Viral content is powerful stuff. If you have an army of people promoting your offering, you don’t have to spend nearly as much money on marketing. You get free awareness, which in turn boosts your profit margin.
But creating viral content isn’t easy. After all, there’s so much good quality material available, so your content is bound to get lost if you don’t make it stand out somehow. Here are four steps you can take to increase the viral potential of your content.
Step 1: Have a Killer Headline
I simply can’t overemphasize the importance of this. The headline is the first impression that people have of your product. Sure, you need great content later on, but none of it matters if people don’t click through.
Headings are especially important in the context of social media. When someone “retweets” or “likes” your content, their social network will only see the headline. They are far more likely to click through if they see something interesting. Here are three ways you can make your headline stand out:
Say something new or controversial: A very common mistake is for headlines to contain common information. For example, a headline like “why you should eat better” isn’t particularly unique or new information…everyone already knows this! Instead, if you challenge someone’s beliefs, you’re more likely to elicit a response. (example)
Offer something that they won’t find anywhere else: Words like “secret” or “keys to success” or “unlocking” makes it sound like you’re describing a unique and valuable process, rather than just listing a few facts. This makes the reader much more curious and gives them the desire to learn more.
Ask a Question: When people see a question as a headline, they’ll assume that the post will provide them with the answer. If they are interested in this answer, they are much more likely to click through. Simple idea, great results.
Looking for inspiration? Here’s a resource featuring 100 of the greatest headlines of all time.For more information and examples of killer headlines, check out my free guide to article marketing (just sign up below).
Step 2: Capture Their Attention Within The First 30 Seconds
It is trivially easy for someone to leave a website. There’s a reason that most people stay for less than thirty seconds on any one page. Therefore, you need to give them some compelling value within the first few seconds of their experience. This can be anything from a great introduction to a blog post, to a cool infographic, to compelling ad copy, to a powerful video. The point is that you need to reel in your users from the first minute or they’ll move on with their lives. Here are a few ideas to grab your user’s attention quickly:
Ask a question that you plan to answer later: I mentioned this in the last section as well, but it really does help. Of course, the question needs to be relevant to the topic at hand, but it creates some suspense that helps the user stick around.
List some key points: Summarizing the few major points behind your value proposition will give readers an idea of what they should expect if they choose not to leave.
Use teasers: People want to know what they’re going to get out of using your product or service. A statement like “stick around to find out how you can save $1,000 per year on your mortgage” encourages people to do exactly that. This buys you some time to more thoroughly market your product or service.
Step 3: Add Value All The Way Through
By now, you have the reader’s attention. The next step is to keep demonstrating value so that they will trust you even more.
Add a personal touch: Most people want to understand how they will benefit from something. They don’t care about theories and concepts unless they stand to gain from learning them. Try to emphasize how your product, service, or content will help benefit their lives and/or their family.
Give specific examples: Case studies are a great way of illustrating a complex idea. Walk people through a real-life scenario and they’ll be much more likely to buy into your ideas. Whenever possible, cite cases or research studies that back up your statements.
Include Testimonials: Nothing works better than having someone else say that you or your product is awesome. An authentic testimonial will go a long way towards getting people to talk about you in a positive way.
Keep things simple: Most visitors are only going to remember one to two things from any piece of content. Identify what you want them to remember and focus on drilling these points home.
This brings us to…
Step 4: The Call To Action
This is the final step: asking people to do something that provides you with value. It can be anything from buying a product, to getting an e-mail address, to sharing content via social media. If you’ve done everything right up to this point, you’ll have a good chance of getting your visitors to help you out. Here are a few ways you can ask your visitors to take action:
Summarize Your Key Points: Remind people of your value proposition and emphasize the main things you want them to remember. This makes it much more likely that they’ll buy something, or, at minimum, talk about your product with others.
Encourage Discussion: Many people are interested in giving feedback or would like to ask a question, but they aren’t sure how to do it (do I fill out a form, call a phone number, etc). Give them a clear way to do this and you’ll get more leads than you can handle.
Provide A Time-Sensitive Offer: People are much more likely to act if they think that there’s a limited window of opportunity. You want to draw them in while you can; if they leave your site without doing something, it’s very unlikely that they’ll come back. They’re also more likely to tell their friends to act fast on the opportunity.
A final thought…
At the end of the day, just put the best stuff out that you can. Be authentic, and show some patience. With a little luck and a consistent effort, you'll be on your way to building the audience you've always dreamed about.