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By: Nicolas Boillot, CEO, HB Agency 

My colleague Mark O’Toole recently published a presentation on slideshare.net that “went viral.”  Slideshare presentations are likely to get a few thousand views at most, a rare few get into the tens of thousands. Congratulations Graduate! Eleven Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You boasts over half a million views at the time of this writing.

Unless you already have a pop star’s following or you control a major media outlet, you can’t be sure something will go viral. But based on our years in marketing and our recent experience, these five tips will help raise your chances.

  1. Look Awesome—If you write, write well and appropriately for the audience you’re addressing. If you use visuals, and you should use visuals in this day of fast media and short attention spans, you should make them striking and appropriate to the copy. A great way to sharpen your presentation is to create it with a specific audience in mind. How does that audience like to receive information, and what are that audience’s top concerns and desires? Are you choosing to be fun, cool, outrageous, or fascinating? If you try to do it all for every audience, you’ll end up being fun, cool, outrageous or fascinating to nobody.
  2. Rock the Boat—Most content that goes viral isn’t trying to please everyone. In fact, often it’s not trying to please anyone—it’s real and raw and worth remembering and passing along. Think of what you forward to your colleagues or friends. They won’t thank you for milk-toast, and neither will your audiences. If you feel it’s possibly too strong, make it stronger.
  3. Avoid Lead Balloons—In other words, timing is critical. Our presentation was aimed at graduates and employers, and timed for graduation season. The content is pertinent to conversations happening in families and workplaces around the world. If you are creating a business asset, pick a time when releasing the content makes sense for your target audience—concurrent with a trade event, a news event or other calendar moment (for instance, winter heating season for an HVAC company).
  4. Use the Evidence—Most content sites and portals track activity, and content that gets seen/liked/shared will in turn earn more exposure. If you aren’t generating any activity, admit it. If you are, understand how you’re doing against like content on that particular site. Figure out if you’re gaining traction, and if so, publicize the fact that you are. Ask new audiences to view it, share it, comment on it. Or, if you notice something generated buzz but it didn’t quite hit the mark, think about re-purposing the content to focus on what worked while shedding what didn’t. Our Slideshare presentation started out as an article on a local web site, Bostoninno.com. It generated passionate responses from a few dozen admirers and haters alike. We knew that it struck a chord but didn’t quite hit a bull’s eye. A year later, when we came up with a new, more creative way to tell the story, it went viral.
  5. Don’t Just Ride the Wave, Accelerate It—Share, make it easy to share, and keep sharing. Many businesses create assets that they share through a single medium, such as their blog, Facebook or Twitter. Don’t rely on one blog post or any single element. If you feel you have something worth telling and sharing, tell it across several channels, and then continue to engage once activity starts. In other words, respond to comments, keep tweeting, publicize interesting comments, search for other media/channels to use. Push the wheel forward, even if it seems to have its own momentum—correction: especially if it seems to have its own momentum. For instance, if you create a Slideshare presentation that goes viral, perhaps it’s an opportunity to write an article about that experience…see what I mean?

Remember, audiences decide whether something will go viral. As much as you think it’s within your control, it’s not. And even if your content never goes viral, your audiences will be glad if you follow these tips.

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2 thoughts on “Going Viral: Not Really—But Sort Of—Within Your Control

  1. This design is wicked! You definitely know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

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