Creating Buzz Online: A Short Guide

How exactly do you create a buzz online? As a digital marketing strategist, it’s something I’m asked quite often, and unfortunately there is no right (or wrong) answer, no way to accurately predict what will catch on and what will fall flat. Spending hours upon hours of time in social media sites, personal blogs, search engines, MySpace pages, message forums, etc., I have been studying exactly what makes the web tick, and how people are both consciously and inadvertently creating huge waves online.

The things that catch on big online are so diverse, you can’t pin it to any one genre or category. So for this post, I’ll put aside any specific sorting so that I can help all of you create a buzz – because the cool part of the web is that really anyone can make a splash with an idea, a website, a blog, a business or a non-profit.

So what exactly do you need to create a buzz?

First, you’ll need a message/idea/product/service.
It has to be something worth spreading…and you have to offer something of value. It has to be unique, personal and relevant. And it has to be something that’s spread-able. The good news is that you do have essentially infinite space to experiment, create ideas and send them out. You’ll put out plenty of stuff that go nowhere, but refining ideas, posts, your voice and personal philosophies is all part of the process. Take your time for sure, but learn as you go.

Second, you’ll need an avenue.
You’ll need a personal blog, a website, a social network, a YouTube account, etc. to get your idea out of your head and into the physical medium. I would highly suggest, for personal branding purposes, you create your own blog or website with your own domain name so that if your idea does catch on, you’re fully credited and can receive all the windfall yourself (visitors, clicks, ad revenue, etc.). The mistake a lot of people make is putting out ideas without developing their own platform to launch them. It’s vital to have that down if you want to garner followers and motivate people on a long term basis. They (your readers) will start to look at your site as a trusted brand.   This avenue should be your ‘home base’ for idea generation.

Third, you’ll need readers so your idea can actually spread.
Great, so you have your brilliant idea, and you have your own branded space for that idea to come into fruition. But, without readers or viewers, your idea isn’t going to go spread anytime soon. So the third tip is to be active on all the social networks and blogs relevant to your news and leverage them to help get the word out. The best part about the social web is it offers so many different and unique ways to spread ideas online. Besides some basic strategies for generating readers, and the obvious tools you can use to spread your content (like Digg, Reddit, etc.), you’ll still need that core group of subscribers, who may actually start to do this part for you (here’s some tips on getting them). But this can only happen if your content is just so important and so vital they have to share it.

Fourth, you’ll need to be prepared to fail.
Unfortunately, like I stated at the beginning of this post, not everything you put online will resonate with a massive audience. In fact, much of your content may not even be read at all – perhaps falling into obscurity until you’ve built up enough of an interest in your content that people start flipping through the archives. But, do realize that if you post something to your personally branded page, someone, at some point may stumble-upon it. And people will paint their image of you from the first piece of content they come across from you. Hopefully it’s a positive picture. Anyway, you need to realize not everything is going to catch on in a big way…but if you spend enough time in this environment, you’ll start to see what has the greatest chances of success.

Fifth, the message needs to be easily consumable.
I love to read books – especially ones with tons of examples, case studies, research and personal stories to back up the thesis presented. But on the web, your message needs to communicate succinctly to your audience if it has any chance of catching on in a big way. That’s not to say your idea can’t be intellectual and challenging, it definitely can be, especially online. But the idea should be easily spread – your elevator pitch matters.

Sixth, don’t forget to use email, message boards and web 1.0 stuff to your advantage too.
Not everyone is using blogs and new media the way you and I are. There are plenty of people still using message boards, email and user-groups to spread ideas. To not use these to your advantage is a mistake, because generally users active on one message board are sure to be active on others and will repost a good idea. There are also plenty of people who go between message boards, social networks and blogs. You’ll want your message in all the different forms of web communication that exist. Also, sending emails to a list of your friends is something to consider. Don’t do this often, and only do this when you’ve got something you know they’ll really enjoy. There’s a huge difference between what is compelling and what is spam. Consider creating separate email lists between your contacts each with the aim of sending specific content.

Seventh, engage the media and leverage wire services to spread your idea.
They’re not just for PR people. Use a wire service like PRWeb – bearing your message isn’t spam and you write your release in the correct format, they’ll put it on their wire which is widely read by online reporters, and will run on their RSS feed for the categories you choose. Go to the trade publications that might find your idea useful and pitch it to them – you can usually find the correct writer’s email addresses on those pages with a little bit of research. When all else fails, call the publication and ask (it’s usually that simple). Alternatively, you can use Google News and search for news stories related to what your idea is, then follow-up with a reporter who wrote something similar on perhaps writing your story next.

Your message can catch on in a big way at any point along the way, there’s no way of telling what will be that one place that makes it really catch on. So a multi-tiered approach is desired – the more places your idea exists, the more chances it has on going viral.

This will all be for not, of course, unless your idea, message or product is something innovative and creative. That’s where you should be spending the greatest amount of time – refining that idea. Because in the end, that’s what matters most, and the good ones are self-reciprocating and will make all of this execution simple. It’s infinitely easier to spread an idea, a website, a blog or a business that’s catchy than try to force one to spread online. You’ll know quickly enough if your idea is one of those ideas.