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Going Viral, Part 3: Reaching Out

Viral activity is the dream of many marketers, content creators, retailers, and businesses of all shapes and sizes. In truth it’s hard to find an example of a business that wouldn’t welcome at least a little viral activity every now and then. During this week I’d like to spend some time defining what viral means, examining some successful examples, and offering some insights on how you and your business might have a shot at achieving it.

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Creating unique and compelling content can be both challenging and rewarding. Creating unique and compelling content and then seeing it gain little or no attention can be downright frustrating. Unfortunately many creators find themselves in this all too familiar position. With a little bit of planning and strategic placement, chances for viral activity can swing heavily in your favor.

Get your ducks in a row

Before even thinking about going viral, ask if you’ve set yourself up for success. If the goal is to promote a blog post then it would help if the blog post appeared on a great looking WordPress site as opposed to a carelessly put together blogger.com site. (Nothing against blogger.com, but WordPress is always one of the best options)

If you had an online photo website, it would be a big mistake to not considering grabbing a Flickr and Dailybooth account. If you’re promoting a band or a song then being a part of Myspace, Reverbnation, and Bandcamp is at least worth looking into.

Maybe your website looks great. How is your SEO? How do you rank on Google? Get your ducks in a row and your chances for exposure increase.

Encourage sharing.

There are ways to encourage sharing and there are ways to hinder it.

Activities that help:

Creating and maintaining an email list
Utilizing social bookmarking sites: Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon
Being Facebook friendly.  Having “Like” and sharing buttons
Reaching out to like minded bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters
Making genuine friendships and connections on and offline

Activities that don’t help:

Telling no one and hoping others somehow find your content
Limiting promotion to your immediate social circle
Using inappropriate social networking channels
Avoiding online promotion. Avoiding word of mouth promotion.
Acting generally unexcited about your offering

Hype it up

Want to make a big splash with a particular piece of content? Generate some buzz by setting a release date (not too far out) and then spreading the word up till that date. This works for both offline and online efforts.

Tap into your network

Reaching out to new contacts is important, but don’t neglect your current base of friends and supporters. Sending an email or a tweet to specific people who you believe would benefit from your material is more than acceptable and is often welcomed (however that doesn’t mean spamming or trying to force something unwanted upon your network).

Maybe your friends would benefit from your instructional YouTube video, online comic strip, or humor rich blog post. You might be surprised how many people are really in your corner when you actively seek them out.

Keep at it

Ultimately the viewers, readers, and listeners determine what goes viral and what remains in obscurity. By experimenting with new ideas and actively promoting your work, the likelihood of success will increase. Honest effort and a strong drive for constant improvement are critical.


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