I know. I know. I know.
“Viral” is an actual term people use to describe wildly popular content that has spread across a variety of distribution channels, landing in our Twitter feeds, Apple News updates, text messages, and emails from Uncle Sue.
But I still don’t like the word.
When “going viral” is a goal for a piece of content, it puts me a little on edge.
Viral content may feed your ego, but it doesn’t necessarily feed your business.
Business success without “going viral”
I understand it’s frustrating if no one knows about your products or services. That’s why you want a lot of people to see your work.
Many smart content moves have nothing to do with a piece of content “going viral” and don’t depend on a massive amount of views.
So, stop putting pressure on yourself. “Viral” doesn’t need to be your goal.
Let’s talk about what you can do right now to initiate new relationships with the customers and collaborators who will help build your business.
1. Ask for comments and suggestions
I always talk about crafting a thoughtful presentation, but individual pieces of content are not definitive articles on a topic — nor should they be.
While you want to thoroughly express your message, an exhaustive guide that tries to tackle the subject from every angle is tedious to read. It’s also futile — there’s always going to be some other point of view you didn’t consider.
Instead, publish your useful material and invite your audience to contribute their thoughts.
For example, my article last week about proofreading pointers didn’t explain every possible proofreading technique. I provided the top three tips I frequently use, and then readers added the methods that work for them in the comments.
The content opened up a discussion that encouraged people to participate. Readers, viewers, and listeners who become personally invested in your content are the ones who stick around and want to hear more from you over time.
2. Spark new social media conversations
When you optimize your content for social media sites, you don’t just increase your chances of getting clicks to your website from your existing followers.
Interesting conversations about your content on social media will attract people who have never come across your work before.
This is good, old-fashioned word of mouth that happens organically after you’ve done something remarkable.
And rather than just blatantly promoting a piece of content, see how you can initiate meaningful interactions that draw people back to your website to find out more.
For example, an intriguing photo on Instagram could spark comments, shares, and likes, as well as prompt viewers to read the blog post or listen to the podcast episode that gives the photo context.
3. Pull in audiences from different platforms
I regularly drool over the short and entertaining food-preparation videos on the AnarchistKitchen YouTube channel.
But do you know what the videos don’t provide?
The recipes for the mouth-watering food.
To get the recipes, you have to go to their blog. The videos capture the attention of people who may have not otherwise known about their website (like me).
Next week, Jerod is going to talk more about ways to distribute your best ideas on different platforms.
4. Offer a shareable summary
No one wants to be that person who bores all their friends with their latest obsession — whether it’s a blog, book, or beverage.
But the desire to share something new that you love is understandable.
So, how do we convert our friends in a non-pushy way?
It’s a lot easier if you have a sample of a blog, book, or beverage recipe that others can browse on their own terms rather than hearing all the benefits from you.
Content marketers can create mini packages for their audience members to share with their friends.
For example, you could offer a beautiful PDF as a free download that summarizes who your site is for and how you help them, with some snippets of particularly useful advice. You’d then encourage your visitors to share the PDF rather than just share your website link.
It’s a more direct way to show what you’re all about, rather than hope a first-time visitor immediately clicks on the most engaging parts of your website.
5. Take the first step
Let’s say you meet someone in person, talk about a potential business collaboration, and exchange contact information.
What if you took the first step needed to make that collaboration happen before you contact them?
You could write the guest blog post for their site that you mentioned, outline a podcast interview, or draft the budget for the video series you discussed.
The work that you perform upfront could be the push the project needs to get off the ground faster, so consider initiating it rather than merely sending a follow-up email with pleasantries or questions.
6. Build your email list when you host live events
Live events don’t have to be elaborate, expensive productions.
I’m talking about having a booth at a local fair, giving a seminar at a bookstore, or teaching a workshop at a community center.
Or maybe live events, such as yoga classes, are your business.
People who have terrific experiences will want to know how to keep in contact with you so they don’t miss anything else you offer.
Encourage your guests, visitors, or students to sign up for your email list.
I’m very (very, very) picky about where I share my email address. The only time I have signed up to be on an email list in recent history was after I had such a great time at an event that I wanted to keep in touch with the organizer.
7. Describe your products or services
If you’re not sure when to mention your business in a piece of content, ask yourself:
Would someone who benefits from this free content get even more help with one of my products or services?
Then you can find ways to show how your paid solution would be a good fit for your reader.
For example, a locksmith might write an article about what to do if your key breaks off in your lock.
The content could outline steps to fix the problem, but many people who find it are going to need immediate help. The company should include a call to action so local searchers know how to get in contact with a locksmith who can help them.
You won’t necessarily mention your products or services in every piece of content you create, but you also can’t assume your audience knows you offer something they need. Potential customers need to be absolutely clear how they can move forward with what you have to offer.
8. Provide a special recipe
Content that makes an impact on someone’s life is the type that gets shared.
As Sonia has said:
“Make your advertising too valuable to throw away.”
Use tutorial content to educate your prospects about specific ways to use your product. They’ll be empowered to apply what they learn to get the results they desire.
I was recently reminded of this technique when I bought a package of rosemary that said “Try the recipe inside!”
If I make the rosemary roasted potatoes from the package and share the food with dinner guests, they could potentially ask for the recipe and buy that brand of rosemary as well.
What do you think about viral content?
Let us know how you form individual connections with potential customers or collaborators.
Is “going viral” a major goal (or secret wish) every time you publish content?