Are you a content marketer? If so, you have a choice to make.
You can sit around and wait for your content to go viral.
You can hope you’ll get sudden bursts of traffic, hope your readers will spread the word, hope your content will catch fire.
Or you can bring your own matches and lighter fluid to set the dang thing aflame yourself.
As bloggers and content marketers, which will you choose?
Sure, sometimes the passion you have for a subject will be enough to ignite a spark and compel your audience to share your content with their network. Being able to unleash something with such conviction and power that it combusts on its own is great.
Over at my SEO consulting firm Outspoken Media, we’ve been able to do it several times.
Sometimes we post something like The Power of the Unexpected, something that goes hot without us lifting a finger. As content writers, we live for these moments.
However, they almost never happen.
What is more common is that marketers need to fan their content to help it ignite and go viral. And sometimes that means stepping in when an accidental hit shows signs of life. How do you recognize those signs to take advantage? Here are some methods we use at Outspoken Media.
Identifying the spark
You know what’s normal for your community. You know how many comments an average post gets, how many tweets, how many shares, etc.
When you start to see activity that is double/triple what you’re used to seeing, act.
For example, early on we published a post called It’s Not The Recession, You Just Suck. Almost immediately after hitting the publish button I noticed the post being retweeted and passed through social media at a velocity that dwarfed anything we had seen prior.
Once we noticed we had a spark, we jumped in to add fuel and fan it.
Adding fuel to the fire
As soon as you notice a post showing signs of life, it’s up to you to keep the momentum going.
On the social Web, that means keeping the conversation alive. Find people who are talking about your post and encourage them. Respond to comments, engage, fan the debate, and keep the conversation on a healthy note.
When we called out Robert Scoble last year for spreading misinformation, he was the first person to come and engage on our post, and he did so negatively and aggressively.
The tone he set could have killed the conversation right there and caused people to be fearful of jumping in. But we weren’t going to let that happen. Instead, we went in there to engage Robert and show the community this was just the beginning of the conversation that would ultimately take place. We made it obvious that we were still in the post listening, and that everyone who commented would be heard and responded to.
No one wants to hang out at a party that’s dead or on its way out. Its important people see you’re still there.
Another way to add fuel is to allow readers to subscribe to comments so that they’re alerted each time a new voice enters the fray. This will keep them in conversation mode. It’s good for debate, but it’s also good in terms of SEO. The more page views the post receives, the more time people spend reading comments, the more it’s going to give off positive toolbar data to the search engines and help the post appear on an Alexa hotlist.
Fanning a positive flame
So, let me fill you in on something you already know — it’s really hard to have an intelligent conversation on the Internet.
Things always start out okay. Someone chimes in to offer an intelligent opinion and then, almost before your eyes, it devolves into threats, accusations and commentary about who still lives with their mother.
While it’s 100 percent entertaining to watch people have emotional breakdowns in public, conversations that get too far off track hurt your chances of going viral.
As the owner of that community, you’re responsible for fanning the flame in the right direction. When you see personal attacks being made, it’s up to you to steer the conversation back. If you think people are going too far, moderate.
Be careful, though. Viral conversations are typically rooted in debate. So you don’t want to discourage or squash it, but do keep things productive. You need to be the adult in the room, regardless of how good it feels to throw things.
Hitting the social streets
Once you’ve helped fan the flame, hit the streets!
Make sure your piece has been properly submitted to all the right social media sites, that it’s been Stumbled, that it’s on Reddit, that niche social sites are aware of it, and that it’s hit all of the communities and blogs you know are friendly to you.
Once you complete that, look outside your bubble to find other networks that may find your content interesting. What you’re trying to do here is pull people in from other networks so they’ll go out and talk about it with their community, one that doesn’t currently follow you.
It’s great that your own readers are passionate and involved in the conversation, but you want to use the natural sparks to pick up on other readers to help grow your blog and authority.
Tipping off mainstream media
You’ve covered your bases on the social networks, now look toward news sites and blog aggregators that may be interested in the conversation happening around your post.
If you’re part of the marketing community, you want to watch aggregators like TechMeme and TweetMeme. If you have a hot social media story, you want to tip off someone at Mashable. If it’s Google or heavily tech-related, tip off TechCrunch. If it’s a broader tech story, tip off more mainstream outlets, as well.
For example, our post about what we perceived to be brandjacking by Seth Godin received coverage from Business Week. My partner Rae Hoffman’s post on Google’s Real Time Spam Problem was noted in USA Today. And my other partner Rhea Drysdale is often featured on CNN.
These don’t happen by accident. They were opportunities created by tipping off the right people at the right time. This is where having a linkerati list comes into play. It helps you know who to contact for what type of story.
Making sure the post is optimized for SEO
The final thing you want to do is properly SEO your post to capitalize on search.
Going back to our Robert Scoble example, when we saw that taking off, we went back and edited the title tag to include Robert Scoble’s name. It was a small tweak that allowed us to take advantage of Google’s freshness factor and appear in his News results.
It’s a temporary rank, but it made sure that anyone who searched for Robert Scoble that day found our post. Sometimes that’s all you’re looking to do, to help keep the momentum going and get eyes to the page. You have to build awareness.
Content marketers don’t have the luxury of sitting back and hoping something goes hot. It’s up to you to help things take on a life of their own, whether it was planned from the start or you picked up on early signs of success.
Savvy content marketers always have the matches and lighter fluid ready for when a spark presents itself.
About the Author: Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer and social media strategist. She’s most known for saving brands (most often from themselves) and for her voracious tweeting. You can follow her on Twitter at @lisabarone or find her blogging about her own struggles with voice at VoiceInterrupted.com.
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