As of July 2014, Buzzfeed and Upworthy are the top two most popular viral websites, according to national and global traffic ranking. Considering that both sites began as small startups competing against large news conglomerates, it’s pretty impressive that they were able to rise up in the ranks so quickly. So what are they doing correctly, and which tactics can you adopt to aid in your business marketing efforts?
Give the people what they want
When news stories are presented online and off and access to information is readily available via the Internet and TV, people won’t waste time reading your content if it doesn’t interest them in eight seconds or less or doesn’t get to the point in 111 words. This is the primary reason that media outlets like BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and TED Talks have gained immense popularity in recent years: they present information in such a way that doesn’t feel like news. In fact, if we look at the articles published online, most follow this format:
Catchy title + pictures or video clip + short chunks of text = viral success
By taking people’s wavering attention span into account, these sites have not only changed the way people read the news but also the way brands and other media outlets present information.
So what does all this mean for your business? When you publish on your blog or on social media (and you should be), consider your audience’s interests and their expectations of your brand, then create content that align the two together. For example, if your audience insights tell you that most of your customers are interested in films, work in pop culture references in your title and article text. Remember that consumers have the power to decide whether they want to give your business the time of day, so keep them invested in your brand by being their source of information and entertainment.
Follow the cat rule
A picture is worth a thousand words, and as cliché as it is, it is particularly true. From the huge images in billboard and public transportation ads to the image-heavy Internet realm, images are now dominating a vast chunk of our waking reality. In fact, studies show that visual social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest drive a vast majority of online traffic, and even on Facebook, photos generate 53 percent more likes than an average text post.
Therefore, your content should also have at least one image, as images help people understand a topic and prompt them to take action more quickly. In addition, be creative with your use of images. For example, this Entrepreneur article has a cat picture as the main header image, despite the fact that the article has nothing to do with cats. So why did this established author decide on cats? Because cute animals rule the Internet, and anything with cats tend to get the most engagement. My point is this: anything goes in the Internet, and thinking outside the proverbial box will help you boost your brand engagement.
Recommendations make the world go ‘round
You ever notice that most major online news sites prominently display the amount of social shares their articles receive? BuzzFeed has an upwards trending arrow and a viral dashboard, Upworthy has their Attention Minutes metric, and even Mashable has their Velocity Graph. These graphs show the article’s popularity over a span of time, measured by the amount of social shares and comments the article receives.
Viral graphs subconsciously persuade a person into believing that the article is authoritative and interesting, thus promoting the reading and sharing of the article. This concept is called social proof, and it is psychologically proven that people will follow others if they believe that it is the socially correct behavior. Social proof is the reason why people are four times more likely to buy a product when it is recommended by a friend and why social referrals drive approximately 40-50 percent of traffic.
Because social proof is a powerful driver in a consumer’s opinion of your business, it is important to foster positive social interaction with your customers. Therefore, add social sharing buttons above your blog articles, use call-to-action phrases in your content (when appropriate), and politely ask your customers to leave you positive reviews.
As the Internet begins to shape more of our daily lives, your product sales and online presence go hand-in-hand in determining your business’s success. Therefore, stay on top of current Internet trends, analyze the top online performers, and use your insights to shape your online strategy.