We were doing a little bit of work here at Haden Interactive, responding to leads, checking in on projects, trying to get everything shipshape before closing down for the holiday, and then I got an alert. One of our clients was seeing ten times as much traffic as usual at their website.
We know that a traffic spike isn’t always worth interrupting a client’s holiday. We’ve been featured in the Google Doodle — but we’ve also posted things that have drawn hordes of bots. So I went in to have a look at the source of the traffic.
Facebook was sending thousands of visitors.
Digging further, I found the post that had gone viral. It was a blog post from a couple of weeks back, which Gideon had reposted at Facebook on a slow day. There was nothing slow about the response. Dozens of people had shared the post, there were lots of comments, there were lengthy conversations connecting with many of the comments, and the level of engagement was beyond what we usually see on posts with babies or puppies.
Let me share some takeaways from the experience.
- You can’t always plan a viral post. You don’t have control over the conversations about you, your brand, or your products, so don’t kid yourself. This particular blog post was a challenging read and hadn’t been very popular the first time we posted it. What’s more, you can see that organic (searched or found posts) visits on the client’s Facebook page are still slightly ahead of viral (widely shared) posts. Don’t count on having one post go viral — and certainly don’t put all your eggs in one basket on the strength of that hope.
- Don’t be afraid to repost. This blog post was important and interesting, but it didn’t take off the first time we shared it. Only a small percentage of your fans and followers see any one social media post, so you might not reach the people who really get excited about your content the first time you post it. Post at another time of day, with a different title, and you could find a different audience.
- Remember people don’t always follow the link. Thousands of the people who were reached on Facebook clicked through to the website, and that is great news. We always want to bring people back to the website, where the client’s message and calls to action live. But we can see that many of the people taking part in the conversation are reacting to the title of the post and the comments that have been made. We’re keeping that in mind as we add comments and links.
- Jump in. The more interaction and engagement, the more virality and the further that post will spread. We alerted the client so that their team could join the conversation, and we went in and liked comments and responded when we had something valuable to say. That part is important. Jumping in with promotional messages or “Thanks for sharing!” is not effective. Adding more information, asking questions, or responding to questions with links back to great content on your website is good digital citizenship — and better for your brand.
- Identify influencers. Who shared? How many people did they reach? What does their social media presence tell you about them, and how can that information improve your buyer personas? Don’t just get excited about the numbers and ignore the data.
- Monitor performance so you can grab the opportunity. Not only does a viral post get you in front of more eyes, it also gives you a chance to share strong messages. In this case, the client was able to put key messages directly in front of new people interested in the topic without any suggestion of self promotion, just by answering questions in the comments. This was possible because a) they had a clear message to provide and b) we got the alert so we knew it was happening. Without those two pieces of preparation, we’d have missed the opportunity.
With these points in mind, you can turn a viral social media post into a great opportunity for your company, your practice, or your organization.
So how do you get a viral post? As we’ve said, it’s hard to plan or even to predict what will go viral, and you can’t always do it again, though you can try. The only sure way to give yourself a chance to go viral, though, is to post good things on a regular basis. Occasionally jumping in with promotional posts won’t do it.