Virality on a Budget: Content Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

The bad news: Good content does not necessarily sell itself.

The good news: Content marketers, like me, still have a job.

Most businesses do not have the time or money to devote to effective content marketing campaigns. If they do put money into it they want to see results. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your content is going to go viral no matter how much you spend on it.

Some of the most successful viral campaigns are not ones founded in money, but rather ones that follow these four much cheaper tips.

Be Different

This may seem obvious, but for every time I see the tip, “make your content unique”, I see twice the amount of re-spun topics. You are competing with thousands of other sites for the attention of people on the web. In addition, the average person is exposed to somewhere in the range of 5,000 messages every day, so the likelihood of them clicking on your generic/overused article is steadily decreasing.

People recognize different, it stands out from the crowd and they are going to be more prone to sharing what they have never seen before. The key to going viral is not only to create unique content, but also brand it that way. Even if you can’t create completely unique content, a creative and unique title will help increase its virality. The Verge just released a report showing that there is no correlation to social shares and actually reading the content. A lot of individuals will retweet or share something based solely on the title or source that posted it.

If your content is just run-of-the-mill and your title reflects that, you are going to have an uphill battle getting it to go viral.

Be Timely

In addition to being different the next most important aspects to an effective viral campaign is its timeliness. Take DiGiorno’s Live-Tweeting of NBC’s “The Sound of Music” for example.

Timely Tweet

DiGiorno decided to use the free social media platform to reach its audience in a unique and relevant manner. Live tweeting was an excellent way to connect their brand to target individuals who most likely were at home watching the event (i.e. a perfect time to have a frozen pizza).

What’s the key to being timely? Make sure you have processes in place to stay current on news in your industry, strategize so that you can capitalize on opportunities, and do not post outdated or inaccurate content (it ruins credibility). If you do this, your content stands a much better chance of reaching its full potential and go viral.

Be Targeted

Another tip to getting your content to go viral on a budget is learning your target audience. The better you understand your targets, the more apt you will be to provide them with valuable content that will warrant going viral. The “WestJet Christmas Miracle” is one of the most well-known viral campaigns that takes information learnt from their audience and turns it into a brilliantly executed viral campaign. This stunt was performed during the Christmas holiday, it asked travelers what they wanted for Christmas and then when they landed at their destination, Santa had brought those exact gifts to them at the baggage carousel.

The combination of holiday sentiment and customer satisfaction helped humanize the WestJet brand better than any past campaign. Their targets wanted to feel like they were being heard, so they literally listened and gave them what they wanted. Even though this was a small sample of their targets, WestJet is now considered a brand that understands their targets and implements changes based on their needs. Understanding and listening to your targets will do wonders at launching your content virally.

Be Digestible

Content goes viral because a mass amount of people understand the message, whether they agree or disagree with it is somewhat irrelevant. Know the takeaways that you want from your content and make that the focus of the piece. It doesn’t hurt to reiterate takeaways at the end to reinforce the message.

The old expression K.I.S.S (Keep it simple stupid) is a great concept to adhere to. Keep in mind that just because your message is simple doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the delivery. Check out this anti-smoking ad below that is a good example of a simple message portrayed in a unique light.

The message was to get adults to recognize that they know smoking is unhealthy. The delivery was to have children come up to smoking adults and ask for a cigarette. All of the adults tell the kids that they should not smoke, that it is bad for them. The kids then hand a note that says “You worry about me. But, why not about yourself? “This unique and simple video generated an increase of 40% in phone inquiries by smokers who wanted to quit.

One of the biggest misconceptions in content marketing is that you have to throw a lot of money into a campaign to make it go viral. The fact of the matter is that a lot of what goes viral, was never intended to. When Oreo tweeted during the Super Bowl two years ago, they probably had no idea that it would take off like it did, but they did know that it was different, timely, targeted, and digestible, all of which helped it reach its viral potential.

Key Take Aways:

  • Make your content unique, if you can’t make it overly different then at least give it a clever title.
  • Make sure your content is relevant and timely.
  • Know your target audience and tailor content that they will value and want to share.
  • Keep your content focused and message simple. The delivery can be clever, but don’t cloud the message.
Derek Miller
<p> Derek has an entrepreneurial spirit, scattered mind, and marketing background. He works full time at CopyPress and devotes his free time to running a fantasy sports community at Fantasy Help.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> | <a href="" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">@DereksAlterEgo</a> | <a href="/author/derek-miller/all-posts" target="_blank">More from Derek</a></p>


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