Viral marketing case study
I logged on early yesterday morning and quickly realized that an article I had automagically set to go live minutes after midnight had already gone viral. Late night west coast and early morning European Twitter users found it first–15 Way Cool Social Networking Sites You Never Heard Of–and tweeted it some three dozen times before I woke up.
By late morning my stats pushed past 1000 visitors, topping 2000 late in the afternoon. This morning I reviewed my stats and have found that nearly 5000 people have stopped by to read this one article alone. And the traffic is still flowing!
I promised Dominique over at 4 Walls and a View that I would give a recap today about what exactly transpired as she noticed that something was up too. Though all isn’t “said and done” when it comes to this story I can tell you this: when all is said and done, this viral outbreak will rank in my Top 3 of all time. Not bad for five years of blogging.
Importantly everything came without much effort—in other words it was stupid easy.
But first for some background info. The site—SayCampusLife.com—belongs to a customer of mine. I’ve been blogging there and on another site of his, SayEducate.com, since late 2007. Both sites have a decent amount of traffic, but as you might guess some of the competition is formidable.
SayCampusLife is a college information website, offering college bound high school students, current college students, and their families information about scholarships, college life, careers, schools, you name it. The site ranks well for certain keywords and has a decent following. But it is the occasional article about social networking sites which seem to bring in the traffic, particularly those working a certain angle.
I set out as I do every day to pick an article I felt people would be interested in reading. Sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy coming up with a good read.
But I also wanted to write about a topic that had a chance of going viral, with the appropriate amount of link bait added, which meant that I would turn to Wikipedia to find something different. Sure enough, a listing of social networking sites caught my attention, so I set out to pick 15 from that list and modify accordingly.
I wanted a large enough number to help the article stand out, but I didn’t want to go crazy either. I visited many more sites than the 15 I chose, but I narrowed the list down quickly to add a good mix of sites. I also knew that having just enough information about each place was important which meant that I had to give these sites more than a cursory glance.
Once I got everything together I worked on my headline. I needed something to catch your attention and I wanted to use a more contemporary term besides awesome, amazing or stupendous. I thought “way cool” would work and decided to use it.
When I want an article to get an extra amount of attention, I’ll often give it a big push by tweeting, stumbling and sharing it with friends. But in this case I had some help as someone shared it via Delicious which ended up having far more “juice” than StumbleUpon. SU has been a big disappoint for so many reasons, but I thought I’d at least get some noticeable action there.
Thankfully, Delicious, Twitter, and natural search traffic was more than enough to propel the article. And thanks to each of you who helped spread the word too: everyone who added a comment will certainly benefit. Yes, you can still jump on the comment train (40 and counting) if you have something of value to share too.
I mentioned to my customer late yesterday morning that the article went viral and he was pleased. Later today I’ll provide more detailed traffic information to him and I’ll also be tracking the article long term.
So what lessons can be learned from how this article performed? A few things including: working a unique angle with whatever topic you choose to write about, create an eye-catching headline, and then hope that a number of invisible hands come to your aid.
In this particular case all three worked together, delivering a viral outbreak I won’t soon forget. Stupid easy? You betcha!