Posted 11.09.2012

Creating Viral Content for Your Audience

Creating Viral Content - Amy & Darrel

Darrel and I led a breakout session at the LifeWay Women’s Forum on (as the name suggests) creating viral content for your audience. This is a summary of our talk. I’ve also tried to link to some additional resources, if you want to dig a little deeper. So, whether you attended our breakout session or not, hopefully this post will help challenge you in how to create viral content for your own audience. Regardless, what will make our breakout (and this post) even more successful, is your feedback. So, if you have questions or comments (or musical anecdotes), please feel free to jump down to the comment section below and share!

NOTE: Since this content was originally shared at a Women’s Ministry conference, it does slant towards ministry. However, the concepts can be applied across the board.

Examples of Viral Content

We’ve all been sent a link before, to a popular YouTube video, whether it’s Charlie Bit My Finger or The History of Dance. We love these videos! We laugh and pass them on to our friends. But, what makes some videos flop and other videos, like the History of Dance have over 200 million plays?!

Well, some of it is a little bit of luck and fairy dust, but some of it, you can actually control. Surprised? Here are some examples of blog post titles that have a viral impact.

Examples of Page Titles

What do you notice? A lot of these topics are controversial, spark intrigue, or offer practical application.

The New York Times

The New York Times did a study where they took their previous 3 months of content and analyzed what was the most popular content. This is what they found:

Happy Content
Sad Content

Happy content is more likely to be viral than sad content. We like to be happy. We like to smile. We want things to make us feel better, not worse.

Purple Cow

Your content needs to be unique. Take cows, for instance. Cows are boring. They’re big, fat, slow. They just stand there and eat. But, if you saw a purple cow?! Now, that would cause you stop, take a minute, and check out this purple cow. In fact, I’d bet you’d even pull our your iPhone and take a picture with this unique purple cow. You’d probably post the picture on Facebook or Instagram. “Look at me. I’m with a purple cow.” Why? It’s just a cow…but it’s unique.

Seth Godin actually wrote a book about the purple cow…but, I know we’re all busy. So if you don’t have time to read the book, Fast Company wrote an article on Seth’s book that might be worth a read, instead.

This stuff just fascinates me, because it’s all human behavior study. Here are a few more articles if you’re an over achiever:

So, we know it needs to be happy, not negative, and unique, but how do we do that?

Awe, Arm, Accessible

Well, we need to create a sense of awe. Blogs that have intrigue. Take the blog post titles we listed earlier, “How to Turn Your Marriage Around in 10 Days.” Well, there’s a sense of awe, there, right? 10 Days? Really? That’s all? Hmm. Awe and Intrigue.

Second, we need to extend to extend an arm. Help people out. Looking at that same blog title about Turning your Marriage around. Now, that’s practical. It’s something that can help me. It’s applicable. OK!

Third, it needs to accessible. “10 Days” Really? That’s doable. I can do 10 days.

Now, we know what we need to gear our posts towards. But, actually coming up with the content? A lot of times, I’ll mind map.

Mind Map

A mind map is simply a brain dump of ideas. You put the main idea in the center and branch out from there. You’d be surprised how quickly you can come up with content. The important thing is to write everything down: good ideas, bad ideas. Unfiltered. I’ve found that a lot of times, I may have a bad idea, I know it’s a bad idea, but until I acknowledge it by writing it down, it won’t get out of my head. Writing it down, gives me the freedom to move on. Besides, a lot of times, I’ll look back and see that bad idea, but it will trigger a great idea.

Cover of the USA Today

Another great place to go look for content is newspaper. Just read through the headlines. Take this newspaper, for example, front and center. “Why grown kids come home.” Well, that’s a blog post! You can help women know what to do when their kids come home. They were empty nesters and now, they’re not. How do you encourage your kids when they’re trying to find jobs and nothing’s available? How do you set boundaries with them? Their adults now, but they’re under your roof. That’s 3 posts right there! You’re welcome. :-)

Fill in the blank post titles

Another tool? Fill in the blank.

  • The 10 Best Kept Secrets for Reaching Young Women
  • The 10 Best Kept Secrets for getting Younger and Older Women to Connect
  • The 10 Best Kept Secrets for Reaching your Community
  • Two of my favorite blogs about…well…blogging are Problogger and Copy Blogger. They have some great posts on writing titles, what works and what doesn’t work.

    This is all great, but how do I actually get my content out there?!

    Content Distribution - Ways

    Well, I don’t think this will come as any surprise to anyone else. The easy answer: the usual suspects.


    Your Blog

    But, if we all know how to distribute content, why can’t we all do it and do it well? Well, there’s a secret. The ultimate secret. Drum roll please.

    Content Distribution: The Ultimate Secret

    Your audience! Disappointed with my answer? Let me explain. Let’s take another look at all the avenues for content distribution I listed earlier.


    What is Pinterest? Out of the 6 listed above, this is the new kid on the block. Pinterest is for pinning things you’re interested in. It’s all image based. If I see a picture of a shirt I like, I’ll pin (or post) it on one of my boards (or collections). I can see all my friends’ pins. If you spend any time on the site, you’ll quickly find there’s tons of craft ideas, recipes, fashion, and home decorating tips.

    How and when do my friends get on Pinterest? Via the computer, phone, or iPad. Typically, it’s a way of decompressing or procrastinating.

    So, what does this mean for us and distributing our viral content? Well, I’m probably not going to post my prayer requests on Pinterest. But, I might pin a recipe for a dish that I brought to a Bible Study. Or I might pin books that I think the ladies in my ministry would enjoy. But, if I know my audience, their purpose for being on the site, then, that changes how I use that avenue to distribute my content.


    I know ladies that live on Facebook! If that’s where your community is, go there. Instead of forcing people to come to you, why not go to them?!

    My dad is a hard core runner. He’s run in 14 something FULL marathons. Crazy, I know. He didn’t use Facebook very often until he joined a running group. They’ve been able to take something that’s very individual and make it a team, group sport. They post about their runs, how well they went, and challenges that they encountered. They talk about training, what to eat, stretches, and what clothes to wear for various weather conditions. And most importantly, they encourage each other. Pretty cool.

    There’s no reason why your group can’t do the same thing (well, not about running, but you know what I mean…) But, the important thing to remember is that Facebook is all about community, it’s about relationships, give and take. We’re not longer allowed to just pump information out.


    Twitter is event driven. A lot of it is about what’s happening right now. I’m limited to only 140 characters.

    First, ask yourself, is my audience even on Twitter? If I’m working with senior adults, they might not even know what Twitter is. But, if I’m working with college students. Totally use Twitter!

    If Twitter is about being in the moment. Let’s take the National Day of Prayer as an example. Set up a Twitter account and Tweet every hour on the hour something to pray about.

    You host a women’s event at your church, tweet at the event about what’s happening. People that are there can respond to their experience. Instant feedback! Or, the people that couldn’t come, see what they’re missing, so they’ll attend next year.


    YouTube is all about video. So, post videos! Interview friends about their experiences, tell stories. Mix up the mediums you use to communicate.


    You may think email is old fashioned. But, there are plenty of tech people that I know that have gone “old school” and pulled back out the email lists. Why? Because sometimes email is easier to check than consciously remembering to go to a website to check for updates. It comes to me. I don’t have to go to it. The people that get your email, are getting it because they asked for it. You have their permission! What a wonderful opportunity!

    Your Blog

    This one may seem the most obvious. But, your site is an excellent way of distributing your content. AND the great thing about it, is you own it. It’s great to post things on Facebook, but read their policies. As soon as you upload it, it’s no longer yours!! They can do whatever they want with it. They can use your pictures in advertisements. They can delete it, hide it, move it. Crazy, I know. BUT, if it’s on your blog, you don’t have to worry about any of that.

    Don’t feel like you are limited to only one avenue. Use as many of these services as your comfortable managing. Post something on your blog and repost it on Facebook or Twitter. Nobody is stopping you.

    Content Distribution: How do we measure success?

    We’ve talked about all these things, but how do we know if we’re actually doing it right? We won’t know what success is, unless we define it on the front end. Well, here are a couple of measuring sticks:

    Like Button

    Look at the Like Button and Comments. How many people are responding to the content you post?

    On Twitter, I repost a lot of design and programming links. However, I have my Twitter and Facebook account linked, anything I tweeted would automatically appear on my Facebook page. My friends kept complaining, “I try and read what you post, but I have no clue what it means! It’s all over my head!” So, within the past week, I disconnected the two accounts. I was surprised. The last 4 posts that I’ve made on Facebook have gotten more comments and likes than almost anything else I’ve posted. Plus, I’m getting far more consistent results. Some of that has to do with the fact that I’m keeping my audience in mind when I post. But, I know I’m being successful, because I can look at the like and comment count.


    Another option is a service called bity. It serves the same purpose as tiny url, but it allows you to track your links. How many people clicked on your link? What time of day did they click on it? What country are they from?

    All these things, help you understand what content you’re posting is successful, what types of content people are interested in, and from there, allow you to really hone in on your niche.

    Additional Resources

    Just for fun, here are a few additional resources:

    So, now I want to turn the tables a little bit. What has worked for you? What trouble (or successes) have you run in to? Comment below.

Posted 11.02.2012

Proceed and Be Bold Chalk Art

Last week, we finished redesigning our offices at work. The main wall in the elevator lobby, we painted with chalkboard paint. Heavily inspired by Dana Tanamachi’s chalk work, I drew out a design centered around the phrase “Proceed and Be Bold.” — This phrase is actually posted around Facebook’s offices. We wanted to encourage the same type of bold mentality on our floor.

First, I drew it out on tracing paper, layering up. This allowed me to go back and redo a section if I didn’t like it without messing up an area I had already finalized.

Proceed and Be Bold on Tracing Paper

Proceed and Be Bold on Tracing Paper

Then, I scanned each section into the computer and assembled the artwork in Photoshop.

Lastly, we cheated a little bit. We used a projector to get the art on the wall and then went to town tracing.

I was really pleased with the end result.

Proceed and Be Bold Chalk Art

Proceed and Be Bold Chalk Art

Proceed and Be Bold

Creating a Social Media Strategy

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to beef up my blog, posting more regularly. I know I’ll be far more effective, if I do that with strategy, versus, half heartedly throwing hand grenades. Plus, you and I both know (well, at least I hope you do) that social media extends far beyond a blog or website. It’s how we interact on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ (just to name a few).

So, where do we start? First, we have to decide what we’re going to focus on. There are hundreds of social networks out there, most of which I’ve never even heard about. For me, I decided I’m going to focus on the big ones. People are already there. I would rather go to my target audience versus waiting around for them to come to me.

Second, I think you have to figure out who your core audience is. This is a difficult one. We want to be everyone’s friend, but it doesn’t work that way…and that’s OK! I was on a conference call with a client earlier this week. We asked them who their core audience was and they said 20-45 year old women. That’s a 25 year age difference! That’s not a core audience! After a few more questions, we were able to narrow that down to young moms. Now we’re starting to get somewhere.

How does this relate to social media? Well, it changes my message. If my core audience is other designers, then I’m going to write about design. I’ll post images that inspire me. I’ll talk about my process. I’ll write about quirks that I find in Photoshop.

If my core audience is programmers, I’ll write about my experience with Code Igniter or jQuery or Ruby. I’ll provide websites that solved my problems. I’ll do my best to contribute to the community.

If my core audience is clients. Then, I’ll do my best to show them that I know what I’m talking about and provide tools to help educate them.

If my core audience is my friends and family, I’ll write about my adventures or things I’m learning.

As you can tell, this is something that I struggle with on my own blog. I have interests in all these areas. For me, I’ve tried to divide these out by categories (101, My Life, Finders Keepers, Programming, Design, and Photography). I would rather everything be housed under 1 site than try and manage 6 different blogs! Honestly, I (still) don’t know if this is effective.

But, one thing I am sure of: my core audience is different based on which medium I am using. For example, on Facebook, I’ve tried to be very intentional about making sure the people I’m friends with are people that I know in real life. They don’t care about how I debug sites on my iPhone and iPad, but they do want to know about my trip to Rio this summer. If I keep posting geek stuff that’s over their head, pretty soon, they’ll start tuning me out and miss the stuff that is actually applicable to them.

Third, there’s the time factor. How much time are you willing to spend each day? How often are you going to post? When are you posting?

One of the hardest things I’ve discovered about social media is staying consistent. I’ll do great for one day, or one week, even. But, it quickly becomes hard to maintain. Social media is not a microwave, though. We like to think it is because things move quickly, in and out, but for us to have any success or have any influence whatsoever, our audience needs to be able to trust us and know that we’re going to be there no matter what. Day in and day out. Yeah, it’s hard. But, anything that has value is hard.

Do you have a social media strategy? Is there another principle you’ve used when creating your social media strategy?