Viral blog post mini-business case study: The Search Guru dissects what makes a post or series catch on fire and spread throughout the Internet.
Let’s face it. Nobody can predict, with certainty, which blog posts will become popular, much less ones that go viral, being spread from person to person via social media sharing and other online methods. So, there is no 100% foolproof way to sit down and say, “Now I’m going to write some viral content.”
However, there are many common elements in content that does go viral – with viral being defined as spreading through a relevant niche community or across the Internet as a whole. In this post, we’ll share the story of a series of blog posts that caught fire within a niche community, and share how you can apply the same strategies to your own blogging and content creation.
Note that this example is not a flash-in-the-pan type of viral activity; rather, it relies upon the bloggers steadily building an audience, along with loyalty and trust in its readers. Also note that you don’t need to be a huge ecommerce site to find success. In fact, this story happened to a group of everyday people who simply shared a common concern.
Business case study
Situation: Newspapers in a community in the Cleveland area were not reporting on multiple key stories in the area, perhaps because of a shortage of resources. So, a group of concerned citizens created a blog to fill in the coverage gaps.
Lesson: Identify information gaps in your own industry and space. What do people want that your competitors are not providing?
Situation: Concerns about school spending were not being addressed, as one example, so the blog assigned a writer to attend school board meetings and report more in-depth details of what transpired. A significant number of comments began appearing in connection with these posts, with many of them thanking the blogger for this important information. The blog therefore began providing even more information on this particular subject.
Lesson: Pay attention to what responses you are – or aren’t – getting to your posts. Adjust your strategy to provide more of what your audience wants.
Situation: Bloggers and commenters alike shared frustrations that their concerns weren’t being heard by the school district. One of the bloggers announced that he planned to sit outside during the next school board meeting, which he later followed up with the inclusion of an empty chair to represent the lack of official response. Posts began appearing that featured the chair in humorous situations, each highlighting the lack of interaction from officials – and readers began increasingly sharing the adventures and opinions of “The Chair.” Comments began pouring in by the hundreds and the bloggers worked together to make sure that everyone received a response.
Lesson: Find interesting and unique methods of sharing information. This can’t be forced; in other words, forming a think tank and creating the character of “The Chair” may have failed miserably. Instead, it arose organically and was re-introduced in the blog multiple times because of the enthusiastic response for the humor and for what it symbolized. So, again, monitor the reactions of readers and respond accordingly. Acknowledge people who comment, even if you need to do so in batches (“thank you everyone for your comments!”) rather than one by one.
Situation: After a blog post stated that the seven or so community bloggers were going to stand outside the building during a school board meeting, to make a peaceful statement that citizens needed to be heard, the post was shared so significantly that hundreds of people showed up in support, along with four Cleveland television stations. Afterwards, NPR featured the blog on one of its radio programs. Other bloggers and newspapers alike began linking to posts on this blog, citing it as a trustworthy and in-depth source.
Lesson: You certainly don’t need to do something controversial to cause a post to become viral. That’s not the point. Instead, you need to look at your own unique situation and determine the best way to spread the news of your company – just as the community bloggers did – and follow through in a way that is better, more valuable and more interesting that what is currently available. Then, encourage sharing and visibility. Rinse and repeat.
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