One pop trend.
A simple website built around it.
One primary traffic source.
That’s it. That’s the recipe to go viral.
Sounds suspiciously easy?
Well, because we have a dangerous habit of confusing complexity for intelligence.
But make no mistake, there is no algorithm to create viral content—only timely opportunities to publish content around what’s trending.
Remember the Suez Canal crisis?
Yes, the global economic catastrophe caused by a cargo ship, EverGreen.
It disrupted the reputation of Egypt and wreaked havoc amounting to the north of $1 Billion. Also, it impaired daily global trade of >$9 Billion.
This global crisis was trending possibly everywhere—social media, news channels, newspapers, etc.
…which suggests that it was a ‘pop trend.’
Tom Neill, the founder of Time to Spare, capitalized on the simple philosophy of creating a simple viral campaign.
Just like everyone, he wanted to keep himself abreast with the status of the ship.
So, he built a simple website around the very same thing: Is the ship still stuck?
And it looks something like this-
IT WENT VIRAL!
Yup, that’s all it took to amass traffic in millions—A SINGLE-PURPOSE WEBSITE.
I’m sure you must be thinking to yourself, “How do I do that?!”
Well, don’t worry. We are here to guide you to do just that.
I’ll take you through a quick seven-step journey to create and deploy a simple viral campaign so that virality isn’t hope-driven.
I’ll elucidate this journey by heavily using Tom’s website as a reference.
Here we go:
Find A Pop Trend
Look around and zero in on something that has lots of eyeballs on it.
Whatever you finalize, make sure:
- It is a top news item
- It has the potential to last for at least a few weeks
Run a simple Google search to know if the topic is being covered by news channels and magazines.
Go on Twitter to verify if people are talking about it.
A sureshot way is to check if a related hashtag is trending. If it is, you have found a goldmine!
If your topic can affect millions of people, implying that they are highly likely to follow up on your story, it’s a lock.
Build A Simple Website Around Your Pop Trend
Now that you’ve got a pop trend to capitalize on, it’s time to build the infrastructure where you’ll land people’s attention.
Yes, you guessed it right—it’s time to build a simple website around the pop trend. If you are not too skilled at this, hire a freelancer to do it for you.
But make sure you write the copy – that has to come from your head!
Humor injects effortlessness into selling.
And sometimes, provides you with over $1 Billion exits!
Dollar Shave Club hit the right notes way back in 2012 and laughed its way to the bank.
Think of a funny or sticky way to present your website, and people won’t just get educated but entertained too.
Tom did the same. He chose a low-key funny domain name, ‘Is The Ship Still Stuck.’
Couldn’t have been easier and more obvious for people to find the website and get updates on the crisis.
Build a high-converting one-page website or landing page to heighten the chances of your readers punching a CTA.
Singular and laser focus is the shortest path to achieving any goal.
That very life philosophy rings true in the case of a viral campaign.
If you’re building a website around a pop trend, make sure there is nothing else on the site that steals the attention.
Your website must be built around one particular aspect to serve a specific audience looking to consume information around the pop trend.
That’s the methodology to erect authority in the domain and hyper-increasing the probability that when your target audience wishes to find info on the pop trend, they search only for you.
Tom had nothing on his website but a simple status update.
He added a few affiliate links only when he decided to experiment with monetization after experiencing colossal traffic on his single-purpose website.
I respect his decision not to put up ads on the site.
Form + Function
Unless you are this guy, there is no reason for your website to look ugly, period.
The function makes life easier.
Form pleases eyes and convinces people to keep coming back to you.
Remember, if poorly made visuals are contextual to your website, then mixing in the form will work against you.
Shiv Narayan, CEO of How To SaaS, consistently publishes content around SaaS, which is coupled with poorly made visuals designed to give an impression of them being hand-drawn:
If you can justify playing only with function, then keep it.
Otherwise, present your website with intelligent beautification.
Invest in quality original visuals to make your website as authentic and original as possible.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Illustrating a key info piece helps readers understand it quickly:
Pick your favorite from a list of free and premium graphic design software that will help you dish out beautiful clarity without the help of a graphic designer.
I don’t even need to emphasize the importance of having a credible social media presence.
That’s where people meet, hang out, have conversations, and entertain themselves.
If you found a pop trend on a social media platform, it suggests that that is the very platform that would help you get viral. Isn’t it sort of like a no-brainer?
But you have to see which platform is that? Is it Twitter or Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat? Just kidding—nothing goes viral on Snapchat!
If you do not already have a large number of followers, things can get a bit tricky.
Not impossible, but it requires more work.
You gotta pre-test the different networks, using a social media management tool, to conclude which one has the best engagement rate, so that you publish your campaign there first.
…and let it trickle down to all the other platforms.
Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a wise move, and isn’t so, especially if your intent is to get viral.
Craft your social media content around your single-purpose website that is contextual to the platform.
Speak to the audience in a fashion that they like to understand, in the way that a platform functions.
Do not copy and paste Instagram-style content on Twitter and expect millions of retweets!
Be like Tom:
The most underrated social media strategy is to engage with every single person who comments on your post, regardless of the platform type.
If they comment, you comment back with something meaningful and valuable.
Plus, engage with people on as many content pieces that pop up when you search for a hashtag.
Give, and you shall never have to ask.
And when virality is at stake, you gotta do this on every single platform that you deploy your campaign on.
Reddit Your Way
I’d reply with ‘nothing’, period.
It really is the front page of the internet as it is the best social news aggregation platform, with a tightly knit community baked in as one of its most beautiful features.
There are subreddits focused on comedy, technology, fashion, and so on.
You gotta find the ones that suit your pop trend.
Since Reddit is an interest-based social media platform, valuable content is treasured and fluff pieces are trolled.
Tom was lucky that someone posted his website link on HackerNews:
1235 comments. Yup, that’s the magic of Reddit!
Imagine getting your content shared on a relevant subreddit and finding yourself ranking on the home page. Goosebumps, eh?
Failed? Analyze And Try Again
Few are lucky to hit the bullseye on their first try.
If your campaign fails, you will be left with a lesson(s).
If you choose to not learn, it is (almost) a surety that your next campaign will fail.
If you analyze the reasons for failure, you will improve.
You must find what went wrong.
Was it the content quality?
Was the idea not really a pop trend?
Was your messaging unclear?
Were you late to the party?
Did you publish your campaign at the wrong time?
Analyze until you have an estimation of why you failed.
If you do this quickly enough, you could relaunch your campaign.
If not, you’d have to feed your learnings to the next campaign.
Remember: what gets measured, gets accomplished.
Please keep in mind that if you design your campaigns only because you wish to go viral and your heart isn’t really in the pop trend, you’d most likely fail.
Why? Because people can see through ‘fake’.
And no, don’t fake it till you make it.
Put your time into something that already has your heart captured.
Infuse brains into it, and you’ve got yourself an opportunity to reach as many people as Tom did.
Experience the rush of building something simple, single-serving, yet possessing the ability to affect millions.
So, are you planning to go on a weekend Hackathon like Tom and publish a simple viral campaign?
Let me know in the comments below.
Author Bio: Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of business tools and resources. He is also the author of “How We Did It – 100 entrepreneurs share the story of their struggles and life experiences”