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Going Viral: How Michigan Future reached 400,000 readers in one blog post

In Strategic Communications by Natalie Kozma

Going viral. What every client wants and what no firm in the world can offer.

Why? Because the internet is random. If you need proof, need I remind you that Rebecca Black is still a thing?

Viral content on the internet is not always quality content (as I’m sure you’ve seen), but at Martin Waymire we strive to put out the best content possible for our clients to give them the best opportunity to tell their story.

That’s why the story I’m about to tell you is so special.

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In 2017, Michigan Future released its first statewide public policy agenda designed to help guide Michigan political candidates running in the 2018 election. Michigan Future’s research focuses on what policies would make Michigan prosperous in a 21st Century economy.

We were tasked with coordinating in-person meetings with political candidates to review the Michigan Future policy agenda and help them understand why they should run on it.

Another challenge: I needed to make Michigan Future a thought leader in its areas of expertise – like talent, public investments and place making – and use digital media to amplify the reach of its key messages. To reach that goal, I also needed to convince the client that social media advertising was worth it.

THE STORY: PRE-VIRAL 

Before I started working with Michigan Future, the blog section of its website never included a featured image for posts. The only method of sharing the blog was through an e-newsletter distributed to subscribers who could sign up if they found the blog through word of mouth or stumbled on the website. Right away I made some simple, but big changes.

I started counseling the Michigan Future bloggers on headlines, made recommendations on where to use subheads to improve readability, inserted keywords to improve SEO, etc. The biggest change I made: Images. I searched for compelling images to include for each blog. Sometimes I designed images to match the content.

Then, I designed a paid digital strategy to share the blogs on Facebook and an organic strategy for Twitter. I targeted Facebook users living in Michigan who were more likely to engage in political issues (because our blog readers were policy wonks, and we needed to keep attracting that type of reader). I kept the social copy short and punchy. Searched relevant hashtags. Posted consistently.

Each month, I created a schedule for the bloggers to follow (they did the hard part … writing about these complicated topics and breaking it down for readers so well). We organized our blog posts by topic and included icons in each post that readers could click on to find more related blogs.

 

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THE STORY: POST-VIRAL

Michigan Future kept blogging. We kept up with our strategy. Day after day. Our website traffic was pretty modest – we averaged nearly 6,000 pageviews per month in 2017. Then on January 5, 2018, Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, wrote a short post titled, “Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills.” We shared it to social and the internet went nuts for it. In January alone, the post had 99,000 pageviews. The client, naturally, was astounded by these numbers and asked why this post did so well.

My response: headline + image + social media.

We had to give Michigan Future’s amazing work the chance to go viral. Things go viral from a high volume of shares. A high volume of shares happens from quality content, AKA quality images and hooking headlines that don’t mislead people.

I used a tool called CrowdTangle to dig a bit deeper to find out how this post went viral, and turns out a few influencers (folks with big followings) shared the post. That was lucky, but credit should still go to the Michigan Future team for putting out quality content every day that educates people on important topics.

At the end of March 2018, the blog post had more than 465,000 pageviews. It keeps getting new reads each day, sometimes as many as 20,000. 

​Pretty amazing stuff. Pretty amazing client.