ublicity and marketing, including social media, is like the Wild West.
Just about anybody can call themselves a Social Media Ninja (although they shouldn’t) and get away with it, especially if they used the right jargon. Crazy ideas don’t sound crazy when nobody really knows anything in this new frontier.
Social media is still related to publicity and marketing, and even in that old business, the saying was, “Half of all advertising gets wasted. But nobody knows what half.”
Although there’s certainly good practice and bad ideas, there’s always been more art than science to the field. You can’t predict what will work or say, “We’re going to make this viral” and have it happen. Doesn’t work that way.
PETA does it best: they assume most things will fail, which is true. They swing for the fences and try all sorts of wild ideas and PR stunts, because 99 of them can flop if only one of them goes viral. PETA knows you can’t plan viral.
Now, I like the art AND the science, the theory and the practice. You can’t run everything by the numbers, because good numbers are hard to find, and it’s expensive, and you surely can’t run a bunch of numbers and say, “See? This thing will blow up because, you know, science.” Doesn’t work. But you can, and should, grab data where possible and use that to point in the right direction.
So it gave me great joy to see Neil the Patel come through with another great infographic about which words get shared on social media — the Book of Face, the Twitter, Goople+ and even that thing called LinkedIn — and which words get buried. Useful stuff.
I do this blog for fun, not for monies. HOWEVER: even casual bloggers probably want to make their bloggity blog more popular, and get more viewers.
Want to make your blog better and more popular? Neil Patel of Quicksprout is your man.
He’s brilliant. And he made this handy infographic on improving your website’s stickiness.
Check him out if you’re serious about page views and such. I make the same (zero!) whether this silly blog gets 5,932,023,727,099,131,827 hits a day or the only guy reading it is some bored dude in a research station in Antarctica, so bounce rates aren’t my thing. But I know many writers work crazy hard on their blogs and blog-like substances, and what Neil does for free, and for his clients, is packed full of Smart.
There is no guaranteed method, no secret way, to make a blog post that causes the Series of Tubes to explode.
Anybody who says otherwise is a lying liar full of lying liaosity.
Because this is an art, not a science.
HOWEVER: There are things that are smart, and give you a chance.
5) Swing for the fences
If all your blog posts are kinda the same — the same topic, the same length, the same tone — it’s a good bet none of them will ever magically shock the world.
Learn from PETA, which gets gobs and gobs of free ink and airtime by trying bold, crazy PR stunts.
Most of them fail. Sometimes, they get a little bad press for a stunt gone wrong.
But they keep swinging for the fences, because there is no real penalty for swinging and missing.
People only really pay attention when you hit that towering home run.
So PETA does the opposite of most non-profits, companies, politicians, authors, actors and would-be Famous Peoples: they don’t (a) craft a strategy full of bunts and singles, (b) assume all those bunts and singles will work 100 percent of the time, then (c) freak out when things don’t work out exactly according to the plan and (d) yell at their publicist for all those failures.
PETA knows most swings of the bat will miss. They’re smart about it. They don’t whine or cry in their IPA’s after hours, asking God why nobody prints their press releases. They swing hard. They know missing is part of the game. And they keep on swinging, knowing that all it takes is one solid smack of the bat to get their message through in newspapers, radio and TV around the world.
I did a bunch of posts examining how PETA and other folks do publicity right. Read them. It’ll make you rethink playing small ball.
4) Start with a killer photo
Words are great. I adore words, and I bet you do, too.
Treating photos as an afterthought, though, is crazy.
Because images are more powerful than words. They tap directly into a primal part of our brain and work all kinds of magic, bam, faster than you know it, all while your brain is still processing the first few words of the headline and such.
Every post should have one killer image.
Snag a shot from flickr or morguefile. Snap away with your iPhone or Droid — or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a Nikon of Infinite Beauty.
Use one of the online meme generators (they are legion) to add words to a fresh meme.
Better yet, find a photo and start an entirely new meme.
3) Embrace viral networks
Everybody basically has a blog, a Facebook page and uses Twitter — that’s pretty standard.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: that won’t help you go viral.
Blogs just sit there, really. Nobody except your subscribers will realize you’ve got a new post.
The Book of Face is social networking, not social media. Same with Twitter.
They aren’t designed, really, for things to go viral. Are they better than a kick in the head? Yeah.
For a blog post to really go viral, you need it to make noise on Pinterest or Reddit, Digg or Stumbleupon — those sorts of sites.
Because lumping all these sites under the term “social media” is stupid.
There’s social networking, where you make new friends and talk smack with those friends.
There’s social media, which sort of works as an alternative to mass media (papers of news, radio, TV) — but not really.
And then there are viral networks.
To make a blog post go viral, people who use viral networks must (a) see your post and (b) share it.
That means putting the right sharing buttons on each post.
It means joining a few of those viral networks to see how they work.
And it means using those networks to push sharing buttons on stuff your friends post, not just your own stuff.
This is where a killer photo comes in handy. Pinterest and other viral networks are incredibly visual. If your post doesn’t have an image, it’s basically impossible to post on many viral networks. Even if they let you post, I don’t suggest doing it. Because a photo is key.
2) Use the video, Luke
Moving pictures are even BETTER than regular old pictures, which are better than words.
Here. I’ll make it all simple with logic and such:
Video > Photos > Words
Find short clips on YouTube that illustrate your point.
Snag animated gifs that are related, and funny, and not gross or pervy.
There is no shortage of video clips and gifs. I am constantly amazed by the creativity of peoples on the Series of Tubes, and I tip my hat to them. You make me laugh, and learn things, because video is the most primal way of reaching people.
1) Wrap it all up with a head-turning headline
The Greatest Blog Post in the History of the Blogosphere won’t matter if your headline is something like “What I wrote this morning, after I had some Cocoa Puffs”
Give your post a great headline. How?
Bottom line, you want the headline to create interest by (a) raising interesting questions about (b) stuff people already care about, and I have to say (c) if your blog is a thinly disguised diary, and eliminating the words “I” and “me” would cause the word counts of all your posts to drop by 20 percent, then yeah, that stuff isn’t really interesting or what people care about. Don’t do it.
Interesting questions include anything primal: life and death, love affairs and disasters, monsters and myths.
Stuff people already care about include books and movies, music and plays, stupid reality TV shows, politics, news, art, photography, stupid reality TV shows about celebrities and anything funny.
So what’s a good killer headline? Here are a few:
Top 10 things to do before Comet 1948A destroys Earth
Why JAWS and FATAL ATTRACTION are the same flipping story
If the Bachelor and Bachelorette are 0 for 40-whatever on engagements and marriages, is all hope for love lost — or is reality TV just an empty wasteland of vacuous, fame-chasing idiots?
Now, I’m kidding with that last headline. Bit too long.
On the other hand, it is unusual and would stand out. Bet you if I wrote a post with exactly that headline, it might make a splash. That last hed (journalism slang alert!) happily swings for the fences.
So don’t worry about missing, and don’t place all your bets on some golden post.
Because every time you shoot for something bold and spectacular, even if you fail, you’ll get better at it. And you won’t learn how to hit home runs if all you do is aim for bunts and singles.