Is Your Site Buzzworthy?

Do you have what it takes to create buzz? Not every writer can craft copy that gets people buzzing. But when you do, the results can be incredible.

Buzz rules. It’s hard to deny it. In the old days, it was called word of mouth. Today, buzz is so powerful that it can launch (or sink) careers, sell just about every product conceivable, and establish trends that last for years. There were some who even thought — and hoped — that buzz could elect a president.

If you want to learn about buzz, read “The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word-of-Mouth Marketing” by marketing expert Emanuel Rosen. His book takes you through the history of buzz, from the yo-yo to “Shakespeare in Love” to that annoying “whassup.” There’s nothing new about buzz, says Rosen, but the Internet certainly facilitates its creation.

Step back from your own web site. See anything buzzworthy? Certainly not that boring mission statement you posted three years ago or that stale letter from the CEO. And what about that neat little Flash dance that skips and hops across the page? It’s cute, but who’s telling their friends about it? Who’s buzzing through the Internet to tell their entire mailing list that your organization has a great new logo? No one? So many opportunities are lost in a world that loves and craves good buzz.

Let’s face it, with the Internet, we now have at our disposal one of the easiest ways to generate buzz. It’s absolutely mind-boggling how simple it is to email a web page, column, or site to anyone in the world in just a matter of seconds. Still, only a few have mastered the power of buzz.

Rosen has a few good tips for creating copy that buzzes. Yes, it’s commonsense, and no, it isn’t very often achieved on the web.

Tell a story. Build suspense by withholding information and releasing it gradually. Think about the best movie trailers you’ve seen. I’m not talking about the ones that give away the whole story. I’m talking about the ones that show you the good parts and hold the carrot of “the full story” for later.

Tantalize with scarcity and mystery. Parents who have fallen victim to the Pokimon card craze know that eight-year-olds will keep coming back for more in the hopes of nabbing the few elite members of the card pack. Your readers will also keep coming back to your site if you reward them from time to time with some rare and wonderful information.

Go behind the scenes. People love to be part of the “in crowd” and have information they can pass on to friends and families. It’s what makes the Universal Studios tours so popular; you actually see how they made ET ride a flying bicycle or “Jurassic Park” make millions of dollars. Rosen points out that in business, you’ve heard countless behind-the-scenes tales. Remember the one about Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, getting a C in college for a paper that described the concept of the company? Or how about the inventor who struggled for years to convince 3M that Post-it notes was an idea that would succeed? These stories spread well through buzz, but they all start somewhere.

Be a little outrageous. I’ve always held that the Internet allows for unconventional copy and even a few surprises. Start planning your April 1 home page today. If it’s good, folks will be buzzing.

Find your hubs. In the old days, hubs were opinion leaders who could spread a good story quickly (a writer for The New York Times or that “megahub” Oprah, for example). With the Internet, your hub needn’t be the wealthiest woman in America or even a published author. It could be Joe Geek with a great web site that comments on the best fast food in America. All you have to do is make sure your site is visited by these hubmasters (a little emailing couldn’t hurt), and the buzz begins.

Offer something of value. Buzz demands excitement, so make sure you’ve got something really new and different to talk about. Also, positive buzz means you live up to certain promises. Remember, buzz dies as quickly as it is born if your network smells of “me too” ideas or anything close to unfulfilled hype. And in the worst case, you could start generating negative buzz (which is particularly messy to clean up on the Internet).

So, buzz along, folks. And, Mr. Rosen, maybe I’ve even generated some positive buzz for your book with this column. Glad to be of service. Good copy and good writers are hard to find, and the best of the best are truly buzzworthy.

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