Misan Harriman is the founder of WhatWe Seee, a viral content platform. Launched a year ago, and still just one man and a laptop, Whatweseee's higher brow, ‘cultural’ content is now seen by c100 million people a month and is followed by ‘slebs Meghan Markle and Cara Delevingne.
Here are Harriman's tips for getting noticed online.
Having your content go viral has become an intoxicating aspiration for nearly every brand, large or small. To such an extent that bigger companies can spend tens of millions a year in pursuit of it.
Ironically, though, the things that fly online can often cost next to nothing to put together and involve hardly any strategy beyond sensing something has potential — and an initial share. A gargantuan budget can help online but it’s by no means the sole driver of success.
One Saturday afternoon a month or two back, for example, I was walking along Guildford High Street when I heard a busker singing Mad World. His voice was extraordinary, so I livestreamed him singing directly to the What We Seee Facebook page. It has now been viewed over 1.6 million times with a huge wave of positive comments.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that companies don’t need to spend vast sums of money and hire ridiculously expensive digital agencies to achieve great things online. Neither does there need to be a huge amount of strategy in place. Doing, or publishing things online that resonate with your company can be as complex as it needs to get.
Drawing on my experience of publishing things online, here are some of the key lessons I have learned. Or to put it in the simplest format possible (because simple generally helps), three things you should and shouldn’t do when promoting your brand on the interweb.
3 things you should NEVER do when selling your company online
- Sell. This can be a tough one for companies to grasp but selling your company online is a surefire way to stop it in its tracks. Instead, run with content that somehow encapsulates your brand, and represents what it’s about. Take the ridiculously popular John Lewis Christmas ads. These say next to nothing about John Lewis but tell great stories and that’s why they work so well. Focus on the content rather than the sell and you’ll sell more.
- Push. Stop only using your social media pages as traffic referral engines to push eyeballs through to your website, where you can monetize them. This kills the engagement of the social media platform you’re using and frustrates the very consumer you are trying to reach. Leaving people to decide how they consume your brand experience is crucial to maintaining an authentic voice.
- Suck up. Don’t, whatever you do, be sycophantic and follow trends or create content that you think will appeal to people: sucking up to people and trying to please them is the beginning of the end. Instead, make or share content that embodies the DNA of your company — do that and the people you’re trying to get through to will eventually find you.
3 things you should ALWAYS do when selling your company online
- Publish video. Video marketing is the future — and due to the power of modern phones and the speed of mobile internet, it is here to stay. The sooner businesses get to grips with video, and start building an archive of video content, the better. For some, it can feel intimidating but the sooner you start the less intimidating it starts to feel.
- Obsess. We live in an age where everyone’s a content creator, from bored dads to Bafta award-winning filmmakers, which is a hell of a lot of noise. To be heard through all this noise you need to be a quality control freak. Only produce or publish content that you 110% believe in. Don’t publish content because you think it’s what is currently trending, and be brave enough to share content that is different but high quality.
- Engage. Traffic and eyeballs are great but the thing that really counts is engagement. If content is king and distribution (the social media channels you use) queen, then engagement — people sharing that content and talking about it — is God. Assess your performance by the level of shares, @'s and comments. They are the true barometer of what you’re doing online.
If I’m trying to say anything, it’s that your best chance of going viral is paying no attention to going viral whatsoever. Just create or do things that resonate with your company’s DNA, never stop trying to surprise, always try to engage with your prospective customers, and only ever publish content that you are 110% happy with.
Oh, and one last thing: go outside your comfort zone from time to time. Stick to these rules and, sooner or later you will have something even better than a viral post: an audience that is always happy and engaged with everything you publish.