Despite how hard everyone seems to try, it can be difficult to get noticed on the Internet; after all, there are a lot of people out there competing to get their voices heard, and it's easy to get overlooked with all of that digital noise.
For those Web professionals that are trying hard to build up some long-term authority in their industries, this climb to relevance is even more arduous and painstaking, as it takes time (and lots of it), as well as great content, tons of networking and measurable success, to really become an authority.
But we all have to start somewhere, and sometimes for the up-and-coming Web worker, the best thing they can do right now is just get any recognition. So, if you're only interested in establishing your name and getting 15 minutes of virtual fame (for the time being), here are five steps that you can take to do just that. As they say, any publicity is good publicity.
Step #1: Create Something
In order to gain digital popularity, you must first produce some type of content that will grab an audience's attention. One way to do this is by creating something that answers a commonly asked question within your niche. For example, an apparel retailer could create a guide for "Choosing Your Best Color" in a blog post, while a fitness expert could create an infographic about the "Dangers of Fast Food."
It is also important to note, however, that although most content forms have the potential to go viral, visual content like videos, images and infographics, tend to resonate better with audiences and are more "shareable" in the social world. That being said, it is important to include branding within content, as well as hashtags when possible, so that consumers will be able to identify where the content came from. This will not only provide free marketing for your brand, but it also has the potential to drive traffic to your website.
Step #2: Post It
Once you've created your intriguing content, it's time to put it out there for others to see, react to and share accordingly. How you go about doing this will depend greatly on the type of content you produce, but regardless of what it is, you should start by making sure it's on your website and/or blog, so that when people find it, they can also find you.
However, you shouldn't stop there. You should also post your content in those places on the Internet where it is most likely to be found. For example, if you created a video, upload it to YouTube (which has 800 million-plus unique montly users), Vimeo, DailyMotion or any of the other dozens of video hosting services on the 'Net. Same goes with posting photos to Flickr, Imgur or a similar service. Just anywhere that users are going to go to look specifically for that type of content.
Step #3: Share It
After the content is prepped and posted, it is time to share it with the world. While it is important to share content through email and on large social sites like Facebook and Twitter, you should also take time to share it on news-discovery sites like Reddit and Digg, so that it will have the ability to reach additional audiences.
Moreover, it is also important to share your content with the audience that will appreciate it the most, which are typically the people within your niche. To do this, you can target specific people on Twitter, post the content within relevant LinkedIn groups or spread the word within smaller and more targeted social networks.
Step #4: Talk About It
Word-of-mouth still remains one of the most effective ways to make your content go viral and soak in those 15 minutes of fame. Thankfully, the Internet has made word-of-mouth marketing exponentially easier; in fact, it's so easy that basically anyone can do it.
Forums, blogs and the various comment sections that can be found on most content-based websites are all great places to go to spread the word about your cool new video, image, blog post or whatever it is you've created. Generally, getting into these discussions is as easy as signing up for an account on the website (which usually only requires a working email address), and then you can start talking about your new content and sharing links to it with potentially interested parties. All you need to do is make sure that the forum or blogs you're commenting on are attached to websites that cater to your target audience, so that you won't be talking to disinterested users. Also, try not to spam these boards with links to your content, but rather just mention it in a conversation (or as a conversation starter) to generate some organic interest among the users. Allowing the attention to grow on its own and not annoying everyone is going to be your best chance at helping your content go viral.
Step #5: Capitalize On It
While everyone can appreciate 15 minutes of fame, the most successful people find a way to capitalize on it. After all, it would be silly to let a surge in website traffic go to waste.
This is why it is important to identify the goal of your viral content. For example, is the goal to drive people to your site, so they can see your new merchandise or big sale? Or is the goal to acquire more subscribers on your email list? Regardless of what the goal is, it is vital to identify what the expected outcome of your viral campaign is and prepare for it; that way, you can get the most out of the traffic that your captivating content is sure to send to your site.
Allison Howen is an Associate Editor at Website Magazine, writing primarily about ecommerce and social media.
Michael Garrity is an Associate Editor at Website Magazine, focusing primarily on search, design and development and affiliate marketing.