Thursday, February 16, 2012

Forget about Viral. Think Strategic.

If you want to create online content that will propel your business or organization, stop thinking viral and start thinking strategic.

First, let's be clear about something. Online content refers to videos, case studies, white papers, photos, blog posts, tweets, and anything else you post online (on your website or elsewhere) to market your business, school or organization.

Part of the inspiration for this post has been John Moore’s Talkable Brand video series. It’s really well done - informative, entertaining and inspiring. If you have any responsibility for marketing in your organization, you should watch it.

The third video in the series makes the case that Talkable is Bankable - if people are talking about your brand, they will consider buying your product. That’s pretty hard to disagree with.

But in the process of proving the effectiveness of word of mouth, I believe he has dispelled any promise that marketers may hold out for their content going viral. Citing a variety of sources, John presents the following data:
  • The maximum number of people with whom we can have stable relationships with is 150
  • 80% of our conversations are with the same 5 to 10 people.
  • 62% of our conversations are with our strongest ties – spouses, family and close friends
  • 80% of cell phone calls are with the same 4 people
  • The average Facebook user has 130 friends and the typical Facebook user directly communicates with just 4 friends each week
What I see in those statistics is that people communicate in small circles. While this deals primarily with personal communication, my sense is that business communication isn’t much different. Our network of trusted sources is fairly small. The only hope then for any online content going viral is in the overlap between these circles of influence and I wouldn’t bet on that happening very often.

It also tells me that I may have 500+ Linked In contacts and over 1000 Facebook friends but the number of people who are going to really take action based on what I say or post is relatively small.

Add to the mix some research that was posted last month by Emarketer that showed most most consumers don’t mention brands on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps even more surprising is that most internet users say they first learn about new brands, products and services from offline print media or word of mouth. Only 24% said they most frequently or often hear about them on Facebook or Twitter.

All of these stats say the same thing to me – don’t even think about content going viral. It’s not going to happen.

Instead concentrate on creating content that is strategic. Your content should be:
  • Targeted – speak to the needs and interests of the segments most likely to buy your product
  • Valuable – give users something (perspectives, information, creativity) that they can’t get anywhere else
  • Original – your content should distinguish you from your competitors
  • Believable – it’s got to be a genuine reflection of your organization and make promises that are deliverable 
  • Brand aligned – content must enhance the experience you want users/customers to have when they interact with your company
  • On message – make sure the language and positioning inherent in your online content is consistent with what’s on your website and in offline material.
If that’s not enough, my colleague Ruth Zive has 67 Content Strategies for you to consider in her new e-book. It's a great resource.

In the end, the promise of a million hits may be sensational, but the results driven by strategic content are far more attainable and ultimately more valuable.

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