While “going viral” isn’t quite the industry buzzword that it once was, the goal still is first on most sites’ wish-lists — somehow getting a piece of content to grab the public’s attention and deliver a waterfall page views.
There is an ongoing conversation in media about the costs and compromises one must make in pursuit of the viral, but the chatter is usually in lieu of actual experience. Very few can deliver an actual roadmap, let alone demonstrate that they can do it again and again.
Jonah Peretti is one who can. A founder of both The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, Peretti has been experimenting with viral techniques since college. He isn’t shy about presenting his findings, based around what he calls “the mullet strategy,” in which sites present reputation-enhancing content up front and chase silly, viral content around the edges.
Here it is, in a nutshell:
Perretti’s Mullet Strategy
- “Business Up Front, Party In the Back.”
- Why? Once, advertisers and media companies dictated viewing habits. The public had very little input. Now, consumers have vastly broader choices, and make most of their selections while “bored at work.”
- Viral content appeals to the bored-at-work network by being easy-to-understand, easy-to-share, with a social imperative
- The web is run by fanatics: cat lovers, Apple fanboys, gold standard nuts, celeb stalkers, and comment trolls. Appealing to this kind of networked OCD personality helps content go viral
- The mechanics of spreading an idea is as important as the idea itself
- Content is shared through Google, Facebook and Twitter. Also, StumbleUpon, blogs, apps, and mainstream media
- Google is for private searches — sex. Facebook is for public sharing — cats, charities, politics. Twitter is public, but for pretending that you’re smart and cultured — politics, satire
- Viral content is unpredictable. but you can improve your chances by constantly experimenting, testing, measuring, and optimizing content to improve performance. You also need to abandon failing content quickly.
- “Big seed marketing” makes pursuing virality easier. You pay for a large audience upfront, but design your offering to be easily shared, multiplying your overall audience.