Everybody wants their content to go viral. But what type of content actually goes viral, and does that automatically make it great content for your business?
For the New York Times in 2010, it wasn’t articles about sex, or ones with titles like “How Your Pet’s Diet Threatens Your Marriage, and Why It’s Bush’s Fault.” That’s what John Tierney, the author of the article, had suspected would be the most popular.
Instead, the NYT’s study showed that science articles got the most e-mail shares (side note: email shares, really?).
The researchers identified awe as the emotional trigger for this behavior of sharing science articles on the NYT. For an audience with a penchant for traditional media, the traditionally awe-inspiring subject of science makes complete sense. Emotional triggers are always a good way to get people to take action, but different audiences react to different emotional triggers in different ways.
Viral Marketing isn’t Even Marketing
I previously wrote about clickbait where I pronounced viral marketing dead (how meta). Cause of death? Publishers like Upworthy and Buzzfeed whose sole purpose is to get people to share their content. Your share is their product. They sell your sharing activity to advertisers. Viral content works for them because that’s all it needs to do. And it’s created an unreasonable expectation amongst marketers of actual products that they can do the same.
My point is still the same: setting “going viral” as a goal to market a product or service is stupid. People don’t care whether or not you want your content to go viral, they care about how good the content is and how it relates to them and their social sphere.
And you should care whether that translates to increased revenue for your business.
Awe-inspiring science articles are great. (Did you hear we landed a probe on a comet?). Given the continued decline of the news media, I wonder if the NYT still feels the same way.
Content is Still King But Your Product is Prince
Of course some online content will “go viral,” but if you make that the only goal of your content it’s easy to lose sight of your business’ value proposition. Your products and their value to your clients and customers should be at the center of your content. So, unless you’re a publisher that lives on ad revenue, your goal should be to make great content related to your core business.