Current viral affairs (take the 2 girls 1 cup phenomena from some years ago as an example) are an incomparable resource when it comes to content marketing. They basically serve on a silver platter the perfect foundations for content that has an immediate leg up; content that is guaranteed to resonate with a wide audience.
Having said that, integrating current affairs into your digital strategy can be precarious ground. It is widely agreed that there is no tried and tested way to create viral content, and while current affairs afford the luxury of virally potent material to work with, it is hard to guarantee that your content will succeed.
Here are some key considerations to take into account when integrating viral current affairs into your content marketing strategy to help you get over this hurdle.
Viral affairs are a powerful content marketing resource, however, you can’t go out sharing blindly without considering a few key factors.
Expressing Your Emotions
Emotional fortitude plays a huge part in getting a response from your audience.
In content marketing, ‘arousal’ in your audience is what you need to aim for; this is the bread and butter of viral content.
The reason is actually quite scientific. It all comes down to psychology. While content that is positive tends to get shared far more than content that is negative, it goes so much deeper than this. What is paramount is the level of arousal a piece of content stirs in a reader, and this works on both ends of the spectrum.
Beige content is the least effect – something that inspires little emotional response in your audience. Meanwhile, content that evokes a positive reaction – amusement, joy, laughter – is shared more, as does content that elicits negative emotions – anger or anxiety.
Think about emotions as having an energy force. Those with a higher force – positive or negative – are far more virally potent. Those with a low energy force – sadness, hopelessness – will perform worse.
What does this mean for using viral current affairs in your content marketing strategy?
By opting to work with a topic that has proven viral potency, for example the current US political race, you are ensuring your content will resonate with a wide audience. The emotional stance you take however, will dictate just how much.
By simply sharing viral content, you are sure to get a small slice of the pie.
But by taking a viral affair like the US political race and repurposing it with your own emotional energy force reinvigorates the topic, adds to the conversation, and contributes to your piece’s viral potency a hundredfold.
This piece of satire on the Donald Trump political campaign is a brilliant example. It plays with people’s emotions on multiple levels, evoking laughter, disbelief, anger and frustration, spun through a format that combines two viral topics seamlessly – the US political race and Game of Thrones:
Optimising Your Content
A few weeks back Outbrain posted a piece called, A Five-Step Guide to Optimising Your Summer Travel Content. It deals with developing techniques to ensure your content is highly sharable, including formatting, timeliness, optimising for mobile and including media.
Content is paramount when it comes to viral media. Once you have established your emotional bearing, the next step is doing everything you can to the content to make it contagious.
This doesn’t have to be a purely technical process. It is more about understanding your audience, assessing the landscape and building your content accordingly.
When it comes to integrating current affairs into your content marketing strategy, creating clever material is particularly important. A long-form political satire piece can be equally effective as a snappy list piece.
Buzzfeed are masters of the latter – taking current affairs or issues and formatting the topic into extremely digestible pieces. They know all too well who their audience are, what kind of topics they are likely to respond to, the kind of tone that is most appropriate, and the type of media to use.
Often it’s a fairly simple idea, executed with finesse. Take their piece 28 Pictures That Prove 2015 Wasn’t A Completely Terrible Year as an example. A most basic idea, published right before Christmas (when people are feeling sentimental), aimed at pulling at the heartstrings of readers.
The end of the year sees avalanche of content come streaming in – the New Year is very much a virally potent affair – and a piece like this from Buzzfeed is almost guaranteed to go viral. It got 378.5K shares.
Cultural Capital – Are In The Right Position To Post?
Understanding your place in the media landscape is crucial for tapping into the viral goldmine that is current affairs. The Internet is an extremely hostile environment, populated by people who are more than happy to voice their opinions online.
A badly executed piece of viral content can not only fizzle out, but can be detrimental to your brand, because as much as people love sharing things that make them happy, something tasteless can be just as contagious.
Take for example Woolworths and their attempt to tap into ANZAC Day as a part of their marketing strategy. They attempted to create a viral event in accordance with ANZAC Day by building a website where people could make memes for their Facebook profile photo.
The meme generator embossed the words “Lest We Forget, ANZAC 1915-2015. Fresh In Our Memories” over your image, with the Woolworths logo clearly pasted in the corner. The idea backfired horribly.
The horrendous the pun (“fresh in our memories”), mixed with an awkward cultural crossover (a stiff corporate figure like Woolworths tapping into Internet culture) and the overall tastelessness of the campaign had huge repercussions for Woolies, with hundreds of people creating spoof images with the meme generator that reflected terribly on Woolworths. Many of these went viral in a way that Woolworths never could have anticipated nor controlled.
It’s All About Timing
Current affairs have a short life span. With the internet moving at such a uncontrollable pace, there needs to be a continuous flow of content to perpetuate a topic, otherwise it will quickly be forgotten. Virality thrives on timeliness – and current affairs can quickly become stale, rendering them useless in viral content marketing.
Social media interfaces make it incredibly easy to share content, and because of this entire feeds become a stream of trending topics that people are engaging with. One of the most useful ways to get a grasp on what current topics have the most potential for going viral is by simply observing.
A cursory glance at a Facebook feed will yield multiple affairs that people are engaging with and sharing. There is also a helpful ‘trending’ sidebar on Facebook and Twitter feeds which can be sorted by topics or tailored to your locations and tastes. These features are great ways to explore and develop ideas for viral media based on their trending status. Buzzsumo is another fantastic tool to help you find out what topics are being talked about and shared right now.
If a trending topic resonates with you or your brand, the next step is to capitalise on it while it’s hot. Viral affairs fluctuate on a daily basis as new information is constantly being processed, so time is of the essence.
Trending topics can also be anticipated quite easily. For example, the recent World Penguin Day saw a flood of viral content being passed around which capitalised on the event, with everyone from the Telegraph to Greenpeace to National Geographic cashing in on the proverbial viral feast that a topic like this presents.
Science and Technology news resource IFL Science made the most of this event with their piece The Dark Truth About Adélie Penguins Was Kept Secret For More Than A Hundred Years. A combination of timeliness, intriguing content and an emotionally arousing topic meant that this piece resonated hugely online – and the addition of Happy World Penguin Day on their Facebook post was the clincher. It has 142K shares at the point of writing.
Don’t Be Afraid To Give It A Little Push
Finally, it is important to remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving your content a bit of a leg up. The reality is that many social media platforms – Facebook in particular – have complicated algorithms in place which dictate what you see on Facebook. You may have noticed that in recent years the average reach of your posts have steadily declined.
This is because Facebook actually lowers the organic reach capability for brands over personal accounts to avoid people’s feeds being flooded with advertising. Now, in order to reach the full potential of your Facebook audience, posts need to be boosted. You can read about the specifics of this process here.
The reality is that the online landscape is so flooded with content that without a little push, posts might not even be seen. Facebook boosting is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to paid activation of content, and there are a number of different outlets, such a Outbrain, that offer the means to reach a much wider audience. Although nothing can quite match the power of viral content for reaching the masses, it is very much a ‘butterfly effect’ process – it needs to start somewhere.
Viral content marketing is by no means an easy domain. There is no singular technique for making a piece of content go viral. There are endless factors and influences which affects how much something spreads, but there are a few things you can do to make it as contagious as possible.
This article by IYBI was first featured on the Digital Agency Network.