Harnessing the Power of Word-of-Mouse

by | Nov 7, 2011 | Best Practices, Blog, Blog Archive, Multi-Channel Marketing | 0 comments

We often promote this blog through press releases and advance copy sent to other bloggers and journalists. Last week, Forbes.com columnist David Coursey surprised us by a draft blog post that quoted him and submitting it to Forbes.com as a guest post.

“I had planned to write something about the topic myself, and link back to your blog as the source for some of the information, but I couldn’t think of anything to write except what you’d already put together,” Coursey said. Before we knew it, our blog post was featured on the top “promo bar” on Forbes.com. And instead of a few hundred readers, the number of readers climbed, and climbed, and climbed — until the post was the second most popular on the Forbes site.

Before long, the piece “went viral”, turning up on blogs and news sites around the world.

Look at the stats on the piece: 55,000 readers, 14,200 LinkedIn shares, 1,400 Facebook Shares, 1,100 Tweets.

Every marketer knows that “viral” is the holy grail for any marketing campaign. We all want to experience the success that comes when a marketing campaign “goes viral”.

Think of the Old Spice guy video (24 million views in 36 hours), or Fiat’s “Papi” music video featuring Jennifer Lopez (1.8 million views in 24 hours). Advertising Age runs a weekly “top 10” list of branded viral videos, and published a list of the top viral videos of YouTube’s first five years (2005-2010) last year.

Notice anything about the list besides the fact that the videos are filled with celebrities, licensed pop music, and high production values? All except one of them (ok, so it’s #1 on the list) carries a brand name that you’d have recognized whether you’d seen the video or not – and all of them are consumer brands, not B2B products. And Blendtec, the least familiar brand name on the list, isn’t exactly a small business.

The Blendtec strategy (destroying things like iPads and iPhones in their kitchen blender products to demonstrate how well the blades work) isn’t likely to be particularly effective for other products, either.

The truth is that viral promotion isn’t simple, and it isn’t usually based on a single tactic like a funny video. It’s part of a comprehensive social media strategy supported by tactics related to specific goals. So can you get your content to “go viral” without spending a fortune? Can B2B marketers use viral marketing tactics? Sure — that’s what happened to our blog last week, and we didn’t even have a video or good art for the post that took off.  (Just good content people were interested in.)

So what does it take to promote your content effectively?

  1. A consistent social media and PR strategy. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Reddit: these are the big five of today’s social media. SEO optimized press releases build interest and traffic whether they result in media coverage for your company or not.  If you aren’t using both PR and social media regularly to deliver interesting, catchy, valuable content to as many people as possible then you aren’t using digital media to its full potential. Keep your tweets short (<110 characters, including the link URL if possible) to leave room for hashtags (those funny little # signs with keywords) at the end as well as a place for retweeters to add a short comment .
  2. Great multimedia. Videos and images grab attention and encourage sharing. Even if you’re budget constrained, there are a number of places to get great, free graphics, animations, cartoons and photographs – and you can probably take amazing photos yourself. Some of the most amazing and memorable images in marketing history came about because a creative, but cash-poor marketer decided to make do with what they had. The Anne Geddes baby photos came about because there was a shortage of models on the sheep ranch in North Queensland where she lived – but her sister could sew costumes and had a cute baby. William Wegman photographed his dog Man Ray in a series of test compositions – the intention was to replace the dog with a model at some point, but Man Ray’s deadpan look no matter what bizarre pose Wegman put him in turned into an icon of the art photography world and earned millions.
  3. Generosity and gratitude. Be generous in sharing other people’s content – and say thank you when they share yours.  Unless you have tens of thousands of fans helping to spread the word about your content, there’s no excuse for not saying thank you when people do you a favor. And if the only things you ever share through social media have “me, my, mine” written all over them, your long-term success will be limited. (Nobody is that interesting every single day. For proof, look no further than the sites that aggregate celebrity tweets.)
  4. An emotional reaction. Think about what makes you share online content. Isn’t it when you think, “Awww…”, laugh out loud, or get angry? Unless you’re a politician, it’s the first two – cuteness and humor – that are likely to be your best friends online. Plain old fashioned creativity is the key.  Ask questions, and make it personal for the people you want to reach — they’ll share what matters to them, or what they think will matter to the friends they forward it to.
  5. Personal value. Being helpful is a basic human urge. Self-help content – that is tips and techniques that people can use to achieve some goal – gets shared. It really is that simple. So instead of promoting your product’s features, focus on its benefits, and express those benefits in
    simple, people-focused language.

We’ll be covering more tips and techniques for getting your content to go viral during a Nov. 15 webinar sponsored by MyPRGenie and The Distributed Marketing Blog. For more information or to register now, click here, or to download the complete presentation (including speaker’s notes and links to resources mentioned in the webinar), click here.