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Content Marketing – Why Content Gets Shared and May Go Mega-Viral

What business are we Internet marketers in now? I know the ROI brigade believes we are in the making money business. Here is a shocker for them. Making money is at the end of a much longer means curve. Making money is NOT and never has been a means to some greater end for a company. Making money is a trailing indicator, a final report card. Asking one of those simple and complex at the same time questions helps. What is money?

What is Money?

Money is an idea, a confidence. Pegged to gold, money had a physical value, a physical presence (still mostly mirage, but that is another post). Nixon set money free from the gold standard on April 15, 1971. Money then became what it has always been – pure confidence.

Money has a single mission – to replicate itself. That mission isn’t judgmental, biased or much impacted by our human desires and wills (lol). Money as an abstract construct, as an idea, only has a single purpose – self-replication.

Warren Buffet on Atlantic BT blog Warren Buffet explain why he didn’t give money to charity, years ago, before he made his amazing gift to the Gates Foundation. He was a better captain of the money replication team than any charity, he explained. Buffet would end up giving over $40 billion to the Gates Foundation to save the world. Pretty cool, and hard to argue with Warren as the captain of the money replication team.

If this talk of replication as a single mission sounds familiar, you are an Internet marketer who has been reading my posts (here or on ScentTrail Marketing). As Internet marketers, we understand an important marketing truth: Content is king, and content has a single mission – self-replication via likes, shares, tumbles, blogs and links.

Content’s Mission – Self Replication

The beautiful thing about content’s mission is there is no Warren Buffet, no 86,000 pound content replication silverback Gorilla who dominates the replication market. I’ve had blog posts dashed off on a Saturday end up reaching almost a million people via power Retweeters. If you’ve read Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, you recognize my Content Replication Cycle bell curve as his technology adoption life cycle:

Content Replication Cycle on Atlantic BT blog

Our jobs, our Internet marketing mission impossible (lol), is to move the slider on the bell curve, to increase the size and speed of content replication. Content replication laws are forming NOW (almost as I write this). There are no hard and fast, “Will Go Viral,” rules, and there may never be such immutable rules or laws. Things that make content go viral, such as pop culture, change fast. Change happens on whims, much like a school of fish responding to a signal only they feel: Content influence darts this way and then that.

Here is another look at Moore’s famous bell curve. This curve describes how much of your content will go viral, a small amount to the very right of the curve:

Viral Content Performance Bell Curve on Atlantic BT blog

I’ve had 5 pieces reach more than 2M people via Retweets. I did some back-of-the-envelope math, and that is a little less than 1% of the content I’ve created.  This “Highly Viral Content” is on the far right of the Content Replication Performance chart above.

Since our jobs as Internet marketers is to move the viral bar, to increase the number of posts that earn viral pickup, here are common characteristics of my 5 “highly viral” posts:

* Shorter is better.
* Power Retweeters MUST support.
* Didn’t write to be viral: Viral happens.
* Surf (i.e., write about) large cultural and business waves such as Social Media Marketing.
* Use powerful platforms such as Technorati sometimes.
* 2 of the 5 were written and posted on Saturday (breaking every rule, LOL).
* Tools and tool reviews are important. Every post discussed cool tools in some way.

Is it possible to use these conclusions to move the slider of the viral marketing bell curve? Maybe (lol). Don’t forget we are discussing the top and middle of a conversion funnel. Viral content can fill up the funnel, but conversion all the way to money requires another series of very delicately balanced steps – Imagine a ballet around broken glass. Don’t get lost in the viral content chase. Chase viral content because it chases back in the form of CASH (lol).

Perhaps my most valuable advice is Don’t TRY to create viral content. If you TRY, you fail. There is no way to automate viral pickup. Viral pickup requires too many spontaneous variables to ever become routine.  Increase chances by:

  • NOT trying to get mass pickup (irony is a bitch).
  • Write about what you know and love.
  • Get to know some power retweeters.
  • Don’t be above asking for a favor.

I keep a running total of “owed” and “earned” favors. Some favors I won’t be able to pay back in this lifetime, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.

Good luck, and if you have a great purple cow, dog-bites-man, content-goes-viral story, be sure to share. Maybe we can help create a second act for your, “I was on the way to the store when….”, highly viral content. If you have stories of content that “should have but didn’t” go viral, share those too (we all have ’em).

Keep writing, and write more and more, faster and faster and better and better no matter what happens.

Thanks to Jan Gordon and her consistently GREAT curation on Jan inspired this post. See my post from yesterday on Why Your Content Must Spring Legs and Walk Around the World.

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