The Internet is a strange and wonderful thing. A guy raises $40,000 on Kickstarter to make potato salad. A photogenic pet gains millions of social media followers, then cashes in with a book deal. A daily TV show and several dozen Internet magazines attempt to cover what happens every day on the web.
I find it fascinating. How did this piece of Internet content become so popular? Why do I like the way that brand presents itself? Ask yourself enough of these questions and eventually you discover the answers. You observe. You research. You test things out. You repeat.
One of the first times I harnessed the power of the Internet was just over two years ago. It was a bit ridiculous, but I had fun and I learned things. May 2012: François Hollande was favored to win the French Presidency. Otters Who Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch graced the front page of BuzzFeed.
Like Cumberbatch, Hollande had great expressions, with ample photographic examples available. The round-faced, wide-eyed wombat wasn’t the Internet’s favorite animal at the time, but it certainly had a following. Baby wombat photos were plentiful.
I’d hit several home runs creating community posts that ended up on the front page of BuzzFeed, gaining what seemed to be a level of competence/legitimacy in the eyes of their community content curator others hadn’t. An idea was born: Wombats & François.
The experiment went better than I’d initially hoped. It was certainly a bit intoxicating reading French media outlets’ attempts to explain a wombat to a European audience. But my mistake at the time was not having a clear follow-up plan or goal. I’d only gone so far as to try something out and see what happened. So back I went to the basics: observe, research, test, repeat.
Around this time I also transitioned from writing arts journalism and listicles to successful grant narratives and fundraising appeals. I learned that some elements of persuasive writing are universal. More practice. More testing. More proof of concept. Fastforward to today.
It’s still not all that difficult to get significant Internet attention, but what you do with that captive audience is where the real skill comes in. What I’ve learned: You have to have a plan and a goal before you start publishing.
You can’t just create a blog for its own sake. You can’t make a Facebook page for your business or start tweeting about your day and be done. The plan and goal needs to come first. Then, amazing things can happen.