The issue of viral marketing and the whole concept of “virality” is something that intrigues internet marketers deperate to have viral content that will, presumably, turn to
floods of cash, rivers of gold and a niagra of wealth. perhaps.
But for lawyers seeking to market their law practices via the Net and by using good blog posts, it is difficult to understand how having a viral video or marketing can actually translate into anything much beyond a higher brand recognition.
Marketing for lawyers is something that is better done with sniper fire rather than blunderbuses, after all.
But, there again, the notion of what is ‘shared’ as distinct from what is actually read develops some interesting theorising about how you can effectively blog to ensure people of like minds might share your content.
All of which brings us to a recent New Yorker article, from Maria Konnikova, (nothing to do
with tennis, I’m afraid) entitled “The Six Things that Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze,
and Maybe Infuriate, You”.
The question raised in the article is what makes an article interesting and shareable, as
distinct from simply interesting?
It’s a good question and it raises issues about how to write a blog post effedtively.
Konnikova’s article discussed how Aristotle, in 350BC looked at how to make a speech both
persuasive and memorable . . and “viral” (if it’s not an offensive suggestion),.
After carefully analyzing the articles in terms of a variety of key factors ranging from
length and complexity to gender and placement, they determined that two key features
predominated: the positive nature of the message and how much it excited the reader.
Articles that create high emotions – anger or otherwise – tended to be shared more often
than those that did not. So “feel good” was as powerful as “feel bad” (or angry).
When stories were manipulated in a way that saw a positive framing put in place, there was
greater sharing involved. Facebook tests show that videos that inspire or shock are more
likely to be shared than those that do not. Arousing emotion, in other words.
Upworthy and ViralNova are two websites that have been a hugely successful and have quickly generated massive interest and audience. Why?
Part of the reason – and this is key for anyone looking to generate high sharing or readership whether you’re a lawyer or not – is to have a top headline. A clever headline.
A headline that makes you cry, laugh or angry.
Upworthy takes the ‘person falling over’ or ‘cat video’ to a whole new level with arousing,
emotional and positive stories.
Berger’s book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” looks at his formula for making sites like
Upworthy or Buzzfeed “contagious”. They are?
Emotion. Always top.
Social currency. The “insider knowledge” of knowing something that maybe others do not.
A memory trigger. This is the ability to stimulate a memory or generate something we
can remember, which is one reason why lists and similar stories re popular and which brings Berger to his next point.
Practical value. If people see something that can help them somehow they respond. “It allows people to feel like there’s a nice packet of useful information that they can share with others.” People want to feel smart, too.
Quality of the story. This is something of a perennial, the attraction of a good story. People love them, just likethe kids love Harry Potter. Blending a good story into a blog item is a top way for any lawyer wanting to market his firm brand or expertise easily and effectively. And who has better stories to tell than a lawyer? The best story, Berger
says, “comes out on top.”
All of which brings us back to the success of sites like Upworthy, who recognize that good link bait headlines can only really work if the underlying story is good. “Coming up with catchy, curiosity-inducing headlines wasn’t the reason Upworthy had those 87 million visitors,” they write. “It was because millions of members of the Upworthy community watched the videos we curated and found them important, compelling, and worth sharing with their friends.”
Overall, Berger talks about the batting average and the need to keep up the right hits in order to generate high interest.
However, just as things become popular, so too does social expectation and “sharing” change. What was once emotionally arousing may no longer be. But using the hot points identified in his study is a good way for any smart blogger to ensure his or her blog posts are shared, rather than just read.
And sharing, as we know, is good. Particularly for a lawyer seeking to generate and build a brand.
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