecessary fluff or barriers to consumption - especially on entrance or first exposure. Start off as strong as you can with something compelling or of value. If you can't capture and hold their attention immediately, you will lose your audience - and by extension the others with whom they would have shared.
  2. Make sharing features prominent and accessible at the top, middle, and bottom (or beginning, middle, end) of content, so at any time users can take that step.
  3. Consider a paid media advertising component to help generate awareness. This won't hurt your viral street cred and it might bring your content to the attention of some who may be critical to your acceleration. Be sure to integrate sharing features into all ad units.
  4. Give it time to spread. If this is a seasonal effort or tied to a promotional campaign, make sure you give it enough lead time. Even overnight successes rarely happen overnight.
  5. Don't overlook your own customers and the recurring communications you have with them. Use your e-mail database, if that is appropriate, to help seed the new content out there on the Web.
  6. Use strong and focused SEO and video SEO where appropriate to support the ability for consumers to find the content easily. Often this is overlooked because the landing page or microsite might be new or temporary. If it gets a lot of traffic in early days, you can still draw in more audience. Make the landing page URL easy to work with and stock the page with appropriate, indexable content. Do your keyword research and use community and social factors to increase search engine ranking, including annotations and links within video content and proper tagging and characterization across the board. There are video-specific search opportunities to be indexed by the following search engines: Blinkx, Truveo, VideoSurf, Clipta, CastTV, and others.
  7. Submit to sharing sites and content channels created at appropriate sites like YouTube, Yahoo Video, CollegeHumor, Revver, Vimeo, and others as they fit your content and intended audience.
  8. Submit your content to bookmarking sites like Digg, Flurl, Delicous, Reddit, Video Bomb, StumbleVideo, BlinkList, and others.
  9. Engage relevant bloggers, video blogs, review sites, discussion boards, and directories. These could be topically relevant or audience relevant - look for both. Take the opportunity to comment on relevant, influential blogs and include a link, but don't be spammy.
  10. Use your social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and social capital to help spread the word. Your current followers and fans are the first ones you need to inform or share with. Give them the means to share easily.
  11. If you have a true news event to share associated with this content, create a social media press release with custom messaging to key influencers like Help a Reporter, Blogger LinkUp, Pressit, PitchEngine, and even LinkedIn Groups.
  12. Listen carefully to the buzz using a platform like Radian6 or others to catch the wave and help direct it where possible. You may uncover some unanticipated veins of interest in audiences or interpretations that you had not expected.
  13. Create a dashboard in advance to measure baseline and post-launch appropriate metrics like views, ratings, playlist additions, embeds, shares, comments, channel views, channel subscribers, etc. Don't forget to track your site traffic and conversions (sales, sweeps entries, coupon downloads, etc.), social media followers, and other metrics that reflect the business value that may come out of this effort.

While it really is about the content, there are steps we can take to help facilitate the content distribution. A well-thought out, well-executed, and well-rounded approach to online content distribution will give you the best possible chance of catching that elusive viral wave.

What steps have you taken to help get traction on your content distribution?


Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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