It can be deployed to bring you free targeted visitors, in addition to generating hundreds of backlinks that’ll help you rank better in the search engines.
Viral reports are one of those things that bloggers need to master in order to boost their blog.
I did it quite by accident with my 365 Business Blogging Tips. I wasn’t prepared for the post to pull my site down, so I took the post and created a PDF with it.
People saw the work that went into it and shared it like crazy via Twitter – so much so that it broke my twitter button on my blog and it’s never worked right since! 11,000 downloads later I’m thrilled but I could have done it better.
So how do you create a viral report that others can’t help but pass on? What are the “secrets” to creating a viral report?
Extremely Controversial or Extremely Useful
Essentially there are two kinds of reports that get passed around: those that are controversial and shocking, or those that are so useful that others save them and use them as references.
Example, when John Carlton and Rich Schefren published a list of “bucket brigade” phrases (PDF here) – words to start sentences with that catch attention, the report caught fire and was passed around to thousands in the marketing community. That was 5 years ago… 5 years later I’m still talking about it!
Why did it get passed around so much? Because it was useful.
It was a list that had never been compiled before, an extremely valuable list for writers and bloggers everywhere, given away for free. Originality pays a big part in your viral report’s success.
I have no examples of controversial
Getting the Initial Traction…
In order for your report to have the chance of taking off, it needs to get initial distribution. In other words, it needs to be downloaded by between 100 to 500 people first, before the power of virality can take effect.
How Do You Get Those Initial Downloads for Your Viral Report?
Email lists are a big step in the right direction. If you have an email list of a few thousand people, or know people with such lists, send them the free report. If your report is really great, other list owners will happily pass it on to their readers.
I have one client who thinks this is a crazy strategy, and it’s something that you should charge for. It’s not. Sharing good content helps everyone and more importantly it gives you some great exposure.
Post the free report to internet forums. Pay to post it in a commercial section if necessary. Again, if your report is great, it’ll generate many replies which will in turn get you more viewers and even more downloads.
Remember your own network. Even posting it to your Facebook wall and asking for shares, if you have several hundred friends, can help you get the much-needed initial distribution.
I posted here about how my epic post was an epic fail and then I emailed my list. The power of Twitter kicked in and the report was shared and downloaded like crazy!
Tools to Increase Virality (AKA The Viral Factor)
There are a few ways you can increase the viral flow of the report.
The first method is to require an opt-in in order to download the report. While this can really help you capitalise on the traffic generated, it can also turn some people off from downloading the report. Often they just want the report, without the joining your list.
A way around this would be to use a “pay with a Tweet tool”, my weapon of choice is the Premise plugin (affiliate link) which allows me to create a great landing page to encourage social sharing.
Another method is to embed Facebook and Twitter links inside the report. Make it easy for them to Like, Tweet, G+ your report.
Want to know how? How to add the G+ share button to a PDF is a great how-to by Dino Dogan and How to add social sharing links to PDFs by Michele Welch aka @NewBizBlogger. I should have done this. Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Finally, one often forgotten “secret” to getting your content passed around is to just ask. Let people know that they have permission to pass the report on and ask them to share it with their friends. Be gentle in your asking, don’t assume that because you have asked they will say yes
Creating a report that spreads like wildfire does take all of your creativity and your marketing knowledge. It entails creating something original, getting it to a few hundred people and the having the mechanisms to help to spread. Done well, this tactic can launch an obscure business blog into the limelight.
Developed a viral report yourself? Share your secrets in the comments!