Darren Rowse recently published a great post entitled 'The Myth of 'Great Content' Marketing Itself'. It's a great read for anyone producing content in my opinion, BUT there's much more to creating that content than just seeding it. And, I don't think he's going to tell you.
Well, I decided it was time to walk you through the steps that I take when creating social media dominating pieces for my clients. There's a few reasons why I'm telling you this: First, this is one of the reasons why I promote hiring a good copywriter. You essentially get what you pay for, and in all fairness, someone who only gets $10 or $20 dollars for a blog post or article can't afford to do this much research.
Secondly, the amount of garbage finding its way onto social media sites is atrocious. Seriously people: 'How to Scratch Your Back in 10 Ways' is just not what I'd call riveting content...tell me something I don't know, or at least make it interesting!
If you really want to start real article marketing and using social media to its advantage, here's how you do it:
(image by echoforsberg)
1. Learn Your Target Market
If I want to attract new parents to a website selling organic/natural baby items, chances are that social media sites like Tip'd aren't going to get me the results I'm looking for. Instead, take time to put yourself in your target audience's shoes. Then, make a list of the things this demographic does and what they're looking for as new parents. Having been a new parent at one time, I can tell you that information on what to expect is a huge one. Also, I'd want to get the inside scoop on products that work so that I can save my money without sacrificing quality.
For our baby supply site, I'd be looking at places like Kirtsy, Facebook, and Twitter, which all have a high concentration of parents and new parents. Then, because my products are natural and organic, I'd look for environmental and green-living sites such as Current.
So, how do you tell which sites are going to be filled with your target market? Well, here are a few good indicators:
Statistics and Demographics -- If you're looking for new parents, chances are that sites rich in senior citizens aren't going to be particularly fruitful for you. Just one warning: be careful with your statistics and demographic studies. Make sure the information is up to date and from a reliable source.
Look Around -- When you land on a social media site with no parent related topics, chances are that you're in the wrong spot for parenting content. You don't look solely at the topics (not yet anyway). Instead, look at the major headings, tags, or even at what the power users have been up to and see how many of them are 'parent friendly'.
Find Your Competition -- If you've already identified the authorities in your industry, take time to see what they're up to in terms of social media and where they're hanging out. After all, these guys will have done their homework, so there's no sense in letting it go to waste. (Oh, and just for the record, it's not espionage, it's 'ensuring your competitors aren't missing a huge portion of the target market' if anyone asks!)
2. Discover the Finer Points
Every social media site has its idiosyncrasies and finer points that give it life and a sense of community. It's also what sets one social media site apart from the rest. So, if you want to fit in and eventually take over (Insert evil cackling here), you'll need to know what these little things are and how to use them to your advantage. What do I mean?
Content Types -- Anyone who has spent time on a few social media sites can tell you that popular content from one site doesn't necessarily work on another. Your job is to analyze your chosen sites and find out what works where. For example, outrageous, weird, and shocking headlines are ideal for places like Reddit. With Twitter, numbered lists do well.
Get to Know the Power Users -- If anyone is going to make your content go viral and generate attention, it's those people with a significant amount of influence on your chosen social media site. Find out who the big users are on the site and look to see what they're interested in.
Writing Style and Voice -- Tip'd and other social media sites on the formal end of the scale (or sites that have a more professional feel) will do better with stuffier sounding content. Fun and wild social media sites like Reddit make it easy for you to use a light-hearted tone and edgy writing style. Know the difference and be sure to use this information to your benefit.
3. Make Use of Your Research AKA Content Creation
Once you know your target market and the social media sites you're aiming at, it's time to choose a topic. For this, I strongly suggest knowing the market and what the hot topics are at the time and crafting your content based on that information. (You can learn more about finding hot topics by reading 'The Big SEO Copywriting Secret'.)
Generally, however, there's two main topic choices to consider:
Be Unique -- If you want to get noticed, you need to stand out. Therefore, you'll need to take the subject from a different angle, provide a quality, in-depth look into the situation, or make the content so much fun to read that it draws attention to itself purely because of the style. The one downfall to this approach is that, with extremely popular topics, it can be almost impossible to find these angles because every man, woman, child, and dog is already discussing the situation. Unless you're one of the first to discuss the issues.
(Image Courtesy of Furryscaly)
Cause Controversy -- Everyone loves a good fight, so why not give it to them? Play the devil's advocate and make the conversation drive the popularity of your content. However, you need to be cautious here too. You don't want to come off sounding like an idiot or a...uh...jerk; be respectful of the other side at all times. You get extra bonus points if you can look wise and impressive regardless of whether you win or lose the debate. BUT, if you decide to start the fight, you should make sure that you can give it the attention it needs to fight it through until the end (or until the discussion takes off on its own with both sides equally represented).
To make sure that you really get the most out of your content, here are a few extra pointers:
- Social media is community driven. Therefore, if you want to have viral content, you need to plan ahead and spend some time on the site actively participating and building a following.
- Not everything you write will go viral. But, following these steps will certainly improve your chances.
- Social media isn't a set it and forget it form of marketing. You need to keep an eye on things and be sure to engage with those who are reading your content. If you don't, it won't be the first social media plan that turned ugly under the company's nose and was left alone to fester.
- Social media is about giving more than you take. Therefore, take an interest in those around you and don't be afraid to help them spread the news about their great content.
- Use formats that encourage interaction. A traditional press release or a basic article on its own will never be as good as a blog post with a comment section to give your readers a say. If you do choose less 'user friendly' content, make sure to aim the content at social media sites that provide an area to discuss the subject matter.
- Working in packs doesn't hurt to get the ball rolling. You can also seed the content yourself, just be sure that you follow the etiquette of the site. Otherwise, you risk looking like a spammer and harming your brand. (Also, don't overdo it. If you're contacting your Digg connections 100 times a day to give your content a boost, they're going to get irritated.)
Do you use this strategy when you craft your content? If you do or do not, I'd love to hear from you and find out why/why not and what your experiences have been with this method.
Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.
12 thoughts on “The 3 Secret Steps for Creating Viral Content That the Expert Copywriters Won’t Tell You”
Ahh Angie… you are a breathe of fresh air! One thing I try to eliminate in “dicovering the audience” is distinguishing between social etc, Marketing is marketing a lot of the above we use in SEO as well as social when looking/targeting our audience. You could also extend that offline IMO, because that is one of the possibilities of Social Networking. It is slowly moving from social networking online to social networking with the same people offline at tweetups etc. With connectivity everywhere there is no co-axial tether. That’s the part of Social I find intriguing. There are no boundaries save the boundary of good taste.
Great practical advice. Amazing how many people want to take short-cuts. There are no short-cuts too hard work!
I couldn’t agree more Terry. And the more people blend their marketing together the more success they’ll have with it. I’m sure of it. You simply have to know who to talk to and how to talk to them.
There’s always someone who wants to cut corners Don, but that’s ok. That just leaves room for those of us who don’t to get ahead more easily 😉
Another good post Angie and one that needed to be written. Social media marketing still has not reached all the far corners of the webmaster world, and this advice from a pro is like gold.
Keep up the good posts.
Thanks Mel, that’s the way I see things. The boundaries of SEO/SMO/SMM/Marketing/Branding/Reputation management are becoming harder and harder to define. And, the way I see it, you get better results by mixing these various elements together. Or, at least keeping the needs of each topic in mind as you go.
This article stands to its word. Although we are aware of the topics discussed it gave in a new and interesting way so that readers find it more useful for them and can implement while writing their content.
Thanks James. I’m glad to hear you found it useful.
It does seem that a lot of websites cannot maintain marketing and SEO at the same time. The key is always addressing the audience instead of the robots. As a former catalog person, I know marketing must be addressed in copying as much as keyword placement.
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