Marketing campaigns don’t just “go viral”.
And you can’t just slap promotion on at the end and expect excellent results.
In fact, all of the hard work should be done before you even try to promote your campaign.
Success should be engineered from the beginning.
And then when it’s time to launch, all you have to do is get the message out.
Why Would Someone Share Your Content?
People don’t share something because of how good you are. They share it because it benefits them in some way. (That’s why your campaign has to be “shareable” in the first place.)
But don’t stop there. You need to give them an offer they can’t refuse.
With an incentive.
But the type of incentive should match your business.
I recently read an article about how the Ritz Carlton hotel brand refused to offer discounts or price breaks a few years ago during the height of the recession. They said they would rather go bankrupt because it would be better than killing their brand value.
But on the flip side, price-conscious customers probably won’t care about things like “priority access” or “exclusive content”.
And your marketing campaign plan should make sharing easy and frictionless. So when you’re ready, then it’s time to take action.
Serendipity is NOT a Strategy
Serendipity is a great way to get traffic, links and social media mentions.
People love your content so much that they feel compelled to share it on their own.
But you can’t just hope for the best.
In advertising, there’s a concept called media planning:
The process of selecting media time and space to disseminate [advertising] messages in order to accomplish marketing objectives.
So in other words, you need to take specific actions to push your messages out.
You identify, ahead of time, how and when you’re going to promote your new campaign. It’s easy to plan with Google Calendar, a spreadsheet, or Basecamp if you’re working with a team. You can coordinate each action to build on the last, so you’ll get the maximum results for the minimum effort and investment.
And you should always start by seeding your campaign.
How to “Seed” Your Campaign
The goal of seeding your campaign is to reach enough people at the beginning so you’ll reach a tipping point and your message will spread itself.
Here are 4 different ways to seed your next campaign.
1. Use Your Existing Resources
First, start with your own marketing assets.
How many people could you reach right now if you promoted the campaign to your:
- Website traffic
- Email database
- Social networks
- Offline methods (foot traffic from your location, promotional materials, etc.)
This might sound obvious. But you can’t assume that there’s much overlap between these channels.
For example, I sent surveyed a client’s email database of 400,000 people. These are the company’s best, most loyal customers. But under 20% even knew they had a Facebook page.
So you can’t assume your existing members know about your social networks or blogs. There’s usually little overlap between different channels, because people have their own unique preferences. Some might like emails, while others would rather use Facebook.
The other thing you could do is use your existing marketing assets as a bargaining chip.
For example, look for other strategic partners who have influence and can help you promote your new campaign to the right audience. Maybe it’s another complimentary business, or perhaps it’s an influential blogger. And in exchange, you will promote them to your own audience. This is really effective, but you obviously have to be careful about who and how you do it.
Because the most vital asset you have is your current customer’s trust and goodwill.
2. Get Press
The second step is to find journalists and bloggers who will cover your story. And that’s all journalists care about.
If you made your campaign “shareable”, then your story should be easy to find.
So start with online press release distribution services like PRweb. You can also monitor services like HARO (Help A Reporter Out).
Both of those strategies are OK. More of a necessary evil. But they’re passive and not very effective.
So here’s what you should do instead.
A month before your campaign goes live, hire a virtual assistant on Odesk to research a list of bloggers and journalists (this shouldn’t cost you more than $20).
Now go to their websites and familiarize yourself. Follow them on Twitter and watch what they talk about. Your goal is to monitor and interact with them over time.
That way when you finally reach out to promote your campaign, you’ll already have a warm relationship.
And remember that the key to finding interesting content ideas is to branch out and focus on different aspects of your topic.
When you broaden your scope, then you can even target several different verticals. For example, let’s say you want to raise awareness for your hotel’s new campaign.
So don’t just think about travel blogs. Can you come up with a story for mothers and their families? Then look for mom blogs in the area and offer them a free room (in exchange for a review). You can also hold a Meetup for local bloggers in your restaurant, and give them discounts on food and drink.
Just be creative and you can come up with all types of angles, which will help open up possibilities of who to reach.
And you don’t have to stop there…
3. Find Syndication Partners
PayScale syndicated their infographic on Mashable and it received over 2,900 Tweets, 999 Likes, 1,700 LinkedIn shares, and 901 Pins.
Syndicating basically means to let other people have your content for their own site. You can write content specifically form them, let them embed your video or infographic, and more.
It’s a great strategy because it gives the blog or media property great content (that they don’t have to worry about creating), and you can control the message.
But what if you don’t have the internal resources to create new content for several different sites?
- Turn old content into a new format (like presentation to blog post, and vice versa)
- Compile individual articles into a numbered list summary
- Mix-and-match different elements of related content to give a new twist
- Use the “Hub-and-Spoke” method to write follow ups, additions, summarizations on other sites.
- Have other people add to your content by getting interviews from other stakeholders
So it’s OK if you don’t have a big audience already. You just need to find people who do, and give them a reason to publish your material.
4. Create Your Own Buzz
Finally, you should always try to create your own excitement and press.
One of the easiest, and most cost effective is to use a contest. Use your own products and services (or partner with others to create “bundles”), sign up for a simple tool like Wildfire or Contest Domination, and promote the contest as a way to draw attention to your new campaign.
For example, let’s say you want to design an infographic.
Then hold a contest to find the infographic designer – before you even start the real campaign. That will give you a built-in, engaged audience that will help you share it eventually.
Or you can hold a contest for the official, winning infographic. So you have different designers submit their samples and have your own customers rate them.
And of course, there’s always advertising.
Social media advertising is a great, inexpensive option if your campaign is already appealing.
That means you can get cheap traffic because people will already be interested in your campaign.
And social advertising specifically gives you several unique benefits. It let’s you see exactly what target customer segments are sharing and active, you can get free “earned media” when friends-of-friends discover your campaign, and the increased social sharing and links will improve your campaign’s off-page SEO factors.
If you expose your message to enough people ahead of time, then it will take off.
But you need to be the one who makes the first initial effort.
Because viral marketing doesn’t just happen on it’s own.
You have to engineer success before you even start.
That means finding your campaign’s story, and identifying what makes it interesting or appealing. Then pick the best format to give you more options when you go to promote it. And making sure all the small details are in place so your campaign will be a marketing asset that appreciates and gains value over time.
Then when you finally go to promote your campaign, all of the hard work has already been done. You just need to get the word out.
And it will take on a life of it’s own.