Every company dreams of creating content and stories that go viral. At Ink Tank Media, we live that dream week after week. This is how we’ve created Finland’s most popular viral English-language Facebook page, Very Finnish Problems, which has an average organic reach of over 15 million per month. It’s also how we created Inktank.fi, Finland’s most read English-language blog, with an average of 500 thousand readers a month. Ten of our stories on inktank.fi have reached well over half a million people or even more. In fact, our top four stories combined have been read 8.1 million times worldwide, nearly double the population of Finland. Simply put, nobody else who practices content marketing in the Nordics can do what we do.
But virality isn’t just about views, it’s also about news and reaching the right people. Last week that was beautifully demonstrated when one of our stories was picked up by Finland’s most popular newspapers and the national broadcaster, YLE.
At the time of writing, the story,
“Finnish Ku Klux Klan clown needs to read his history. The Klan hated Finns too.”,
has been shared and liked by nearly 5 thousand people on Facebook and retweeted nearly three hundred times. While this figure is nowhere near our most popular ever viral stories, each of which has gained over 40 thousand likes and shares, it’s by far and away our most popular post in our target market, Finland.
So, what does the success of this story teach us about how to create viral stories?
1. Be topical
One of the reasons that inktank.fi is Finland’s most popular international blog is that we take story distribution just as seriously as storytelling. There is nothing more soul destroying than creating an ace story or blog that nobody reads. Sadly, this is something content marketers experience all too often.
One of our distribution channels is, of course, Facebook. But with more and more competition on the newsfeed, Facebook can be too tough a nut to crack. One way to make the most of its vast potential is to take a story that is currently being shared and discussed on Facebook and look at it from a different perspective. There are a number of different platforms that show you what’s trending on Facebook, we tend to use Ezyinsights, but, in this case, we simply used our intuition. The horrific story of KKK being used to scare newly arrived immigrants was all over Finnish Facebook. Our Digital Producer, Thomas Nybergh, saw the opportunity and crafted his story in the less than an hour.
2. Be bold
Immigration is a sensitive subject and it would be easy to avoid getting into that discussion. It was important that both the story and the headline added to the discussion rather than inflamed it. While I worked on a headline that would encourage people to read, Thomas crafted the content. By adding facts, which presented the story in a different light, he gave readers ammunition to make their viewpoint clear to their friends and family. According to research by The New York Times Customer Insight group, 68% of people share to define themselves, while 84% share to support a cause. Our story benefited from both these impulses, making the most of them by adding pertinent facts to the discussion.
3. Be quick
It took just over an hour to craft the story, add it to WordPress and publish it. This speed of reaction meant we were able to provide an avenue for people to express their disgust about a very recent incident, which was making them both angry and ashamed. In this way, we empowered them. A disgusting racist was made to look like a pathetic clown the same day the news of his exploits hit the wire. This would never have happened if the story had been stuck on an editorial calendar, waiting for approval.
4. Be promotional
We knew that this story had viral potential as soon as we published it. Yet, every story needs as big a social media push as possible to kick start it. Research by Shareaholic discovered that 27% of all viral stories are published between 8 am and 12 pm. Missing this boat, we had to be especially proactive, so we shared it on all our channels, including a dozen Twitter feeds with a combined reach of nearly 500 thousand people and half a dozen Facebook pages with a total of over 240 thousand followers. Within half an hour, the story had been posted on Reddit and retweeted over 100 times.
5. Be enthusiastic
Once your story is riding high, it’s tempting just to switch off and let the traffic and shares roll in. However, a viral story is like a fine meal, so you should savour it for as long as possible, adding as many extra courses as you can manage. In our case, this meant sharing stories, which were being written by the national press about our story, and ensuring we retweeted people who were spreading the word. We also made sure to engage in the comments the post generated. By doing this, we managed to maintain the momentum over the weekend and well into Monday.
The end result of all this coverage was that we got nearly forty thousand views, backlinks from Finland’s most read newspapers, interview requests, requests to write guest posts, over 750 new followers on Facebook and thousands of shares and retweets.
One thing you should take away from this is that, with the right expertise, the stories of every single company have the chance to go viral. So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch and we’ll show you how.
Joel Willans is Co-founder of Ink Tank Media, the Editor of Inktank.fi and creator of Very Finnish Problems. Since 2010, he’s launched and edited blogs for companies as diverse as Nokia, Microsoft, All things Moomin, Digital Chocolate and Sports Tracker. He is also the author of SPELLBOUND: Stories of Women’s Magic over Men, and has had his prize-winning fiction broadcast on BBC radio. You can find him on Twitter