How to Increase Virality of Social Content
Research published by the Harvard Business Review states that using strong emotional drivers can make people care about your content and, in return, share it. This is the fundamental driver of viral marketing. The ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ that broke the internet in 2014 and Metro Trains Melbourne’s ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ are a couple of classic examples of striking the right chords.
Creating your own viral content does not have to be a hit or a miss. Here are a few actionable strategies marketers may look at to increase virality.
Understanding visitor engagement on your website
The first step to building viral content is benchmarking reader engagement on your website. Heatmap tools like Hotjar, HumCommerce, and CrazyEgg provide insights into what parts of your website elicit reader interest and where engagement is lacking. A deeper analysis of such reports will give you inputs to help increase engagement.
For instance, would a video help engage users better than text? Should you replace long-form content with an infographic? There are a number of different content formats like mindmaps, flow charts and timeline charts that help you create the best presentation for your users. Knowing what triggers reader interest should help you draft content that gets read and shared by your readers.
The need to be innovative
There are tons of case studies around viral content. The trouble with such reports is that they are all reactive to viral campaigns after they became successful. There is a limit to how precisely a marketer can predict the virality of a campaign. Customers enjoy innovative virality. In other words, it may be a tough ask to succeed with a viral formula for the second time.
One example of this is the video ad campaigns from DollarShaveClub. The company’s first ad was innovative and went instantly viral (hitting more than 26M views). However, the company’s follow-up ads on similar lines did not gain as much traction.
In short, virality demands innovative content, so looking back at case studies will only provide you with limited insights. Data analytics expert Kristina Sorrelli, in this interview, talks about the need to analyze millions of online conversations to pick up patterns and insights that can be used to craft the right kind of content for your audience.
There are a number of big data tools that you can make use of to come up with insights that will help build viral content.
Gain traction through smart email marketing
Studies show that email is 40X more effective at acquiring customers compared to Facebook and Twitter. If done right, email can be a great way to build the initial traction that is essential for a successful viral marketing campaign.
There are two parts to achieving this. First, ensure that you have a targeted mailing list that will approve the content you send them. Secondly, identify the factors that contribute to high email open rates, engagement, and click-throughs.
For instance, some marketers suggest that Fridays are the best times to send consumer-targeted email messages to subscribers. While that may be true for certain industries, there is no real way to know if this works for your audience as well.
A good way to maximize traction is by deploying a multivariate test campaign on your newsletters. You may experiment with factors such as email content, the time of the day your message was sent, the location of the click-throughs, the impact of your CTAs, and so on. Identify factors that help you with higher traction on virality and tweak your campaigns accordingly.
Evoke network effect for cost-effective campaign
Almost like a product, the utility of content is dependent on its consumption by a maximum number of like-minded people. In a social network, there are key individuals impacting the virality of content more than others. Network analysis tools help you single out these individuals (called seeds) based on their connectivity, ability to influence positivity towards your content.
Tools like Gephi and Google Fusion Tables can be used to represent high centrality individuals as bigger nodes with lines protruding out to depict the density of their reach. If you are on a budget, concentrating your campaign to an initial set of influencers can save you both time and money.
Acknowledge the power of Social Media Management tools
It goes without saying that social media is the biggest ally in your quest for virality. This can, however, be a challenge if you are just starting out in your business and do not have the follower-base to make your content go viral.
One way to establish virality is by paying to advertise your content in the initial run to set virality in motion. Even a budget as low as $5 is sufficient to help you capture a few dozen likes and shares within a short time-frame and this serves as the trigger to a successful viral campaign.
Virality is also measured by other factors such as the time of the day when your content was posted, your caption, the image associated with your blog post, and so on. Invest in a good social media management tool that can help you automate this process. This way, you may schedule several variants of your message across different audiences and measure the success of these different strategies. Tools like AgoraPulse, Buffer, Hootsuite and Sprout Social are regarded among the best tools for this purpose.
Track virality with the right metrics
A successful viral campaign is often followed by a rising number of brand mentions and social sharing, and this needs to be monitored. It may be necessary to prop your campaign up with more ads in case the traffic appears to be plateauing.
A clear set of performance metrics can help you monitor and strategize to stay focused on the objective of the campaign or content. Virality, in its purest sense, is measured as the percentage of the audience led to the content by one visitor/target. However, tracking a few more metrics can help you gauge the extent of success –
- Cost per Acquisition (CPA): there should be a considerable fall in pre and post content CPA
- Cost per View (CPV): your content’s CPV should be lower than the industry benchmark
- Engagement/Reach: indicates the percentage of your audience tempted enough to pass on the information, through likes, shares, comments, etc.
While viral marketing is highly desired, it is a black box with no definite answers. The recommended approach is to treat it as a science, and leverage data and analytic tools to gather insights into what works best for your business.