A good marketer should believe in every piece of content they publish. They put it out in the world because they believe there’s an audience for it, and that audience will find it engaging and valuable. But every now and again, something amazing happens – a piece sees huge engagement, far beyond what anyone would have projected.
Usually, it’s cause for celebration – especially if it immediately creates some new leads or conversation around your brand. But it also raises a lot of questions: how did this happen, why did people like this so much, and most importantly, how can we make this happen again?
Following up after a runaway hit is tough, especially one that you didn’t see coming. So, what can you do to make the most of your moment, create momentum from it, and prevent it from becoming a lone anomaly in your marketing metrics?
Your first task: identify and isolate the ‘why’
If a content piece has been a huge hit, the first step towards replicating or continuing that success is identifying exactly what it was that drove so many people to engage with it. And to work that out, you’ll need to look far beyond the content piece itself.
To get a clear picture of the ‘why’, you’ll want to talk to:
- The team responsible for creating the content to identify if there’s anything that they felt was of particularly high or unique value across the piece. Perhaps they already knew they might have a blockbuster on their hands.
- Your social manager(s) to identify if there were any high-value shares or bits of commentary around the piece that may have driven the spike.
- Sales and service experts to find out if the theme of your content was relevant to a particularly hot topic in the customer base at the time.
- Your customers themselves who, thanks to social media, will often already have told you exactly what it was they liked about the piece. All you need to do is listen.
Breaking the success down and looking at all the possible drivers of your content piece’s explosive results is a really important exercise. It enables you to take highly-targeted next steps, rather than just pushing ahead with the default response to content success – saying ‘well that worked, let’s do more of it.’
It acknowledges that high engagement isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the entire content piece. People could have loved the approach and viewpoint, but not be particularly interested in the topic. An opinion or viewpoint presented through your content could have been controversial, or even drawn a crowd due to how tremendously wrong many people felt you were. Or a high-profile share may be almost entirely responsible for the spike. Each of those scenarios should warrant a very different response.
Capitalise on the short-term hype
With your ‘why’ identified and isolated, your next priority should be getting something out quickly to take advantage of the hype surrounding your content blockbuster. The strategy you choose should align with your ‘why’. Here are a few examples of what that can look like across some common content success driver categories:
- High unique value (e.g. original research): When unique value is the core driver of your content’s success, the fastest and easiest way to extend the attention it’s getting is repurposing and atomising that content piece. Share your findings with more people by breaking your insights down into infographics and digestible social content, or dive deeper into specific findings in standalone content pieces.
- High-value shares: If your demand surge was triggered by a prominent figure in your industry sharing or discussing it, use that as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them immediately. Interview them for their thoughts on the subject, invite them onto your podcast, or explore opportunities for content co-creation with them.
- Hitting a hot topic: If your content just happened to cover the right subject at the right time, it’s important to move fast and get follow-up pieces out into the world before the conversation moves on. Don’t rework your entire strategy around a single theme, but it’s worth taking a short-term detour down a specific path while it’s timely and relevant.
- Active conversation: If your engagement spike can be traced back to particularly active discourse around your content piece, listen closely to that conversation. And quickly prepare a follow-up that addresses the various views put forward by your audience and advances the conversation.
At this stage, speed is extremely important. Don’t get too bogged down in trying to craft the perfect follow-up right away. It’s much more important to seize the hype while it’s still alive. Then, you can focus on applying longer-term lessons across your content strategy.
Apply some long-term lessons
The biggest mistake marketers make following a runaway content hit is not fully unpicking that success and learning broader lessons from it. Again, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of ‘that worked, let’s do more of it.’ It’s a strong enough strategy in the short term, but long-term, that way of thinking is what creates one hit wonders.
If you keep recreating the same piece of content, or following the same theme, your audience is going to lose interest pretty quickly. Instead, you should try your best to recreate the conditions that led to that success.
If you can trace your success back to a high value share, you don’t want to endlessly hound that same person into working or discussing relevant topics with you. Instead, make directly engaging with popular thought leaders a bigger part of your content strategy. Build bonds with others to increase your chances of seeing the same success again, in a new context, with entirely fresh content.
Similarly, if people loved your content for its unique value, prioritise the work that enabled that content to be created. Do more research, gather more data, and invest in fewer pieces of higher value content that you can repurpose in a lot of different ways.
By zooming out and learning broader lessons from each success, you can create sustainable long-term growth and engagement across all of your content. A little bit of short-term hype-seizing is good, but you need to look beyond the content piece itself, and apply those lessons across your entire content and marketing strategy. That way, you can turn a short-term spike into long-term success.