Not convinced that viral content can work magic for you? As Jordan Kasteler explains in a post on Search Engine Land, viral content builds links. When search engines see these links “it sends three clear message about your site…[it] is active…is current…is invested in the needs of your audience,” notes Kasteler. This is exactly the kind of site that search engines want to show their users. “Large amounts of social shares indicate that a mass amount of people not only found what they were looking for on your site, but also liked your site enough to share it with others,” Kasteler states.
Don’t think for even one second, though, that it’s going to be easy to produce the kind of content that goes viral. Viral content grabs the reader; it’s compelling in some way, whether it makes your audience think, laugh, cry, or shout with rage. It’s well-written, so you need to be willing to write and rewrite until all the spelling and grammar errors are gone and your sentences and paragraphs sing rather than stumble. In short, viral content is work, and if you want it to work for you, you’ll need to work to get it right.
Kasteler offers up 21 great ideas for viral content. Not all of them are suited to every site or every writer. For example, I try to avoid conflict; it’s in my nature. So you probably won’t see me using “The Controversy” much to attract readers, if at all. In this article, I’m only going to have room for four of these ideas, but that’s okay; I’m going to expand on his suggestions, and I’ll cover more of them in future articles if there’s interest.
We’ll start with “The Manifesto.” Kasteler describes it as the viral equivalent of preaching to the choir. “Write a passionate, eloquent, or well-researched argument that your niche will wholeheartedly agree with,” he explains. You’ll get a ton of shares. People find passion attractive, especially when it concerns something near and dear to their hearts.
Make sure you know your audience, though, especially if you’re using social media to spread the message. A post on the advantages of crochet over knitting might go over well on a site dedicated exclusively to crochet, but not on one that has a mix of knitters and crocheters – unless, again, you find the right niche. For example, social site Ravelry caters to knitters and crocheters, but one of their groups (The Crochet Liberation Front) might welcome a link to an item on “Why I Am an Exclusive Hooker” more than, say, a group dedicated to a particular knitting magazine.
Let’s move on to “The Controversy.” This is just the opposite of the Manifesto. Take something that’s common knowledge in your niche and stand it on its head. Make sure your refutation is well-written, though, because people WILL attack it. Kasteler uses as his example an article written by Warren Buffet in August 2011 that appeared in the New York Times, titled Stop Coddling the Super-Rich. This can be used to good effect in some unusual ways; it can let you sneak in something very unexpected.
I’m tempted to call this approach “The Controversy That Isn’t.” That’s where you take a seemingly controversial statement and, through rational argument, make it sound reasonable. Dr. Nerdlove wrote a piece titled Don’t Date Geek Girls, which you would think goes against all the rules for nerdy dating. He posted it in mid-September of this year; he’s since gotten 115 likes, 40 Tweets, 4 +1s…and 61 comments. That’s not bad for his niche at all. The point he tried to make is that every male nerd has in his head this image of the perfect Geek Girl…and it keeps him from ever trying to get out of his comfort zone to date girls that aren’t exclusively geeks in exactly the same way he is. It’s not entirely controversial when presented that way…but it certainly makes you think.
Another great article idea around which you can build viral content is “The Promise.” Tell your readers that you can show them how, step-by-step, they can accomplish something they want to achieve in a relatively short period of time. Again, you need to know your audience well, so you know what they want to accomplish. Do they want to improve a skill? Get healthier? Manage their time better? You can even build an entire article series around it, as the author of 31 Days to An Organized Home did.
Here’s an idea that marketers use all the time: “The Urgent Attention-Grabber.” It could be a small thing that most of your audience is likely to overlook, but important enough to deserve attention. Try to both pique your readers’ curiosity and instill a sense of urgency with the title. A title like “Five Risks Your Kids Take Online” will grab just about any parent, and if they find the article worthwhile, they’ll forward it to other parents. Would you read an article titled “Seven Ways You’re Scaring Away Customers Right Now”? Of course you would. On a more positive note, how about an article on “The Best Workshops You Don’t Want to Miss in 2012”? Give the impression that your reader will miss something important, urgent, and downright time-critical if they don’t read your article. And make sure you deliver!
That’s all I have room for now. Next week, I’ll discuss more ideas you can use to create viral content on your website. Remember, none of these ideas will guarantee you an instant success; they must be well-written and well-executed, so be prepared to think, work, and research. With all of the fluff that exists online, though, your readers will be grateful for giving them some meat to sink their teeth into. Good luck!