Note from Beth: Earlier this month, I posted shared an article mentioning a warning from Facebook to Page Admins: Your organic reach will decline. I asked fans if they thought paid reach will become a standard part of their strategy. The post prompted lots of comments and complaints, especially from smaller nonprofits without the resources to purchase ads on Facebook. Shaun Dakin shared this petition from change.org asking Facebook to set up an advertising grant program. John Haydon shared an update on “big news” that Facebook is adding a “donate” feature so people can donate to nonprofits through the newsfeed (assuming the posts get into people’s newsfeeds without paid advertising.) Stephanie Clegg was inspired to write this excellent piece in response with some tips for getting better reach without paying. Very useful for small nonprofits with a very limited budget. Ironically, these posts and a few others last week upped my reach by 274% but more importantly supported my goal of generating ideas for blog content!
As Stephanie mentions in her tips, “Create Awesome Content” is at the top of the list. Here’s a case study from Taryn Degnan is the interactive marketing manager at Common Sense Media about their recipe for successful content.
The Photo that Was Worth 25,000 Shares by Taryn Degnan
There’s a running joke within our marketing team about “going viral.” Every marketing professional has heard the words, “Let’s create a viral video!” or “How do we make our story go viral?” but the expectation is often unreasonable given budget, resources, and fan base. Never mind that you don’t create viral content; you create content, and, if it resonates with enough people, consider yourself lucky — and keep doing more of that!
In October, I was tasked with creating a campaign to promote Common Sense Media’s message supporting National Bullying Prevention Month. As an organization that believes in the tremendous power of technology to effect change, our approach to preventing bullying throughout the month was centered on teaching empathy and kindness at a young age using apps and games.
With no marketing budget and a finite amount of time to think big, I came up with a plan. The goal was to break through the noise and strike an emotional chord using images that were directly linked to content on our site. I sent six short pieces of content to our in-house designer and asked her to create simple, text-based images for Facebook that I could sprinkle on our page throughout the month.
As I watched the shares of each image climb from 10 to 50 to nearly 200 in one day, I thought I could give myself a pat on the back and call the campaign a success. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined what would happen next.
Upworthy.com, the popular site that curates “important stuff” and makes it go viral, got ahold of our image. Within hours it had 60,000 likes, 25,000 shares, and more than 1,000 comments.
This powerful message about teaching kids empathy reached far beyond our own audience — and that’s exactly what I’d hoped for.
Here’s what I learned from the experience:
Take risks. Break away from stock photos, use bold colors that might not be part of your organization’s style, and go out on a limb with provocative content. Social media allows us the flexibility and platforms to have a little fun and act on our crazy ideas.
You have all the tools you need to “go viral.” No design chops? No problem. Here are a few free tools to get you started:
- Sites like Sumopaint and Online Image Editor let you edit, add text to, and resize graphics for free right in your browser. You can start with a blank slate for text-based images, too.
- Apps like Afterlight, Over, and PhotoStudio let you edit photos already on your device and save or share them in seconds.
- Don’t forget the basics like PowerPoint and Google Drawings, which have more capabilities than you’ll ever need to create basic visual content.
Learn from others. Start today by following a few new organizations that do it — whatever you think it is — well. Edutopia does a tremendous job of engaging their Facebook followers with striking visual content. They have a tiny design team and some very hands-on social media staffers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and create!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help “going viral.” Curators at Upworthy.com often tweet requests for great content. Share your images and videos with sites like theirs if you think they’re a good fit. It worked for me just last week!
Brand your content. I never expected to see our photo on Upworthy.com, so I’m sure glad I had that link and logo in there for Common Sense Media to receive the credit for the image! It’s already driven a few hundred visits directly to our site, garnered more than 700 new Facebook fans, and created a brand awareness we never thought possible from one photo.
There’s so much more to visual content creation and viral content. I hope this post encourages you to try new things, get creative, and be resourceful with what’s right around you. Tell us in the comments about your plans to start experimenting with it all! If you’ve had success, tell us about that, too.
Taryn Degnan is the interactive marketing manager at Common Sense Media. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, who spends way less time on social media than she does. Contact Taryn or follow her on Twitter.