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Growth Hacking Viral Content

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” – Sean Ellis

Ever created content that you thought would rock the world, and it totally bombed?

We’ve all been there.

The platitudes are simple: “Create content your readers love, and they’ll share it everywhere!”

The reality is much tougher to face: Creating content people love isn’t simple at all. You can pour your heart and soul into your writing, and wind up being totally ignored. You’d find more noise in a Cistercian monastery compared to the response you receive.

What do you really want from your blog?

More readers? More social media shares? More viral content? More customers?

“More” is the keyword here. Whatever stage your blog is at, I’m betting you want it to grow.

You no longer want to be ignored. You long to be heard. Listened to. Engaged with. You want to become a voice that matters.

That’s where growth hacking come in.

Growth hacking is a set of techniques startup entrepreneurs use to rocket launch their businesses on a shoestring budget. The techniques are relatively easy-to-follow, yet it’s only recently that they’ve been applied to content creation.

In the words of Ryan Holiday, growth hacking happens

“..when a product generates rave reviews purely by its own awesomeness, when every time a someone uses a product, they want to broadcast their love for it, and when a product truly resonates with an audience”.

There’s a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes to create a product that is this sharable. Let’s look at how that work can be applied to content marketing…

Step 1: Test Your Content Ideas Before You Write Them

Growth hackers only create products that people need.

You’re thinking: “Surely that’s always been the case?” Unfortunately, not so. In the past, big businesses relied on their marketing budget to shift products, and didn’t care whether people wanted or needed them.

Growth hackers rely on word of mouth to market their products. So they’re forced to only create products people actually want. This means they have to spent time getting to know their potential customers, and digging into customer needs.

As a content creator, how can you apply this?

First, get to know your audience. Spend time with them on Twitter and Facebook. Encourage people to comment on your blog. Read the comments, and take time to reply to them. The more you know your audience, the easier you’ll find it to come up with ideas that are relevant and interesting.

That’s only the first part of this step. The second part is way more important when it comes to applying the growth hacker mindset to your content. What is this step?

Test your content ideas before you write them – or at least before you publish them to your blog.

James Altucher does this by posting lots of articles to Facebook and Quora. Then, he sees which articles get the most likes or comments. If an article receives lots of engagement, he then posts it to his blog.

Andrew Chen, meanwhile, follows an even simpler process, using Twitter to check which ideas have potential. Here’s how he does it:

  1. Tweet an insight, idea, or quote.
  2. See how many people retweet it.
  3. If it catches, then I write a blog post elaborating on the topic.

Does it sound like a tough gig to condense a blog post idea into a Tweet? Here’s what Chen says about that:

If you can express the core of your idea in a short, pithy tweet, then that’s a good test for whether the underlying blog post will be interesting as well. Great tweets are often provocative insights or mesmerizing quotes, and there’s a lot to say by examining the issues more deeply.

Step 2: Write a “Beta Version” of Your Article

You’ve found an idea that’s taken off on social media. As such, you know it’s got potential as a blog post.

What’s the next step? Expand the idea into a blog post. Flesh it out.

As your readers interacted well with the social media post, you’ll know the questions, problems and issues they have on the topic. Addressing these means you’ll be hitting the hot buttons of your audience.

Make this article as awesome as you can, using the time you have available. That means if you’ve got two hours to write the article, spend that two hours making it the best you can. Remember, you’re aiming for this to rock your readers’ world.

At the same time, know that this is a beta version. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to cover every angle. It just has to be good enough for you to believe that people will instantly want to share it.

Once you’re done (and you’ve checked the spelling and grammar), it’s time to make your content live. Hit publish.

Step 3: Track the Shares of Your Content

This step’s relatively simple. It involves two parts:

  • Knowing the typical social share count for content on your blog.
  • Looking out for content that gets more shares that usual.

Easy peasy.

What’s next? If an article gets an average number of shares, leave it as it is. On the other hand, if it gets more attention than usual, go onto the next step.

Step 4: Upgrade Your Top-Performing Beta-Content

You’ve discovered your best performers. Now you’re going to invest in these. Your job is to take them from good to freakin’ amazeballs.

This can mean doing any (or all) of the following:

  • Doing in-depth research to back up the points you make. This adds to your credibility and the depth of your writing.
  • Reaching out to relevant influencers and experts to get their opinion on the article topic. You’ll have a solid foundation to ask for their input. Your article is already being widely shared, so if they add their $0.02, they’ll get lots of exposure. Even better, once you’ve added their quote to your article, you can ask them to share it. That means even more exposure (and yes, more credibility too).
  • Adding images and infographics that reinforce the main points in your article. Images are perfect for adding a wow-factor, and making articles more arresting.
  • Expanding what you’ve written to pull in ideas from other articles on your blog. This shines a light on your less popular content, but you should only feature content that adds value to the main article.
  • Jazzing up your writing style. Inject extra sass!

How to Create Content Your Readers Love

In this article we’ve shown you, step-by-step, how to create content your readers will love by following in the footsteps of growth hackers.

Give it a try, and let us know how you get on in the comments, below. Any questions? Add those as comments too.

Chasing Viral When others zig, you zag.

 

Do you lie awake at night wondering how you could make your website more… viral?

OK, so maybe you don’t actually lie awake at night. But you do think about it. If only you could come up with a gimmick to make your content viral, then all your problems would be solved. Right?

Chances are you are subconsciously comparing your website to Upworthy and Buzzfeed.

Or, to put it more bluntly, you’re chasing rainbows.

The business model of Upworthy and Buzzfeed is all about producing content that goes viral. That’s how they make money. But unlike them, your business is there to sell goods and services. Your goal is to turn customers into fans, by delivering awesome products or services.

Your social media and marketing strategy need to reflect your goal: to serve people. That is how you make money and change the world, not through creating entertainment.

It’s better to have 100 devoted fans who can’t wait to buy your products, than 10,000 likes on Facebook that never lead to actual sales.

Some people are great at producing viral content… but they fail on the “sales” part. They build popular websites that they can’t monetise. And it’s only a matter of time before the whole venture comes crashing down.

Here’s 3 things to keep in mind to make sure that focusing on “viral content” doesn’t backfire.

1. Viral Content Doesn’t Play Tricks

Focusing on “viral” can be a dangerous strategy.

You read somewhere that a certain headline is “catchy” and so you use it on one of your blog posts. People click on that headline because it promises them something awesome. Only, the content of the blog post itself fails to deliver…

That’s called bait and switch, and it’s a big no-no.

The person who clicked your “bait” will no longer trust you, and they will leave your website with a sense of having been tricked.

If people don’t trust you, they sure as the sky is blue won’t buy from you.

2. Pressure to go Viral Creates Anxiety

And anxiety blocks creativity.

Go into the creative process with the thought “this must go viral”, and you’ll find yourself unable to create at all. Self-doubt kicks in, and you spend all your time wondering “who’s gonna care about this?”

Not a productive state of mind to be in.

Remember, you are in business to create and sell products and services. Anything that puts a dampener on your ability to create, will jeopardise your business’ success.

3. Your Customers Can “Smell” Desperation

When you create something while thinking “this needs to go viral”, you create from desperation. And people are seriously turned off by that.

Don’t be surprised if you find that the harder you try to create viral content, the more it puts people off.

Remember, viral content is meant to serve you and your business. Not the other way around. You and your business are not meant to serve “viral content”.

A better strategy is to focus on creating an awesome product. Then bring in customers using viral content.

Forgetful Person

You want to grow your Twitter tribe. And you know what to do to make that happen. You need to post everyday to engage your audience.

The problem? When it comes to it, you find yourself reluctantly logging into Twitter at the end of a long day at work, and wondering “what am I going to share this time?”

And that only happens half the time.

The rest of the time, you totally forget to even log into Twitter.

Instead of your following growing, it stagnates. Eventually, you lost interest, and stop posting altogether.

What can you do to make sure you update your Twitter feed every day?

Turn Twitter into a Habit

Make a habit of posting to Twitter, and you’ll never forget to update your Twitter feed again.

Are you yawning yet? Habits sound boring, right?

Honestly, habits are pretty boring. When did you last tell a story about brushing your teeth? Probably never.

Habits might be boring, but they make life simpler. They give you more time and energy to focus on being creative, or to do what you enjoy.

Good habits can deliver amazing reults.

When did you last forget to brush your teeth? Can you even remember?

Brushing your teeth every day is a habit you (hopefully) formed in childhood, and that’s stuck with you ever since. And thanks to that, you have healthy teeth and gums today.

Habits are like that. Once you’ve formed them, they stick. That’s why it’s so darned tricky to undo bad habits. It’s also why it’s difficult to make new ones.

Fortunately, help is at hands. Pshychologists have studied what it takes to form a habit – and bloggers have started sharing this knowledge in an accessible way.

Let’s take a look at how to form a habit…

How to Form a Habit

James Clear has made a career of learning about how habits are formed, and testing different theories on himself.

He’s discovered that habits have three key components:

  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
  3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

Clear uses the example of a phone call to explain how this works, as most of us answer the phone by habit.

  1. Reminder – the phone rings! This triggers you to pick up the phone.
  2. Routine – you pick up the phone out of habit.
  3. Reward – you find out who is calling.

When the reward is positive, then you create what’s called a positive feedback loop. This means you’re more likely to act in the same way the next time the reminder is triggered.

Over time, a habit is formed.

With that in mind, here’s a really simple way you can form a habit of posting to Twitter every day. Start with just one post a day. Once you’ve established that habit, you can grow it from there.

  1. Set a daily reminder on your phone. It’s a good idea to set this at a time when you will have just have finished another activity – e.g. at the end of your lunch-break.
  2. Post an update to Twitter. This is your routine.
  3. Reward yourself! A nice way of doing this is by checking your Twitter notifications. That’s a direct and positive feedback loop, because notifications show people are interacting with you. Make sure you don’t check them before you’ve posted an update.

Alternatively, you could reward yourself with a piece of candy or fruit,. Or give yourself ten minutes to aimlessly surf the web (this could even be useful, as you’ll discover in a moment).

Sound good?

Maybe you’re thinking “that’s all very well, but I still don’t know what to share!”

Let’s take a look at how to solve that problem…

How to Find Interesting Stuff to Share on Twitter (or, How to Make Your Downtime Productive)

If you’re anything like me, you’re easily distracted. You’ve got an insatiable curiosity that leads you all over the internet when probably, you should be working.

An information magpie is what I call myself.

And as you’re procrastinating in this way, you discover all kinds of fascinating stuff.

Then problem? When it comes to updating Twitter, you’ve forgotten all that interesting stuff you discovered. You may even have forgotten that it was interesting in the first place.

What to do about this?

I once attended a workshop where the workshop leader asked us to go around the conference center, and find as many brown objects as possible. It was a contest, and he’d quiz us when we came back. There would be a winner.

We weren’t allowed to take notes, but it was pretty easy to discover brown items. Chairs, tables, doors. Plenty of stuff to share.

When we got back, the workshop leader asked us how we’d done. Everyone looked smug. “Great,” we all said.

Then he dropped the bombshell.

“Who can name the most blue objects in the conference center?” he said.

Dang, he’d got us there. We’d been so focused on finding brown objects that we’d all missed the blue ones. A few of us could name one or two items. That was it.

What’s the message here?

You see what you’re looking for. And, more importantly, you miss what you’re not looking for.

Psychologists call it “inattentional blindness”. It’s an actual psychological phenomenon, and it was discovered with the help of a virtual gorilla.

Here’s what this means for you.

When you’re aimlessly browsing the web, discovering all kinds of interesting stuff, you’re usually “inattentionally blind” to what you could be sharing on Twitter.

How do you change this?

Give yourself a goal, every day, of finding something to share on Twitter.

What happens? Suddenly you’ll start to see things to share everyday.

When this starts to happen, you’ll need a magpie’s nest to hide away all the treasure you discover. I use an Evernote notebook for this. But a word document, or a plain text file would work just as well.

Over to You

What strategies from this article will you use to make sure you post to Twitter every day? Let us know in the comments section, below.