Welcome to my blog on Content Intelligence and Engagement Performance; I have spent years in collaboration, messaging and social space developing advanced technologies to improve the consumer experience and lead generation. Was inducted into the Viral Hall of Fame by Marketing Sherpa as well as other industry awards. Join me in the conversation.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

4 Ways To Ignite Viral Content on Facebook and Twitter

Right now, on Facebook, personalities and companies have an opportunity to outperform even the biggest companies in social media. In this article, I’m going to tell you why that’s so, and give you a step-by-step plan for becoming a loud and persuasive voice in your business niche.


Before you finish this article, be sure to sign up for our November 7th webinar to learn more about this topic and how to get better Facebook results!


Stop Being A Fan Counter And Become A Thought Leader

It doesn’t matter how many fans you have if they aren’t seeing your posts. And you want more than visibility- you want influence. You want to be able to lead your fans to fulfill their needs and dreams by taking advantage of your products and services.

Here’s a summary of the step-by-step process for becoming the strongest voice in your niche on Facebook, even if you aren't a big name brand.

  1. First, get fans who are actually customers and prospects.

  2. Find and share content that’s proven to get responses from people like your fans.

  3. Learn from your audience's responses (or lack thereof)- what do they like and share most?

  4. Create content that's more likeable and shareable, making sure it also contains messages that persuade people to buy from you.

  5. Use sponsored story ads to make sure your content reaches as many fans and other potential prospects as possible. Then repeat.

#1: How David Beats Goliath On Facebook George Takei reaches way more people on a daily basis than Comedy Central. Remember him? Sulu from Star Trek? Well he’s experienced a resurgence of fame in the last decade, and is one of the funniest people on Facebook. He reaches about 100x as many people as Comedy Central (we can only guess at reach, but we know he gets 100 times as many likes and comments and 60 times as many shares as Comedy Central).

George Takei gets about 160 times as much interaction per post as Comedy Central And with less than 3 million fans, Takei also beats Coca Cola and its 58 million fans: he gets about 55,000 likes per post, while Coca Cola gets 19,000.

Coca-Cola has 18 times as many fans but George Takei gets almost triple the number of interactions. 

No, they're not in the same niche, but they are fighting for placement in people's newsfeeds, so they're competitors from an attention standpoint. And now he's using his powerful platform to promote his new show. That means personalities can powerfully promote their arts, their products, or their services. You don't need to have Coca-Cola's 4 billion dollar marketing budget if your content is compelling.

Take a look at the following chart from InfiniGraph. Are you surprised that some of the biggest brands are losing to some of the smaller ones in engagement? How is Christian Dior so much more effective than Coca-Cola and McDonald's?

Some of the most engaged with social publishers are not the brands with tens of millions of fans. Chances are that your competitors aren't as big as Coca-Cola. You just need fans and hot content. Hot content is the posts that get shared way more than others. Highly shared content grows you even more fans.

An easy way to see what your most viral content is is to just log in to Klout. Klout shows you your most influential moments in the last 90 days. This only works for Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts, not for Facebook pages. As you can see below, my most influential post was a play on words caption I did about a MacBook. Klout shows you some of your most influential recent posts. These are hotter and more shareable posts. You might want to pay to push them further on Facebook.

If you’re a smaller operation like Takei, your advantage is agility- you can switch strategies and become an effective publisher within the next several months, while it may take big brands years to adapt to the new social publishing paradigm. I believe that executive teams at many of these big brands aren’t aware how poorly they’re doing with visibility and engagement- or they would have figured our how to do a better job.

Tips: Find out who your competitors are, and compare how many likes, comments and shares their posts get compared to yours. Note which of their posts are doing the best, and which are the worst. Learn from their successes and mistakes, and let that inspire your future posts. But also, go beyond your competitors to find standout content in all categories. Bring this into your niche, and suddenly you’re an innovator compared to your competitors.

#2: Get Beyond The 2009 Social Media Paradigm Social media content marketing is very new. Most companies are just realizing the opportunity here and seeing the obstacles. Unfortunately many social media experts still view social media through the Twitter lens. Social conversation without content (Twitter tweets and replies) is no longer king, if it ever was.

Content is king, because Facebook is bigger and more active than Twitter, and Facebook is about sharing and discussing content. Content (photos, videos, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.) creates conversations, so you need to start looking at what content works and doesn't.

Three content pieces from B2B companies are creating conversation (comments) on Facebook

If you're in B2C, are you using a lot of images to inspire and entertain your fans? If you're in B2B, are you finding out what kinds of whitepapers and ebooks your fans share?

Tips: Here’s how to think in order to win in the new content marketing paradigm… what content can you post that will stimulate discussions and shares? Are there questions you can ask? Fill-in-the blank posts? Polls? Think like a great speaker whose content creates ripples of conversation rather than a therapy group facilitator who just wants people to talk. People will remember that your brand introduced them to great content, and this will benefit your brand more over time than random conversation. Map out your customers’ problems and the series of revelations or insights or improvements they need to make- what process are you helping them go through? What peak moment does your product or service create? Then create content relevant to each step in that process.

#3: Learn Who Your Real Competitors Are & Beat Them Years ago when I began doing SEO for clients, one of the first things we discovered was that their competitors in Google rankings weren’t who they expected. In fact, often there were several companies beating them who they’d never heard of. They had to revise who they thought was in their competitive set. That’s because so many companies are slow to get the right data for online marketing, and slow to realize how each online marketing channel is different.

One kind of data we can get from InfiniGraph is which other brands your fans interact with in social media. This can surface both competitors and strategic partners. For example, Home Depot's social media fans also interact with Home & Garden TV, Best Buy, and ToysRUs. The upper right of InfiniGraph’s brand dashboard shows other brands shared by The Home Depot.

The Facebook data tells us they have the same customers. Most of these companies aren’t selling the same products as The Home Depot, so they could partner strategically. By offering a Best Buy coupon to incentivize customers to buy more home improvement supplies, Home Depot can expect customers to be interested and to respond better than they would to other copromoters.

Tips: Who are your fans interacting with and how can you partner with those brands? Search for your brand with InfiniGraph, and find out. If your brand hasn’t been mapped, you can request it. Once it has, you’ll see the brands your fans also interact with in the upper right. Now think about whether or not you can create a strategic partnership with that brand. Also, go to each of these brand’s Facebook pages and see what kinds of posts create the most and least interaction. Apply those insights to your own posts.

#4: Solve Funnel Collapse Syndrome With Hot Content

About 67% of B2C companies and 41% of B2B companies acquire customers via Facebook (from HubSpot’s free ebook “How To Attract Customers With Facebook”). But one of the biggest problems they have with social media ROI is most of their fans and followers aren’t even seeing their posts.

If you post boring content and hardly anyone interacts, then Facebook stops showing your posts to those fans- that’s EdgeRank. Not being visible to your fans completes a vicious cycle wherein you get less and less interaction. The average page doesn't reach 84% of its fans when it posts, and pages with more than 1 million fans don't reach 97% of their fans. I call this Funnel Collapse Syndrome, and most Facebook Pages have it.

Below is an example (from my Facebook Success Summit 2012 talk) of two very different EdgeRank situations, and their effect on the rest of the sales funnel. See how being less visible to fans dramatically lowers your results and revenues? Pages with equal fan counts but different visibility have dramatically different ROI potential.

The visibility part of the sales funnel is our biggest problem in Facebook Marketing, and the most accessible solution is to create or curate super-shareable content. Even B2B companies, like Marketo, are experimenting with humorous photo-based posts. B2B companies are known for being 5-10 years behind B2C companies in marketing tactics, but in this case, at least one B2B company is ahead of many B2C companies.

Associations can take a lesson from the American Heart Association. B2B folks should follow Marketo’s example. Christian Dior is one of the most interactive B2C brands on Facebook (according to InfiniGraph, it gets 150% more interaction than Coca Cola). Dior showcases the best in fashion and design as well as when celebrities get involved with fashion.

Tips: There are three ways to fix an EdgeRank visibility problem or funnel collapse syndrome.

  • One is to do a better job of posting, so that Facebook shows your posts to more of your fans. Over time you can re-awaken a portion of your fans. But bear in mind that part of EdgeRank is time decay. You may not be able to reach a majority of your fans if they are several years old and haven’t interacted with you in all that time.

  • The second solution is to use sponsored stories ads- you pay to show your posts to your own fans. Humbling.

  • Or third, cut and run. In some cases it’s actually cheaper to start a new page and use ads to get fans for that page than to pay to reanimate your old fans.

Conclusion I’ve seen a number of shifts in online marketing, and each of them has presented an incredible opportunity for the companies that jumped on them early. This is the latest, and if you have the agility and ability to turn the insights in this article into action, you’ll thank yourself for it later. Becoming an excellent, attention grabbing content marketer whose Facebook posts get massively shared is a learning curve, but a doable one. If you’d rather be a leader at this than play catch up later, get started today.

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