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Social media publishing for viral promotion of company content

Regular people like self-published author John Locke have used social media publishing to promote their content virally. Enterprises can do the same.

An author named John Locke is the first person to have sold a million e-books without a publisher. He did it using a technique he developed called "loyalty transfer." It's a means of drawing an audience to content by promoting a brand, using ubiquitous (and free) social media mechanisms.

Scott RobinsonScott Robinson

Locke used the power of social media publishing to find readers who might take an interest in his work, and then spread information about his work virally through that circle. We'll explore his use of the loyalty transfer method, which an enterprise can adapt to create a larger, more engaged following for its content.

Getting the word out

There are several variations on Locke's method, each fine-tuned for a different scenario. His objective is, of course, to promote his own branded content -- his e-books -- by using social media techniques to drive new customers his way.

The goal is to do what Locke did: to go from zero to 1 million in just a few tweets -- without spending a lot of money to get there.

Enterprises have a similar goal. Many organizations have large amounts of content: product announcements, information about services, news about acquisitions, important issues and so on. They need to get the word out into the public arena either to attract new customers or to inform existing customers. There are, of course, standard channels by which most organizations already make such content available (the organization's website, various blogs, content pages on social media platforms, email address lists), but these are only distributed to existing customers, and are only accessible otherwise as search engine results or paid ads on Facebook and other high-traffic sites.

The goal is to do what Locke did: to go from zero to 1 million in just a few tweets -- without spending a lot of money to get there.

Tapping existing loyalties

The psychology of Locke's method is simple: He presents his brand on the Internet where there are users who already have an interest in the type of content he wants them to see. He achieves this by attaching his brand to content in the forms of his personal hashtag, links to his author's website and direct links to his books.

Locke builds a bridge to potential customers by writing brief blog essays that don't relate directly to his books (or to him) and publishing them on his website. Each essay employs a theme, however, that is associated with one of his novels, and he includes a true story about a person of note.

He then heads to Twitter, where he finds that famous person's hashtag, then tracks down several hundred of that person's Twitter followers. He writes a tweet about his essay, including the link to his site (or directly to an e-book), including his own hashtag -- and @s the tweet out to those several hundred people. It immediately goes viral. This method is easily tailored to the task of driving new customers to enterprise content.

Tag, you're it!

While Locke's method of writing a blog post to serve as the subject of a Twitter post is effective, there's another way that's less labor-intensive. Most social media outlets are fed by a number of popular websites (including The Huffington Post, Salon and Upworthy) that produce articles for mass consumption. The entire point of this content is that it goes viral, as social media entertainment.

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Locke's loyalty transfer in this context works differently. Once quality content is found for the tweet, a quick Twitter check finds users who follow the subject, and from that point forward, the method is the same, though the downstream users may or may not end up on your blog. In some cases, you may only promote your hashtag; but you've associated it with external content that is related to your brand, and it's gone viral, so you've still promoted your brand, albeit indirectly.

The central point is this: Social media makes it possible to readily associate your public enterprise content with popular, viral content that is already in distribution; you can, in effect, boost your brand by creating such associations.

In the process, new customers are acquired, and you can build address lists for future marketing. You invest only your time, which is minimal -- and the returns, in promotion of your content and your brand, can be huge.

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Good article, Scott. One warning I'd give to companies looking to follow this model, though, is to be careful about the associations you attempt to make, as they could end up backfiring if you're too blatant about trying to boost your brand. @replying a bunch of people at once can annoy some people, so you really want to pick the influencers out (which isn't too hard to do especially if you work with a niche topic).

Tracking the impact of that brand reach is key, too, so you can see what worked and what didn't and plan better for the next round.