Guest post by Andy Walton
We've all read, seen or heard something that we simply had to pass on. When things go viral, they can generate enormous amounts of traffic. And from massive amount of traffic, cash can be earned. So if you want to make money online you should think viral. But what rules can you follow to improve your chance of creating content that goes nuclear? I've taken a recent example from Wikinut, and analyzed why it attracted so much attention.
One of our users wrote a page about a campaign they were waging against a UK high street chemist for selling unproven homeopathic remedies - you can read it here. This sounds like a niche topic, but following its publication this page received a huge amount of traffic, generated lots of external links and received lots of feedback from readers. Let's look at the reasons for the massive spike in traffic this page received.
The page, which has a comic twist to a serious subject, offers readers a chance to laugh. A piece of potentially dry subject matter has been given a sprinkling of humour. Jokes are one of the oldest forms of viral communication - think of all those "have you heard the one about...?" gags. Most people are surfing for entertainment, so give them what they want.
Stay on topic
Twitter is a great illustration of how certain subjects can trend, and other media outlets have similar obsessions each day. If you can exploit one of these spikes in interest, your page will have a far greater chance. Remember it is easier to ride the wave, than create your own ripples. This page followed other high profile campaigns in the UK on the same subject matter, and so latched onto the surge.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly the page described an idea that was original - never attempt to promote copied content virally, as it will flop. But this doesn't mean you need to be completely original, so don't panic. Seeing an existing idea in a new light, or from a different angle is the best way to brainstorm some ideas.
Draw me a picture
A picture is worth a 1000 words, and perhaps double that when it comes to online viral marketing. This page's photo of the rogue flyer in-store grabs the attention, and draws the reader in. Many virals are indeed only photos - but remember this means that they can then be passed around the web without reference to the original site... which means no advert revenue. So it's best to try and give the user a reason to pass on the URL of your page, rather than just the content.
Be f***ing controversial
Most gossip is based on controversial subjects, and the same applies to many of the best viral ideas. You want to stimulate interest and debate, and it ultimately doesn't matter if your reader loves or hates your opinion so long as they pass it on. So perhaps this page's message to subversively drop flyers into the store struck a nerve with the audience.
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