Viral marketing and its SEO cousin link bait have been around for a while.
By method of trial and error, marketers have long figured out emotional "hooks" that entice people to click "Like" or "Share", link to content and engage with it.
However, do these hooks stay the same or do they undergo transformation over time?
If we look at what pieces of content have gone viral in the industry in recent times, we'll see that the same good old link bait drives such as humor, freebies and others still work very well.
However, they're implemented in a slightly different way, with a twist.
How? See for yourselves.
1. Insider Humor
Have you seen Sam Applegate's of Ninja Creative video of Matt Cutts "revealing the secret" to #1 Google ranking? Of course this isn't a genuine video by Matt Cutts, but a humorous compilation of his remarks that are put together in such a way that it seems Google's head of Web spam team seriously advises you to link to crappy sites and to stuff your pages with keywords.
The video has gotten over 100,000 views so far and has been mentioned in a few major online journals in the industry.
The hook used in this video is insider humor, meaning it can be appreciated by only by a limited group of people - those familiar with the industry and the jargon. Insider humor works great, because it makes people feel good about themselves for "getting" the joke, in addition to having a good laugh of course.
By the way, this is the idea behind the weekly Friday cartoon column on this blog.
2. Inspiring self-love
In April this year, Dove launched a Web-only viral campaign with their "Real Beauty Sketches" video. The company took a whole different approach to winning the hearts and minds of beauty product consumers.
Instead of trying to make women feel rivaled by flawlessly gorgeous models, Dove invited a male forensic expert who drew 2 versions of each woman-participant’s portrait.
The first version demonstrated how the participant saw herself, and the second version reflected how she was perceived by others. Eventually, the participants were shown that they were more beautiful than they thought they were.
The video was a huge success and currently has over 55 million views on YouTube.
What works great as a link bait hook is a feel-good video after viewing which people feel proud of themselves. Dove's "You are beautiful" commercial fosters self-acceptance and self-love, and its popularity shows that this could be the way to go in 2013.
3. Landing an exclusive interview
I don't really know how many times I shared and linked to James Norquay's interview with Andre Weyher, an ex-member of Matt Cutt's search quality team. By the way, I'm doing it again right now.
It was an awesome piece of information and an effective link bait piece . What James Norquay did was land an interview with a person who's very hard to get an interview with, ask them the questions everyone is dying to know answers to - voila, a smash-hit link bait piece guaranteed.
But of course you need to put some work into it.
Interviewing celebrities and industry experts has been around for a long time, but because getting an interview is relatively easy these days (over Skype or via e-mail), there are many mediocre-quality interviews on the Web.
So, if you're aiming for a great link bait interview, it shouldn't be one with just anybody in your niche, discussing whatever questions. It's the credibility of your source and the exclusive nature of the information you manage to get that matter.
4. Being Your Unique Self
The first time I came across the SEO Campixx website (the website for a popular SEO conference in Germany), I couldn't take my eyes off it. I remember thinking: "Why are they playing drums at that conference? What is this dolphin doing in the video?"
That was even before I listened to the conference theme song on their page. And, after eventually watching the rap-style video introducing SEO Campixx 2013 (in German), I was completely convinced this SEO conference was not like any other:
Needless to say I shared the hymn and the video with a ton of people who know what the letters in the word SEO stand for. I was naturally inspired to do it. By the way, somehow the feel of SEO Campixx rang a bell. They reminded me of Mars Dorian – another person not afraid to weave his unique-self component into his branding.
Sometimes all it takes to deserve links and attention is to bring forward the funky side of you. By being outrageously different, you will likely stand out of the crowd. By the way, SEO Campixx is usually sold out way in advance.
5. Personalized Gifts
Everyone loves freebies, which is a hook online marketers use rather generously. There is just so much free stuff available on the Internet today that, if you don't offer anything for free, you stand little chance of being opted for – or even noticed.
However, every once in a while comes a person who takes the freebie idea to a new level. Perhaps you've heard of the chocolate bar Barry Schwartz received in his mail this January. Even though it was obviously some company fishing for publicity, it was done in such a clever and elegant way that Barry couldn't but dedicate an entire article to it.
The message on the chocolate bar was intended for Barry personally and read:
"Barry, we wanted to send you a treat to introduce ourselves! To find out who we are type: "Who Sent Me Chocolates" into Google."
The first result for that phrase was (and still is) CMA Digital, a UK-based online marketing agency. They optimized a separate landing page for that phrase, where Barry could enter his unique code written on the bar and proceed to a personalized landing.
Giving away free stuff still works to get one customers. However, since a lot of people are doing it these days, try taking a new approach to "selling" you freebie to your site visitors.
For instance, you could try to personalize your offer to each separate individual views it. How do you do this? Just use your imagination.
Now, what about you, have you encountered any interesting link bait pieces that utilize new, original hooks lately? If so, do share your findings in comments!
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