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We would like to say thank you

Herpreet Grewal (FM World News)
Nick Judd (Envee Media)
Travis Bernard (TechCrunch)

for providing valuable feedback

on this guide.

made with love by the team behind

Hey there!
If you ever hear the phrase viral content in your line of work, you know
how we all feel about it. Brands try to achieve it, agencies try to explain
that its not that simple, and publishers work hard to make it happen as
often as possible.
Blogs, online magazines, and news sites are well aware of one major
issue: The homepage is dead. There are tons of research papers, studies,
and examples of how home page traffic is declining for media and of
how social media is now taking over.
If you think about it, you can rephrase it like this: Social media is the
new homepage.
Social media is the new homepage. (Click to Tweet)
While this might not be the case forever, we attempted to create a
guide that serves as some sort of framework to maximise the efficiency
of your efforts of attempting to grow your sites audience through social
In this guide, well be following a simple format: 5 chapters that cover
our framework, and in each chapter, we provide a definitive list of blog
articles, studies, and books to go down the rabbit hole.
We attempt to make this guide a reliable companion of the digital
marketer. Feel free to drop me an email (
with your thoughts on this guide; we want to hear your feedback.
Have fun,

David Szabo
Co-founder & CEO
Brandvee Limited



Kill the buzzword: viral content

How do you differentiate normal content from viral content? Often we turn to
historical data, and we say a content went viral when the data looks something
like this:

Thats the spike were looking for.

But why does that even happen?
Theres a great deal of researchers and authors who tried to figure out the whys
and hows of this spike. Check our link collection at the second part of this
chapter if youre interested.
For now, lets say that when this spike happens, that means a near perfect,
delicate, and short-term balance exists between the way the content itself was
created, distributed, and promoted and the audience.
The key here is the short term. This is why you cannot put a deterministic value
against virality as threshold. Anything that goes way above normal can be
considered viral. Id highly suggest to see how this viral spikes still end up
increasing the normal as well and end up in an ever-growing spiral. Check The
Linkbait Bump article for that.
Anything that goes way above normal can be considered viral. (Click to Tweet)
The first thing we need to clear up is that going viral is not magic. While theres
still a great deal of luck in this (there are way too many variables in the equation),
if you follow our framework and apply consistent trial and error, youll definitely be
able to dramatically grow your audiences size and engagement.

Kill the buzzword: viral content

To understand what really happens when something goes viral, think of it like an
epidemic. Usually, when you publish your content, theres a limited percentage of
your audience you can directly reach. This is the organic reach of your Facebook
page, the click-through of your sponsored content campaigns, your email
subscribers, app users, and visitors of your site who come from organic and search
And then a proportion of all of these people will start clicking on sharing buttons
and copy/pasting the URL of your content to their friends on messaging apps,
texts, emails.
When the latter kind of behaviour locks into a loop and keeps happening, a spike
happens in your traffic. This is when your audience keeps passing your content
along from one sharer to another, like when a carrier infects someone with the
virus, and the new infected also becomes a carrier.
In your case, the pathogen is your content and every time you publish a new one,
you test how catchy it is.
Before we move on, lets differentiate your websites traffic into three major
groups. Well use this segmentation later.
Seed views
When you, as a marketer/editor/social media manager, share a link to your site
somewhere (it can be your social media account, page, email newsletter,
sponsored Facebook ad, etc.) and someone clicks on that link, thatd be a seed
It was shared by you but the only thing you did was plant the seeds. Youll look at
clicks, engagement, conversion, etc., from this one. Depending on your industry, a
major part of your audience might come from seed views. But now, were looking
for something else.
Viral views
Every time you publish a post, youre testing how catchy it is. Once you have
planted the seeds and visitors start pouring in, if the content is indeed contagious,
viral views will spike. Thats when your seed visitors start driving others by sharing
your links. Thats what youre aiming for.
Other views
Theres also a third group, which we obviously have to mention but does not
directly affect what we want to achieve. Every other visit you have, coming from
non-social sources like search or organic, will also play a role in getting viral traffic
done, but you dont have a direct impact on that. What were looking for is to
optimise your resources around making those spikes repeatable, so consider this
one as a plus.

Kill the buzzword: viral content

Why does that happen only occasionally?

Elements of Viral Content

How to Make Your Content Go Viral (by Jonah Berger)
7 Key Elements for Viral Content (by Susie Brown)
Creating Viral Content? The Secret Is Get Contagious... (by Derek Halpern)
Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us (by Noah

The Secret to Online Success: What Makes Content Go Viral (by Liz Rees-Jones,
Katherine L. Milkman and Jonah Berger )

Why Content Goes Viral: the Theory and Proof (by Carson Ward)
Viral Marketing Cheat Sheet: 7 Tips To Give Your Marketing Strategy A Boost (by
Megan O'Neill)

Lessons from Blog Posts that Went Viral (by Jessica Davis)
Viral Marketing Case Study: How a Brand New Blog Generated 17,584 Visitors In
One Day (by Brian Dean)
A Data-Driven Guide to Creating Viral Content [New Infographic] (by Brian Dean)
How to Create Viral Content That Generates 2,500 Visitors Per Day (by Neil Patel)
How to Make Viral Content: 9 Tips from the Greatest Viral Content Genius on the
Planet (by Dan Lyons)
Viral Link Building: How To Create A Link Explosion (With A Can Of Coke) (by David

Kill the buzzword: viral content

Contagious: Why Things Catch On (by Jonah Berger)
Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck (by Chip Heath
and Dan Heath)

What happens when you see a spike in traffic?

Metrics & Benefits

10+ Content Performance Metrics You Have to Measure (by Tamas Torok)
Stop neglecting your viral metrics (by Jay Kulkarni)
Metrics for Viral Content and the ROI of Social Media [Slideshare] (by Alex Nelson)
Content Marketing: How To Measure Content Performance Holistically (by
Benjamin Spiegel)

The Content Marketing Expert Guide to Analytics & Metrics (by Larry Kim)
How to Measure the Success of Content Marketing (by Jodi Harris)
Content Marketing Metrics: How to Drive Action Instead of Reaction (by Rob Yoegel)
A Checklist for Measuring Your Content Marketing Success (by Roger C. Parker)
The 4 Types of Content Metrics That Matter (by Jay Baer)

Kill the buzzword: viral content

What are the long-term benefits of viral content?

More followers on your website

More people sharing your content
More email or RSS subscribers
More search traffic
Better search engine ranking

The Linkbait Bump: How Viral Content Creates Long-Term Lift in Organic Traffic
(by Rand Fishkin)

Maya by Brandvee - Chrome bot to help decide which stories to post to social
The Top 5 Free Content Analytics Tools (by Amanda Walgrove)

Hop on trends and bridge gaps

Everything starts with your audience. You might be already familiar with quite a
few things here. Well dive into two parts really:
The first one will be your buyer personas or your audience segments
(depending on your business model).
The second part is about trend research.
Lets talk about these personas or segments. There are some tools and resources
out there (also listed here) that help you come up with a great approach to
segment your audience. Usually what is missing is one simple fact:
Quite a few of them also know each other outside the world of your brand.
This means that theyre influencing each other, which will have a great effect on
their content preferences and consumption. You might want to dig into this to
find your real influencers who drive traffic through regularly sharing links with
only a handful of people (probably via copy/pasting).
Think of Pareto. Is it really possible that 20% of your audience is responsible for
80% of your traffic? If you had the chance to send a message to that 20%, how
would that message look?
Lets go on with this idea. Lets say we know that if this 20% picks something up,
the rest of your audience will become active due to their influence and sharing, or
you could say it is due to their advocacy. Well cover this later, but for now, lets
focus on understanding what this 20% wants.
You need to get two things right: value and timing.
For value, you can use tons of tools, and there are other great guides for research
materials, such as keyword research or creating outstanding content based on
SEO data. Its all about finding what keeps your audience engaged but implies
that theres room for improvement.
Once you have a few ideas, you can prioritise them by timing (if its hot, its good; if
the topic is not trending, see why). After that, youll need to create a 10x better
content. Sounds hard, but if you do your research right, at this point youll already
have tons of ideas on how to bridge the gap between whats needed and whats
out there now.

Hop on trends and bridge gaps

I suggest you follow these steps:

1. Identify the most influential 20% of your audience, and treat them as the
most important segment of your audience.
2. Build a list of topics and sites theyre most interested in. This is your basis for
3. Look for gaps out there in content quality. Use our list of resources below to
get this right. At this point, you should have quite a few ideas on what to write
about that would be a 10x better content.
4. Listen to chatters, noise, and signals on public social channels; once a topic is
trending, thats your opportunity to create and publish your top content.
Look for gaps and create 10x better content for your audience. (Click to Tweet)
Nothing different. Nothing new. Except for the fact that youre focusing only on a
handful of visitors and leave sharing and driving engagement to them. Once you
have it right, you should have a more focused, clear approach to drive
Of course, you might want to run a content campaign for a client, doing native
advertising. Or you are in charge of a larger department of a certain topic. Your
newsroom probably already has the best practices on what to write about.
However, having these monitoring solutions set up for you to constantly alert what
makes your audience tick gives you incredible leverage.
Take a look at the second half of this chapter to see how others are doing it.

Hop on trends and bridge gaps

What makes your audience tick?

Talk to Your Audience

How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona
Template] (by Pamela Vaughan)
The Formula Of Creating Accurate Buyer Personas [Infographic] (by Irfan Ahmad)
The Science of Building Buyer Personas [Infographic] (by Eric Siu)

Have you validated your personas?

Probably most of your assumptions about your buyer personas are wrong. In
order to escape from the deadly field of assumptions the next necessary step is
to get out of the building: find these people and talk to them.

But How do you do that? Ask the right questions

How To Talk To Customers When Everyone Is Lying To You (by Rob Fitzpatrick)
The Mom Test [Slideshare] (by Rob Fitzpatrick)

Hop on trends and bridge gaps

Find problems and questions

Keyword Research & Questions

Back to Fundamentals: 6 Untapped Keyword Sources that Will Boost Organic
Traffic (by Neil Patel)
3 Super-Actionable Keyword Research Tips to Try Right Now (by Elisa Gabbert)
How to do Keyword Research the Smart Way: Targeting Interest and Intent (by
Beth Morgan)

How to do Keyword Research: Tips, Tools and Techniques (by Sam Applegate)

What are the benefits of keyword research?

you will know what words and phrases your customers use when they search
you can find long tail keywords, where the competition for the keyword is
low and targeting is more specific.
you can identify more specific, unanswered questions related to your field
you can generate fresh content ideas
your content can be more optimised for search engines and can achieve
higher ranking for that specific keyword.

Read forums and Q&A sites:

13 Best Sites to Get Your Questions Answered! (by Srikanth Ad)
10 Best Free Keyword Research Tools (by Fenja Villeumier)

Hop on trends and bridge gaps

Hit the iron while its still hot

Hop on Trends

Identify content that gets shared: add your own thoughts and make them better.
You will have an idea what kind of content people like. This is called Skyscraper
How to Create Viral Content Using the SkyScraper Technique (by Christopher

The Skyscraper Technique May Actually Improve Your Content Marketing (by
Garrett Moon)

Tools to find popular content:
18 Easy Ways To Find High-quality and Popular Content (by Tamas Torok)
Listen what people are talking about:
Top 10 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools (by Ruxandra Mindruta)
5 Social Media Listening Tools That Every Business Should Be Using (by Simon Tam)
Top 8 Social Listening Tools That Do Way More Than Listen (by Brad Neathery)


Life beyond listicles

Experience says that regardless of your industry, post cats on social media and
everyone will go crazy. Theres actually science behind that, saying that more than
27% of global internet traffic is related to cats. Photos, videos, whatever. Insane!
But you cant post cats, can you? (Unless youre in the pet business. Then you
should definitely do that.) So what should you do? If you followed the steps we
proposed earlier, you should have a data driven list of potential content that could
fit into your field, whether youre running a blog or youre an editor at a news site.
This section will be short. You already have lots of input on content formats based
on your research and your resources, so just browse the list below to find answers
for your questions you have in mind.

Life beyond listicles (quick overview)

Leave the cats behind

What Makes a Content High-quality? Advice from experts (by Tamas Torok)
The Nine Ingredients That Make Great Content (by Zach Bulygo)
What You Should keep In Mind: Writing checklist (by Jeff Bullas)
The Secrets of Writing Smart, Long-form Articles That Go Absolutely Viral (by
Michael Grothaus)

52 Headline Hacks (by Jon Morrow)
Headline Analyser: Is Your headline Good Enough? (by CoSchedule)

Life beyond listicles

How To Write Blog Posts Your Readers Actually Want To Read (by Julie Neidlinger)
33 Tips for Writing Engaging Content [Slideshare] (by E-Web Marketing)
9 Steps To Creating Engaging Content [Infographic] (by Mari Smith)
15 Essential Content Creation Apps You Need Right Now (by Melinda Osteen)

Design & Visuals

A Complete Guide to Visual Content: The Science, Tools and Strategy of Creating
Killer Images (by Kevan Lee)
Using Visual Content to Increase Blog Engagement (by Pro Blogger)
Seven Tools for Creating Infographics Without Using Photoshop (by Tamas Torok)

Spread like a virus

This is where the fun starts. You are an expert in content and social media. Now
we just have to make sure to put your efforts into a framework that could
maximise the outcome. What is the best way to distribute and promote your
content to be smart about your budget?
Gini Dietrich, a well-known PR professional, put together this amazing model for
public relations and communications people, which is called the PESO model.
See a basic summary on that below.

Image: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks

Lets spin it a bit. You are running your own media platform, so well start with that
one. Everything you publish there will count as owned media.
Then you have your brands social accounts. Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is your
shared media.
Then you have your fellow journalists, bloggers, guest bloggers, etc. This is your
earned media, your peer group of loyal and influential followers. If youre doing
something right, theyll amplify it and skyrocket visit counts.
And after all, theres paid media. Quite obvious. In this case, thats when you pay
for traffic.
Now heres the framework.

Spread like a virus

Publish your content on your site.

Feed it into your content recommendation engine (if you have one)

If its a native ad, feed it into your on-site promotional units. (Like a
recommendation engine but solely for sponsored content.)

You should start getting some organic traffic, mostly from internal

Spread like a virus

Post your content to your social channels. This might require you to
reformat your content to fit (think of Instagram or SlideShare).

It helps if you incentivise your colleagues to post as well.

Now this is crucial: Wait. The way your smallest, most loyal audience
reacts to your content will imply the potential outcome. Check if theyre
clicking on the content. If they are, how are they engaging with it? Are
they bouncing, commenting, converting, and sharing? You need to
examine this in depth through trial and error to find your silver lining.

How long should you wait? This would depend on your industry and
your audience. Smaller sites might want to wait a few hours, even days;
bigger sites should have a cap of one hour.

If youre going all in, you could kill every content that doesnt pick up
after your predefined time frame. This strategy works if you plan to
release LOTS of content and also removes the opportunity for your
content to drive engagement in the future.

Spread like a virus

Once it starts attracting meaningful engagement, reach out to your

network of influencers to take on the content. Well cover a few things
about influencers in the next chapter.

This will only work if your content is doing well, as influencers will look for
proof that the content theyre about to endorse is valuable and fits with
their audience.

Spread like a virus

At the same time, you should start sponsoring your content. The
hypothesis is the following:

While youve been waiting, lets say one hour, you got the idea of the
reaction of your audience. If theyre sharing your content, you can do the
math: If every visitor gets you 0.2 new visitors on average and you pay $1
per visit, by spending $100, you got 20 visitors for free. Not bad.

Spread like a virus

This is the data part. Youll need to set up monitoring of your content to
see when another spike is expected. If you track how fast your content is
being passed along from one sharer to another, youll know the velocity
of your content. Do not mistake this metric with other velocity numbers
that define the difference between the number of visitors now and an
hour before. Thats not predictive.

Once you have the velocity metric, youll have a very simple input for
your promotion decisions: If this metric goes up, you can expect more
people coming in the future. This is when you should start promotion.
When it goes down, stop promotion and focus on other content that
has higher velocity. Even if its getting good clicks. Itll go down soon, so
leave Titanic now.

You might also want to know where to promote. Id suggest using at

least two platforms: The #1 source of your seed views and the #1 source
of your viral views. For example, if your Facebook shared links are
driving visitors who are then sharing your content on Reddit, you might
want to advertise there as well.

Thats how we do it. Thats how the major viral news sites do it. Try it and drop us
a message about your thoughts.

Spread like a virus

Activate advocacy

Psychology & distribution

Psychology of sharing
The Psychology of Sharing [Infographic] (by Tamas Torok)
The Secret Psychology of Facebook: Why We Like, Share, Comment and Keep
Coming Back (by Courtney Seiter)
Why people share content online [Infographic] (by Kristin Piombino)
Why people like and share content online: insight from the CMA (by Popsop)
Why Do People Share Online? The Science Behind Social Sharing (by Priyanka)
Consumer Psychology Guide (by Neil Patel and Ritika Puri)
5 Reasons People Share Content Online (by Laura Roeder)

Content distribution
Distribution is as important as content creation

10 Content Promotion Tactics From The Pros [Interviews] (by Tamas Torok)
Why content marketers should spend 50% of their resources on distribution (by
James Carson)

8 Nonobvious Tips to Promote Your Content (by Arnie Kuenn)

How To Promote Your Content To Get More Traffic (by Chris Lee)

Spread like a virus

If You Publish Content and Don't Promote It, Will Anyone See It? [Infographic] (by
Rene Warren)

12 Places To Promote Your Content After You Hit Publish (by Dave Schneider)
How Content Promotion Works for Blogs Big and Small: Our 11 Favorite Content
Distribution Strategies. (by Kevan Lee)
The Ultimate List of Traffic & Content Promotion Tips from the Experts (by Wade

Which Channels Are Best for Content Promotion? [Infographic] (by Brittany Leaning)
How to Overcome the Content Distribution Hurdle: Lessons from Someone Who
Had No Idea What They Were Doing (by Shannon Byrne)
Comprehensive Guide to Content Promotion [eBook] (by Hubspot)
Get Heard, Get Seen, and Get Traffic with Standout Content Promotion [eBook]
(by BuzzStream)

What Are The Best Times to Post on Social Media (by Neil Patel)
17 Advanced Methods for Promoting Your New Piece of Content (by Aaron Agius)
How To Build Blog Audience (by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius)
What You Should be Doing to Grow Your Blogs Social Presence (by Matthew

Empower social outreach

Step 3 was Amplification, which means getting influencers to work with you so
you can reach their audiences through them. There are a handful of tools and
resources on how to pick them and work with them, and there are even a few
hacks, so browse freely.

Influencers & Tools

How to Get Influencers to Promote Your Content for Free (by Brian Dean)
How To Trick Influencers To Promote Your Website (by Matthew Woodward)
How to Promote Every Piece of Content You Create (by John Jantsch)
How To Get Your Content Shared By Key Market Influencers (And 8 Tools To Help
You) (by Adam Connell)
How to Get Content into the Hands of Influencers Who Can Help Amplify It
[Video] (by Rand Fishkin)
How to Build Relationships with Popular Bloggers (Even If It Scares You Silly) (by
Katharine Di Cerbo)

11 Awesome Tools for Hassle-Free Influencer Outreach (by Brittany Berger)
9 Powerful Blogger Outreach Tools (by Smart Insights)
The Landscape: SMEs List Of Influencer Identification Tools (by Jason Falls)
The Best Free (or Cheap) Tools for Blogger and Influencer Outreach (by Adam Shrek)

Are you ready to go

As you can see a lot of this is about data
which can be intimidating sometimes.
Instead of providing another dashboard with
fancy charts, we built a tool called Maya.
Maya is your smart assistant that helps you
navigate through this journey so you can
focus on what youre really good at. Why
would you look at charts when all you need is
answers? See it for yourself. (Yes, its an actual

Are you ready to #KillTheDashboard?