Buzz Is A Vital Element Of Digital PR

An unfortunate reality about both companies and people who want to gain a following on the web is that we’ll never hear about most of them.  The problem is we’re never told about them directly by peers, they’re severely lacking in the digital PR department.  The only reason I notice the obscure ones in the first place is because I’m the only geek actively taking the time to dig through the unknown brands, people and companies and studying their marketing efforts (along with the popular ones, of course).

There is actually as much to learn from those without a following as those with a following.  This is because we need to see both sides of the story as marketers to provide proper consulting.  My main observation of those who haven’t gained much traction isn’t that they are lacking from the perspective of high quality content or having a compelling brand/personality – not at all.  What they’re lacking is buzz as part of their strategy.  Because after all, word of mouth buzz on the web is the most organic form of PR there is.

Those who do catch on in a big way do things on a consistent basis that break through the clutter and help them stand out in a world of infinite choice.  True viral content matters – it’s what is going to introduce you to the world.  Not viral in the sense that it needs millions of views, it just has to spread between people within your niche without any effort from you other than publishing.  Find a formula, rinse, repeat and eventually your industry will realize you’re unmissable.

Not all of your content needs to be this type of material that gets shared by everyone in your niche, but it should be a part of your editorial mix.  Here are some of the benefits of incorporating buzz as an element of your digital PR:

Branding in the social web

Making page one of Digg or Twitturly helps brand you as a site which is social media friendly.  I don’t care if a bunch of the traffic bounces, the early adopters will see you and they’ll be encouraged to share your stuff in the future because they know it’s going to spread.  Ideally, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle where your site’s popularity feeds into itself.  If I’m building up an audience of “sneezers” – the people who actively tell the most other people about me – I don’t care if my bounce rate is high.

Niche-specific viral content breeds interactions

Aside from links, you’re going to create lots of conversations surrounding your material, which if you are the impetus for a larger conversation, visitors should flow over time back to your original content.  Don’t look at it as a deluge all it once, see the longer-term value it creates to be positioned as a leader.

Making buzz a natural part of your mix conditions readers to share

If you find a specific formula that works for you, don’t be afraid to keep using it.  Perhaps 1 out of every 10 pieces of content designed for buzz is a good mix, because readers aren’t going to share everything you publish if you do so with a decent degree of frequency.  After enough content experiments, you’ll get a feel for what your audience enjoys sharing, and it will get easier to develop this type of material.

Creating buzz-friendly content tagged to a complementary niche exposes you to entirely new audiences

Is the attention to your brand hitting a plateau?  Perhaps you’re missing out on a complementary niche or topic that both current subscribers will find interesting and also appeal to new readers outside the current base.  I’m a fan of mixing niches, especially when you can get into a growing vertical that will benefit from your main ideas.  Besides, interesting results always happen at the intersection.

Plays into law 6 and 8 of the 48 laws of power (applied to blogging)

Law 6:  court attention at all costs

Everyone in the marketing/PR world know this is true – what is visible is all that matters, and what is unseen counts for nothing.  Attention is one of the most valuable assets of the current economy, and focused attention is a rare resource on the web.

Law 8:  make other people come to you – use bait if necessary

When people come to you through a trusted referral you’re far better positioned than if you had to pay directly for that attention through advertising.  Pull is the most powerful strategy on the web, whereas push is largely ignored.

One of the only ways to reach early adopters

As Aaron Wall points out:

…the people who are ahead of the curve with technology are often the hardest to influence via advertising, and are the least receptive of offers unless they hear of them recommended from friends.

The friends of early adopters are in many cases other early adopters, who are in reality are other content producers, when brought together have a large sphere of influence which eventually trickles down to regular users.  And no denying it, the early adopters like buzz-friendly content and ideas.

Links/engine juice

Content that’s designed to spread is going to get links, the lifeblood of the web.  Enough links and authority from the engines will ensure all other content you publish is going to rank well and gain search visibility.  Links are measurable too, so that’s another tangible ROI for material designed to permeate a niche aside from raw numbers of visitors and subscriber conversations.  Look at it this way – even if you don’t convert tons of subscribers, those links could potentially be even more valuable, especially if you have a bigger-picture SEO strategy behind what you’re doing.  Do keep in mind, linkbait content is just one element of your link-building mix, but it is an undeniably strong tactic – I wouldn’t ignore it.

Content is advertising, and advertising is content – and good versions of both still require reach

As Mike Masnick of Techdirt pointed out last year, advertising is content (and content is advertising).  So if you can permeate a niche with content that people spread and share like crazy, you’ve amassed a group who will handle your brand’s advertising for you.  Points to keep in mind from Mike:

  • The captive audience is dead. There is no captive audience online. Everyone surfing the web has billions of choices on what they can be viewing, and they don’t want to be viewing intrusive and annoying ads. They’ll either ignore them, block them or go elsewhere.
  • Advertising is content. You can’t think of ads as separate things any more. Without a captive audience, there’s no such thing as “advertising” any more. It’s just content. And it needs to be good/interesting/relevant content if you want to get anyone to pay attention to it.
  • Content is advertising. Might sound like a repeat of the point above, and in some way it is — but it’s highlighting the flip side. Any content is advertising. It’s advertising something. Techdirt content “advertises” our business even if you don’t realize it. Every bit of content advertises something, whether on purpose or not.
  • Content needs to be useful/engaging/interesting. This simply ties all of that together. If you want anyone to pay attention to your content (which is advertising something, whether on purpose or not) it needs to be compelling and engaging.

Essentially, if you can create something for buzz, realize that content is actively advertising your brand even if it’s not a direct route to create a lead.  Remember, social media is less about ROI and more about influence.

Make bold moves for attention and prove you’re a leader

Every company is now a media company.  And what defines a successful media company?  Attention – something that is a result of creating content with the purpose of spreading.  Without attention, which in time will lead to a subscriber base, you’re invisible.  Start to think more like a media company would – in other words, how do I actively court the attention of a like-minded group of people?  If your success as an individual or business is tied to visibility, this is essential.


I’ve read a few web purists who state that developing content for buzz is “selling out.”  Ironically enough, their articles were designed to do just that.  The truth is, content designed to spread is a strong part of every site’s growth strategy and can fit within almost any niche.  The way to do it is make it fit within your character and keep it authentic to yourself.  Don’t create something that’s gimmicky or controversial just to get views – that will cheapen your brand – make it play into all your other material.  Here are some ideas to get you started if you’re a blogger, but ultimately the type of content you’re producing doesn’t matter, it’s more about activating your audience.

Related posts from The Future Buzz

6 Buzzworthy Laws All Web Marketers Should Understand

The Shift Of Trusted, Influential Media: From Brands To People

5 Effective Linkbait And Link Generation Strategies

Related posts from around the web

Design and Appearance: Affecting the Results in Social Media (10e20 blog)

The Key to Effective Viral Marketing is Emotional Engagement (Dosh Dosh)

Use These 10 Tips to Write Your Most Popular Post Ever (Daily Blog Tips)

image credit:  torek (via flickr cc)