As a marketer you should always be trying to figure out which content is connecting with your audience best. Once you find successful content, you want to recreate those desired results as many times as possible. However, when you content goes viral, you have to be careful how you attribute that success. Is your content’s success the exception or the new rule thumb.
I recently had the good fortune of being chosen by @Instagram as the feature image for the #Manhattanhenge highlight. An exciting event that flooded my phone with notifications. The results were 1,500+ likes on my photo, and a doubling of my modest following. Residual effects were more likes on other photos in my account and some blog traffic. And just for bragging rights, the “regram” that Instagram put up of my photo on their account received the highest number of likes in their most recently shared photos.
However, these “health metrics” – amount of engagement and following and other metrics – are not always an indicator that the content is good! The notion that a lot of likes and reach is an indicator of good content undermines the real work behind influencer programs and viral content. So, when you have a “success” stop and ask, “Is this success a true indicator of how interesting my content was or how interesting one popular person thought it was?” When your content becomes popular mainly because a single profile shared it, the content itself may not have played a roll it in at all. The people who engaged with it may be taking actions only because it was shared by someone they like, rather than the content being intriguing to them. You would not be doing yourself any justice to continue to create similar content, without first properly testing that content again. You must also be sure that your current audience engaged with and enjoyed your content and not just a bunch of new followers.
Sunsets, food, and animals are the the bread and butter content on Instagram. But my image did not become popular because it caught fire with my followers and was shared over and over again. The photo became popular because one popular profile thought it was interesting. It was a perfect storm of a topical hashtag and a committee at Instagram that pushed it to a greater audience – a non-replicable circumstance; an exception. This does not mean that all my future photos should be sunsets from the city, or sunsets in general for that matter. It is the perfect example of why your intermediate successes should not become the rule by which you select your content.
Proper diagnosis of the cause for your content’s success in addition to the “health metrics” is how you should determine your future content choices. Which content is resonating with your current audience, and helping you attract new fans? How are you building stronger connections with those new followers?