First off, let me define explosive content: it should blow something up (in a good way) -- your email inbox, web page traffic, downloads or whatever other call to action you have. Second, this is not the definitive guide to anything. These are my personal epiphanies I’ve had while writing content with Entrepreneur. Lastly, the quality of content matters to me. I’m not interested in simply putting out content that has high exposure but lacks in substance. Let’s proceed with these points in mind.
Recently, I wrote an article on Entrepreneur.com, 6 Life Hacks Learned in Prison to Maximize Productivity. The article was picked up by TIME Magazine last week, and I experienced a flurry of emails, writing requests, new potential business, new Facebook group signups and a ton of other opportunities.
The same thing happened last month when I wrote an article on Entreprenur.com titled, 21 Tips for First Time Entrepreneurs. The article was featured on Fox, Fox News and TIME. I was invited to be a guest on the HuffPost Live stream. I received countless interviews on podcasts, thousands of emails and tons of new business.
Here are the six epiphanies I’ve had to creating explosive content:
1. Catchy headlines are vital.
For the record, there’s a difference between a click-bait headline and a headline that is engaging, unique or intriguing. I’m referring to the latter. I’ve learned that the headline is just as important as the quality of content itself. That’s crazy to think, but reaffirmed with research.
Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, which measures real-time traffic for websites such as Upworthy, has noted: "We've found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading."
Copyblogger notes, “On average, eight out of 10 people will read your headline but only two out of 10 will read the rest of your content.”
Here are 3 recent headlines that have gone viral for me:
- 6 Brilliant Lessons From the Startup World’s New Rich
- 16 Entrepreneurs Share 16 Tools They Cannot Live Without
- 6 Life Hacks Learned in Prison to Maximize Your Productivity
As you can see, each is unique in some capacity, and creates some sort of emotional draw.
2. Make people look good with your content.
With the above point in mind, it’s imperative to create headlines that are engaging and shareable (keeping in mind that the quality of content should matter most).
Think further about what sharing content means: people “own” the content that they share. The content they share represents their style of personal brand, represents how they think and ultimately represents who they are (even if it’s in a small way).
Most people want to be perceived as being smart, knowledgeable, cool, modern or whatever positive image they’re going for. Yes, spoiler alert, social media can be somewhat narcissistic (gasp).
Just as it’s important in real life to make people look good, I’ve learned that I am rewarded with shares and traffic when I make people look good with my content.
3. Use tools.
When I first started writing, I wanted to get into the habit of writing, and was simply pumping out content. After forming the habit, I am now interested in improving my writing skills, the quality of my content and receiving more shares and exposure for my writing. Some tools I use to help improve are:
- Buzzsumo to better understand what type of content is being shared the most on any given website.
- Topsy to see who has engaged with my content to help me better understand my reader audience and connect with influencers.
- Portent Title Maker when needing to get my creative juices flowing and coming up with unique article titles.
These three tools have helped improve my writing by helping me focus on content people want, helped me to understand my audience through tracking who engages with my content and has given me title ideas when figuring out how to title my articles uniquely.
4. Include influencers and tell them.
One share from an influencer can create an exponential effect. The secret I’ve learned to this important point is to simply include your favorite influencers in your writings. I constantly include my favorite companies, products and/or entrepreneurs.
Further, after I publish the article, I send an email, tweet or message to these companies and/or people letting them know. Nine out of 10 times those companies and/or people will thank me, and share the content through their own channels.
5. Use your unique experiences.
Using your unique experiences is an important point for two reasons:
- This is a way to establish your credibility, expertise and experience in your industry, or whatever topic it is you’re addressing.
- In a world full of copycats and content biters, drawing off of your personal experience helps to eliminate that issue and empowers you to create unique and unduplicatable content.
The content market space/startup world is very crowded, and through some of my personal experiences and startup journey, I’ve been able to carve out a unique space for myself in an otherwise stuffy room.
6. There are no guarantees.
Even with all of this in mind, there’s no guarantee the content I create is going to go bonkers all over the Internet, and land me the seven-figure book deal that I’m holding out for.
In fact, some of the stories that I thought were going to have the most shares and traffic were some of the least shared. I’ve learned that there’s no guarantee. It’s fun to test and get better in the process as I love learning in everything I do, but virality is never guaranteed. The moral of this lesson is to focus on high quality anyway, so that even if you don’t hit your “content share” goals you’re still creating great content.
We discuss the topic of viral content and many other topics in my private Facebook group I created for entrepreneurs. Request an invite here and join more than 7,000 other entrepreneurs.