How to make content marketing messages go viral
Have you seen the piece about the orphan baby kangaroo and wombat who become BFFs? They also have a baby wallaby friend. Because of course they do.
It’s obvious why these bundles of joey are making the rounds on Facebook. But how can you use the same approaches to make your content marketing messages travel the world, while others just languish on the couch?
Content marketing — aka brand journalism — is relevant, valuable, interesting information you publish, post or otherwise present in owned, not rented, media. Not just blog posts and status updates, content marketing includes conference speeches (and your coverage of them), bylined articles, marketing magazines, e-zines and more.
Instead of pitching your products and services, content marketing messages position your organization as an expert in your field.
Get shared, get clicked.
So what’s the secret for writing content marketing messages that go viral? Make them positive and emotional, suggest Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman, two professors at the University of Pennsylvania.
And the No. 2 emotion we can tap to make messages go viral (after only anger) is awe. Call it The Awwwww Factor.
But how can you make your messages as awe-inspiring as little orphan animal stories?
1. Look for animals.
Maybe you have your own little orphan animal story.
FedEx, for instance, has Ben the Bear.Yes, my BFF and Chief Distribution Officer — aka FedEx — helped rescue a grizzly-black bear named Ben. The poor guy had been stuck in a 12-foot-by-22-foot concrete cage in a roadside North Carolina zoo. FedEx folks helped transport him — aboard “Bear Force One” — to his new digs, a lush animal sanctuary in Northern California.
Because of course they did. Awwwww.
Obviously, if the folks at FedEx can move a grizzly to California, they can deliver your wedding dress or medical supplies.
Here’s more coverage on Ben. Because when you tell awe-inspiring stories like Ben’s, people want to share them.
2. Look for people.
But people are interested in people, too.
So tell your human-interest stories, too — specifically your customer service stories.
I once had to move my microwave-sized toiletry kit from my refrigerator-sized overnight bag into a duffel I keep for just such emergencies when the suitcase proved too heavy to check. When I arrived at my hotel room, I realized I’d forgotten the duffel, which was presumably still making the rounds at a baggage-claim carousel at LaGuardia.
Not wishing to skip lunch at Le Bernardin to retrieve my lost luggage, I called my AmEx travel agent, Katie, and asked her to solve my problem.
When I returned to the hotel, my duffel was waiting in my room. Katie had arranged to have a car service pick it up and deliver it to my hotel. There, she had arranged to have the front desk front me a loan for the car service — including a tip — and deliver the bag to my room.
Because, of course she did.
Show us what over-and-above service we can expect from you by highlighting the awe-inspiring ways you’ve helped others.
3. Tell a story.
Finally, the best way to share The Awwwww Factor is to tell a story. Make the most of your awe-inspiring stories by using the PSR model. (I’ve edited accounts of Ben’s journey from FedEx and PETA into this version.)
Problem: Don’t start with a pat on your own back (it gets in the way of the story, and unless you’re really flexible, it’s hard). Instead, jump right into the most provocative details of the story at hand:
Ben, a grizzly-black bear, had spent six long years confined to a barren cage.
Deemed “Attraction No. 2,″ Ben was deprived of even the most basic necessities. His world consisted of nothing more than a barren 12-foot-by-22-foot concrete floor and a chain-link fence with an old bowling ball and some moldy stumps of wood. His “caretakers” dumped dry dog food — what passed for his meals — onto the same concrete floor where he urinated and defecated.
Ben spent his waking hours pacing, the result of profound deprivation and a sign of chronic distress.
Solution: I know, I know. This is the part you care about most: the part where your organization helped solve the problem. Your readers, however, are more interested in your awe-inspiring subject. So make this the quickest part of the piece:
After a long battle with the zoo owner, several rescue organizations won the right to move Ben from his deplorable conditions to a lush animal sanctuary in Northern California. FedEx volunteered to help fly Ben across the country for free. A team of 42 folks made sure Ben got all of the comforts he needed as he journeyed aboard “Bear Force One” nearly 3,000 miles to his new home.
Results: Paint a picture of how great Ben’s life is now:
When Ben explored his vast new habitat for the first time, it was likely the first time he had ever felt grass beneath his paws. He pawed at the ground and smelled the grass. Within minutes, he was bathing and splashing in his own pool, ridding his body of grime for the first time in years. That night, he slept soundly on a comfortable bed of fresh hay and natural foliage.
Because of course he did.
How can you write awe-inspiring stories about your own organization’s service to others?