Crafting the Perfect Viral Share

secret to viral sharing

Crafting the perfect viral share

If sharing is caring, then we’re all head-over-heels in love with social media. It’s not just Facebook anymore, there are hundreds of social platforms besides, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn where we’re meeting and greeting new friends all over the world. While these platforms create a great place for sharing cat videos, pictures of what we had for lunch, and talking about our last vacation, businesses use social media as a way to engage with customers and prospects. Sharing amplifies a business message, while making it more relevant because the share comes from others in your social network.

Sharing is the core of these sites and often, given the right set of circumstances, you can create the perfect viral share. Once associated with disease, the term viral now has a more positive definition. Rather than the spreading of germs, it’s now images, videos, content, and other material spreading rapidly from one user to the next.

The ability of free or low cost sharing of information reaching millions of people is a marketer’s dream come true, so how can we create the perfect viral share?

Interesting, Very Interesting

Back in the sixties, comedian Arte Johnson gave us many a chuckle on the popular show “Laugh In” when he carefully examined something irrelevant or just plain stupid and still found it “interesting, very interesting.” Drawing on this, crafting the perfect viral share happens when the content is practical, surprising or interesting in some way. A study of the most emailed articles from The New York Times (shown in the infographic below) found these topics common in shares by their readers.

I Want Some More

Oliver Twist surprised and saddened us when he made the bold statement, “Please Sir, I want some more” to his cruel master in the Dickens classic. According to research, our audience is also happier with more, rather than less. Articles with fewer than one thousand words get much less attention than their lengthier counterparts — weighing in between three and ten thousand words. Experts still recommend that your posts come in somewhere near the two thousand word mark.

Image is Everything

Crafting the perfect viral share often starts with a killer image. Rising tennis star Andre Agassi teamed up with Canon cameras to successfully market the “Image is Everything” campaign back in the nineties. While you can optimize your content marketing strategy in a number of ways, using images, photos, and videos helps create the perfect viral share, with your article shared by twice as many viewers as with mere text alone.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

This old quote associated with newspaper sales was also a song recorded way back in 1975 by Ralph Carter. The authoritative sales pitch, “Extra, extra, read all about it” captured our attention, enticing us to buy the latest paper so we could check out the most up-to-date news. Building on this, we add two more characteristics of the perfect viral share —  a catchy headline and an authoritative tone. Don’t be afraid to state your expert status on your topic with pride. People will see you as more trustworthy and genuine, while increasing your sharing numbers.

Last, But Not Least

Some will attribute this popular phrase to the theater or more specifically to Shakespeare when he wrote a short line in King Lear, “Although the last, not least.” Just as we highlighted quotes and phrases in this article, we can use them in crafting the perfect viral share. By utilizing quotations and sharing anecdotes from their journeys, we will gain further interest and more shares from our readers.

But It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over

This pithy quote is associated with legendary baseball hall of famer, Yogi Berra who would often use this phrase when speaking to reporters. Often it is difficult to gauge on social media what is popular and what is not, what trends are just beginning and which are basically over. Using True Social Media Metrics helps us analyze the most popular posts and give us a better picture of the more powerful social media content. Using these insights, we can more easily craft the perfect viral share.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s hoping that your material is seen by a thousand people and shared with a million more.

About the author:

MeganMegan M. Ritter is a business writer with a background in marketing and telecommunications. In addition to contributing her
research to infographics, she also enjoys sharing her knowledge of business globalization, virtual technology and mobile communications through her writing. Follow her on Twitter.



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15 Ways to Be Nice in Social Media Posts

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Are you “nice” in your social media posts or are you spammy?

Nice social media posts engage and build your audience, while spammy posts make you look stupid, ignorant, or just plan lazy. Spammy posts might also get you banned from social networks.

Making nice in social media posts

Take a look at the infographic below to see prevailing etiquette. Then, let’s take a look at 15 ways to be nice in social media posts. If you want more information on how to create the perfect social media posts, check this out!

First, let’s get this out-of-the-way.

There is NO such thing as the perfect social media post.

That’s because each platform is different and its users expect a different form of interaction on each platform.

A corollary to the fact there is no perfect social media post is that posting isn’t enough for success on social platforms regardless of how perfect your post is. Brands who do nothing but post, get little engagement and engagement spurs interest in your brand and amplifies your message.

So, let’s discuss the 15 ways to be nice in social media posts

How often to post

  1. On Twitter, you can get away with posting about 5 times/ day, although Buffer published 14 times/ day using its app and claims they get good results. However, SocialBakers produced a study showing 3 Tweets per day produced maximum engagement. Spread your posts throughout the day to ensure you don’t spam anyone’s Twitter feed with multiple messages.
  2. On Facebook, 1-2 posts/ day seems to be the sweet spot according to Buffer. SocialBakers found top brands post an average of once/ day and found engagement drops significantly when a brand only posts about once a week. Posting more than a couple of times per day borders on annoying and TrackSocial finds engagement actually declines after the first post each day.
  3. Everyone seems to agree that LinkedIn and Google+ warrant only 1 post a day before getting pretty spammy.
  4. One caveat to these posting schedules, however. Facebook, and more recently Twitter, use an algorithm to determine whether your posts show up. Increasing your posts per day is a means to combat the effect of these algorithms to ensure you reach users.
  5.  And, don’t send the same post a bunch of times. Guy Kawasaki recommends sending each post no more than 4 times — adjusted to users time zones.

Images in social media posts

  1. Twitter doesn’t support images natively, but creating Twitter Cards allows embedded images in your posts. I personally dislike images in Twitter, but to each her own. Experiment to see what works with your audience.
  2. Facebook images work well — getting 37% more engagement than posts without images. The same goes for LinkedIn and Google+. Google+ is especially image-driven and full size images tend to do better there.
  3. Images that attract, especially quirky ones, create engagement. Images without people work best, as there’s a tendency to ignore images of people we don’t know. Dogs and cats work well, as do memes, as long as they don’t contain people.

Content that rocks

Don’t forget the importance of content in driving social media success.

  1. Limit talking about yourself to less than 20% of posts.
  2. All recommendations assume you have something valuable to share. If you don’t, just shut up!
  3. Use smart contests, questions, and coupons. Creating contests that don’t get your target audience to sign up or using coupons without encouraging sharing miss the mark.
  4. Use some teaser copy to encourage users to click-through for more information.

Getting results from social media posts

  1. Remember, recommendations are just that — recommendations. Each audience is different, so creating systematic tests to determine how your audience responds to different social media posts allows you to optimize for your audience.
  2. Not all engagement is created equal. You’re in business to make money, not friends. So creating engagement among your target audience (those most likely to buy) is more important than just reaching random social media users.
  3. Monitor, analyze, and tweak. That’s the only way to improve performance of your social media posts. What times of day work best, what types of content, which CTA (calls to action), etc.

A few insights on social media posts

I wanted to pull a few things from the infographic below to highlight opportunities for your social media posts.

Almost all social networks are skewed toward women and Pinterest is mostly women.

sexism on social networksSo think about the kind of stuff you’re sharing. For instance, Asus made a truly sexist remark (especially when combined with the Twitter Card, and compounded the mistake by shifting blame to someone else — a third-party. That kind of stuff might play well in the locker room, but doesn’t cut it when the audience is 64% women — as it is on Twitter.

Social networks are just that — social. Be as organic as possible rather than disrupting conversations.

I’ve mostly abandoned efforts at Facebook advertising, except for promoted posts. Promoted posts work well as they fit organically into a user’s newsfeed and, if properly targeted, reach your target audience with information they appreciate.

On LinkedIn, it’s great to join groups, but you shouldn’t share every piece of content with every group because lots of people belong to multiple groups and get spammed by your multiple posts.

Use hashtags responsibly.

Including a #bunch of #hashtags in #each #post gets #annoying really #fast. Hashtags on Facebook have pretty much gone the way of the dodo bird and they never really caught on with Google+.

Say thank you!

When you share someone’s social media posts, give a little shout out (or H/T on Google+) as a little thanks for finding great content. I also like to thank folks who share my content. It gets a little time-consuming to thank every RT, +1, and share, but it’s polite — and gets more. Spread out your thank yous if you have a large number so you don’t overwhelm your feeds.

Tit for tat

This is kind of a corollary to saying thank you. Social media is a community. If you want something from someone, it’s best to start by giving them something. So, when you Follow someone on Twitter, RTing one of their posts increases the chances they’ll follow you back. Mentioning (or linking to) the great content produced by others makes them more likely to share your content.

Need Help?

Whether you need a content marketing strategy or a complete metrics-driven social media strategy, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.


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Traditional Media and Social Media: It’s NOT a Choice

combining traditional media and social mediaSocial media (or new media) gets so much hype and traditional media is just so easy to bash that we forget both have their place (and tactics). The real problem comes when businesses rely solely on traditional media, especially when they ignore what’s being said about their brands on social media, or when they use tactics meant for traditional media on their social media platforms.

Traditional media and social media each have their place. Hence, it’s not a choice, but a system that effectively combines both traditional media and social media into 1 campaign that creates superior ROI.

Maybe a little case study will help. Today, I’ll share my client, Groupsurfing, preparing to introduce their first product, hexsee, into the marketplace.

hexsee, combining traditional media and social media

hexsee provides true social interactivity by creating a private layer over any website. Invited users interact in this layer, leaving comments directly over content and moving independently or together across the internet discovering solutions. A bride might use hexsee with her wedding party to discover dresses, venues, or services. A traveler might use hexsee with their family to plan the perfect vacation. A shopper might invite knowledgeable friends to find the perfect product, a sports enthusiast use friends to construct the perfect fantasy football team, a reader might use hexsee for a virtual book club, or a teacher might construct an interactive learning module by combining websites and questions.

When asked to join Groupsurfing on their pre-launch adventures, they already had a logo design and a prototype of the product. My first task was to develop a clear idea of what the product was and determine how to reach their target market. The co-founders were both tech types — engineering and development — and needed a concise way to convey the benefits and uses of hexsee, rather than the technical features.

But, more than that, they needed a strong user base to support valuation.  My goal was to have 10,000 registered users within 6 months.

Strategy before tactics

Even before discussing traditional media and social media, which are really just tactics, it’s important to lay the groundwork. And that means developing a detailed marketing strategy, relying heavily on understanding your product, your competitors, and your likely consumers.

If you’ve never created a marketing strategy, it’s a time-consuming, but necessary step before starting any kind of marketing. I’ve detailed steps for creating a marketing plan in earlier posts. Plus, there’s a slideshare to help — BTW, it’s received over 45,000 views so a bunch of folks must think it’s valuable.



Laura Lake has this to say about branding:

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.

Her definition is much more inclusive, and accurate, than the AMA definition of branding, which reduces branding to a design endeavor. According to the AMA, a brand is a:

name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers

Sure, design is important, and consistent use of your design across media helps, but branding is really much more than your logo and name. Branding is the hologram that is your brand — a 3-dimensional image of what your brand is, what it does, what problems it solves, and who it’s meant for.

My goal at hexsee, which already employed a great logo reflective of its name and what it does, was to get that logo onto everything we did and get it in the hands of our target market. So, we ordered t-shirts for team members to wear, water bottles and stickers to put in the hands of buyers, and other promotional items used as incentives to get new subscribers.

But, more important, I built an identity for the brand that resonated with potential users. hexsee went from a product that took a couple of pages to explain, to the simple tagline — true social interactivity — with a 1 line value proposition:

No more cutting and pasting, adventures with friends

Traditional media and social media

Only after you’ve identified your target market (and gotten to know them), your competition, and the market environment are you ready to decide on tactics including communication strategies including traditional media and social media.

Rather than an either or strategy, combining traditional media and social media into an integrated marketing communication strategy works best for many businesses — and hexsee is one of them.

Integrated marketing communication builds on the reality that folks need to see your message several times, in different communication channels, according to Forbes. Even Millenials, the most digitally savvy consumers, combine physical shopping with mobile apps in a single shopping excursion.

Hence, traditional media and social media combine with mobile marketing to form a cohesive marketing strategy. But, don’t try doing the same campaign with the same message in both traditional media and social media. That’s doomed for failure. Instead, craft different campaigns on different platforms to optimize ROI.

Here’s what I’m doing for hexsee, with a target market of time-stressed 25-45 year old women. This strategy mirrors successful aspects used in marketing Twitter and Facebook.

Event marketing

Both Twitter and Facebook focused on capturing users in their local area. The major benefit of a local focus early on is that 1) you’re integrated into the social fabric of your local community and 2) you get a lot more bang for your limited bucks.

And, event marketing really capitalizes on both local benefits.

email marketingWe started demoing the product in local meetup groups, either formally or informally using networking time, to show what we could do.

Using Constant Contact, we created QR Codes and Text-to-Join numbers (text hexsee to 22828)  to build our subscriber base — thus integrating digital and real worlds.

Email marketing

Registrations also initiated an email marketing campaign designed to keep subscribers interested until the product launch (planned for 3 months later) and motivate them to get their friends to subscribe.

Here we used a strategy employed successfully by other businesses — using the law of scarcity to stimulate subscribers. The very nature of hexsee, while not a social network, works by encouraging friends to join. Otherwise, there’s no one to go on adventures with. Email marketing hit this point and, while functionally the software doesn’t require your friends join, we suggested they’d want their own account and spaces in the Beta release were filling up fast — which is really true.

Social networks

hexsee uses Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ for very deliberate reasons. Mainly, I didn’t have the bandwidth to maintain a myriad of social networks, so I chose social networks that fit our needs. I also tapped my personal social networks because they were well established, large, and engaged.

  • Twitter made sense because we could use hashtags coupled with event hashtags to amplify our message.
  • YouTube was essential because we can demo the product and do side-by-side comparisons of how easy it is versus cutting and pasting.
  • Google+ makes sense because it’s Google and Google still controls 70% of search. All those +1’s earned on Google+ impact your SERPs (how close to #1 you show up in search).

Each network uses a different format so I craft individual messages for individual networks — relying heavily on video and images to stimulate interest.

Content marketing is an important part of our strategy. Currently, we’re curating content likely to interest our target market. Our new website features a blog where we’ll also craft content that’s valuable for our target market to drive traffic to the website.


And it worked. Signups went from about 2% to 25% of the audience we reached — a whopping 1250% increase leveraging a budget of only about $500.

Traditional media and social media plans

Of course, we’re not stopping there. We’re planning some interesting guerilla marketing for SXSW in March, some traditional PR after the product launches in December, and continuing strategies that are already working for us.

Stay tuned to see if we’re able to sustain our growth.

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete content marketing strategy or a complete metrics-driven social media strategy, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.





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Transparency in Twitter: Show Off Your Brand the Right Way

twitter brandingIn just a few years, social media completely revolutionized the business-customer relationship. No longer are businesses thought of as unreachable, emotionless, and faceless monoliths. In an ironic twist, one might even say that public perception has evolved to match modern corporate law: if corporations are people, the public expects them to act like it.

Consumers want to see the people behind the product, the human face on the other side of the customer service line. They want authenticity. They want transparency.

The problem is, many companies haven’t quite caught up to this paradigm shift. The world is changing, and they’re not keeping up. It’s a personality problem that, aside from a few brands, is endemic. Today, we’re going to show you how Twitter can be a tool to increase the public perception of transparency, and help you build a bridge of trust with your customers.

Twitter: The Great Equalizer

Luckily for you, the same tool that raised all these consumer expectations is the tool that will help you fulfill those expectations. Twitter is a powerful tool that can broadcast to a million people or whisper to one. It also is a great equalizer, allowing anyone who wants to the ability to contact you at their will.

This access makes some brand managers uncomfortable, but it’s up to you to use it to your advantage. Each person contacting you is a potential customer, or better yet, a potential fan. Think about it: they’re taking time from their day to tell you something, or ask you a question.

The question is now not if to respond, but how. Here are some rules to follow to make sure that your Twitter communications stay productive, authentic, and transparent.

Let Your Brand’s Personality Shine

twitter the right wayJust as Taco Bell loves to show their quirky, enthusiastic side, so should your brand relish in the opportunity to let your fans know who you really are. Does your company get involved in charity efforts? Tweet about it! Let your followers see a bit into what it is like to be part of your brand.

Even if you don’t have charity work to brag about (and not everyone does), simply allowing your tweets to show a bit more personality can do a lot. Marketers are naturally a cautious type, but it’s important to remember that the internet has a short memory. Don’t be afraid to experiment with tones and characters until you find one that fits your brand and audience. People will appreciate the authenticity and feel like they’ve getting to know the real you.

Respond to Everything You Can

You will find that many times, the customer does not expect an answer, but is simply tweeting his or her enthusiasm into the internet without expectation. In these cases, it’s sometimes enough to favorite or retweet what they wrote, but a personal note never hurt anyone.

Taco Bell is a great example of a brand that knows exactly how to interact with their fans. A quick look at their Twitter page will reveal hundreds of reblogs, them simply reposting messages from enthusiastic fans onto their Twitter page, showcasing their appreciation for the love they get.

Twitter: The Ultimate Tool for Transparency

Every contact point with the consumer has the potential for creating your next biggest fan. Luckily for you, Twitter is a social media service consisting entirely of contact points. Your followers list is a list of people who want to hear what you have to say, and that list of people who mentioned you in a tweet today? That’s your Rolodex. Get in touch, you won’t regret it!

Hilary SmithHilary Smith is an online business journalist with a background in media marketing. In addition to covering the importance of transparency in social media, her writing also covers the process of globalization, the benefits of an effective business communications system, and VoIP technology for unified communications.

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6 Tips for Getting the Most from Your Content Marketing Strategy

create the perfect content marketing strategy

Content marketing is the new SEO, so having a great content marketing strategy helps searchers find your content. Sharing content on social networks also improves SEO, builds your reputation, and drives visitors to your website.

At a meetup last night, several loyal readers were amazed at the amount of content I produce. They thought I spent most of my time creating and spreading content as part of my content marketing strategy. In fact, I spend about an hour a day actually creating content for myself. Of course, I also create content for major clients, while my community managers create content for other clients.

What’s the secret to my content marketing strategy?

  1. Discipline – I set aside time every day to write and I’ve done it for YEARS. A college professor said you throw away the first 10,000 words you write. So, getting past the first 10,000 words quickly means you’ll create salvageable writing faster.
  2. Read voraciously – I read a lot of content written by leaders in related topics (and curate the best to my social networks). When I sit down to craft a post, I already know which topics are trending, have resources to add value to my posts, and know what I can add to the conversation.
  3. Organization – maintain a content marketing calendar outlining post topics, resources needed, keywords, and due dates. This means you’re not staring at a blank computer screen hoping for inspiration to meet your blogging needs.
  4. Knowing your target audience and how to reach them — what are their problems, preferred social networks, and how to reach them.
  5. Understanding the dynamics of individual social networks to optimize returns

Getting the most from your content marketing strategy

Many things contribute to the success of your content marketing strategy, but today we’re going to talk about crafting the perfect post to share on each social network. Having these templates speeds production of content and helps overcome writer’s block that can easily derail your content marketing strategy.

Today’s infographic, from My Clever Agency, provides great templates to help craft posts that support your content marketing strategy. Since they’ve done such a good job, I won’t go into a lot of detail, but several important elements stand out because they greatly impact your content marketing strategy. Plus, a few things changed since they originally published this infographic.

Call to action (CTA) in your content marketing strategy

Never assume readers know what you expect them to do. Ask them.

If you want folks to sign up for your electronic newsletter, include a link and ask them.

But, don’t forget your ask should be proportional to the value your provide, rather than totally self-serving. This works on most social networks. A colleague even told me I should use a stronger ask, but I prefer the subtle suggestion.

Thus, after crafting a blog post of significant value, I welcome readers to sign up for my newsletter or contact me for more information. I never ask this when sharing content on social networks because I haven’t earned that right, yet. Instead, ask questions and invite connections to read the entire post for the answers.

It isn’t appropriate to include CTA on some social networks. Networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest just don’t work when adding CTA either due to the format of shares or because of social norms on the site — or both.

Images in your content marketing strategy

Images are an important element of your content marketing strategy and becoming more important all the time. Images should fit your content, but also be provocative — leading readers to your site because they are drawn by the image.

Sign up at image sharing sites or create your own custom images, but beware of Google’s new capability to detect stolen images. So, pay for images or use those offered through creative commons or risk the wrath of Google. ‘nough said.

Photoshop should become your best friend unless you can afford a graphic designer. Photoshop has a steep learning curve, but it’s worth the effort. Creating custom memes and even using Microsoft Word to create custom word graphics is a cheap way to give your content a custom look.

Content marketing strategy – trends

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook. Everyone is sharing video — more than images, more than plain text. Personally, I don’t like so many videos as they’re a huge time suck. But, it seems to work.

On Twitter, more folks are embedding images with their Tweets. Twitter offers an easy to use guide for adding images, which greatly increases RT and clicks, according to Jeff Bullas.

Several trends occurred recently in blogging. First, rather than the feature image taking up about half of the real estate at the top of your blog post, it’s now common to see full screen images preceding your content — just as I’ve done above. I’m not sure I like this trend, as it moves your content lower on the screen, but I’m going with the flow until I hear something negative about the practice.

The second major trend in blogging is the length of posts is increasing. It used to be you wanted posts less than about 700 – 800 words, but now I’m hearing experts advocate for posts longer than 1200 words, citing the increased performance of these longer posts. Fast Company shows a study by Copyblogger citing 1600 words as the optimal size for a post — about 7 minutes reading time. Meanwhile, Hubspot tracks blog post performance and suggests the optimal post length is — wait for it — as long as it takes to cover your subject.

Reminds me of how I answered a similar question from students asking how long their term paper should be. My answer comes from an old professor whose name is long lost in my memory, while his advice remains:

… it’s like a woman’s skirt. It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.

and, now for the CTA — drum roll please.

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete content marketing strategy or a complete metrics-driven social media strategy, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.


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