‘Can you make me go viral?’ is the No. 1 question that I am asked by clients and members of audiences when I speak on content creation and social media marketing. Most business owners, celebrities—shoot—even everyday folks, have something to sell or say; want to gain the attention of their intended market and audience; and reach as many people as possible.
However, going viral is a double-edged sword, because as the old adage states, “you have to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” This basically means that if you aren’t ready you can lose out on opportunities and money.
‘Going viral’ simply means that you gain the traction for a piece of content—video, article, meme—that reaches large numbers of people. For people in business that can translate into sales. In social media marketing virality is an organic form of word of mouth on steroids.
And that’s exactly what happened recently with a new Facebook group. If you were on social media during the past two weeks, you likely saw references to the Beard Game Matters Facebook group, started by Mike McMillan, founder of Big Beard Brand/Man Cave Essentials. And not only has the group soared on social media but it has also been featured in traditional print and broadcast media, such as The Real daytime TV show.
(Shahid Zhyir, 46,000 Facebook reactions. Image: Shahid Zhyir)
If you did not see reference or have not heard of the group, imagine this: A business owner starts a Facebook group to sell his beard products. He posts pictures of beautiful (predominantly black) men, sporting beautifully groomed beards. He then opens the group to the world. Sounds like a perfectly sensible and well-thought-out marketing plan, right? If you build it, they will come. Well, this group caught the attention of a number of men, looking to share pics about their beards, and THAT caught the attention of women who love—I mean LOVE—bearded men. And come they did! But, was the right thing built?
I was added to the group by a bearded friend on maybe Tuesday or Wednesday of the launch week (it was already boasting about 85,000 members). Three short days later, by Friday, when I actually peeked into the group, it was at about 129,000 members. It was a Friday and the comments by some of the women were so hilarious and the pictures were so beautiful. I figured, ‘what a great distraction from our gloomy current events.’ I was not alone. Distraction or not, there was no arguing that within its first week the Beard Game Matters Facebook group had officially gone “viral.”
But by Saturday, as the group swelled to about 365,000 members—136,000 new members in under 24 hours—I was exasperated. Not because of the crazy comments and sheer dominance of the posts squeezing out almost all other discussions on my Facebook news feed. No, I was confused because I couldn’t see how the founder was monetizing the apparent ‘gold mine’ he’d created. His group was popular, but I wanted to know if it was profitable. And, I was not alone in my exasperation.
Free Marketing is Great, But Not if Dollars are Lost!
“I just want him to put a Facebook pixel on his website!” This was part of a running conversation, partially in private in our Facebook inboxes, and partially in public on our Facebook pages, that my dear friend and social media consulting colleague Courtney Herring, founder of The Champ Media Agency, and I had all weekend and into the following week as we watched the group grow from 365,000 to 500,000 to over a million members in under 10 days (as of this writing 9/27/2017 the group boasts 1,471,245 members, growing by almost half a million new members in under 48 hours)!
Because Courtney and I eat and sleep social media content production and marketing, by Saturday we had peered behind the Great Oz’s curtain, so to speak. We looked at the founder’s website (http://bigbeardbrand.com) and he didn’t have a Facebook pixel–a simple device that you install on your website so that you can capture, track, and, most importantly, market to visitors to your website, even when they don’t make a purchase or give you their email address when they visit your site.
Ever wonder why those new shoes you looked at on Amazon are showing up in your Facebook newsfeed? Amazon, and most online retailers, has a pixel, that attaches to you, knows you visited the site, knows what you looked at and then that you didn’t purchase, so Amazon follows you around, right onto Facebook, Instagram, and everywhere else online that you visit, to subtly remind you, “Hey, don’t forget you were considering buying these shoes. You know you want them.” Pixels can be used in a number of ways that are very helpful to businesses looking to reach new audiences, as well as convert those ‘warm leads’ aka visitors into sales.
A pixel is an extremely simple device, which is not only FREE, but can be installed by anyone, on most hosted websites, IN MINUTES! So, when Courtney and I uncovered that the Beard Game Matters founder’s website was missing this simple device, our interest in his monetization strategy was piqued even further. On what other monetization opportunities may he be missing out?
Prepare to be Profitable
Following is a quick list of a few things you can do BEFORE going viral, that will enable you to have the opportunity to reap big financial reward for your marketing efforts.
- If you create a Facebook group, close the group and capture emails for new members before they join. Once they join they will no longer have an incentive to give you their email address—or you’ll need to create a new incentive. Remember, Facebook owns the user, until you have a way to connect with her directly, i.e., via her email address.
- Use email and contact management platforms such as MailChimp or AWeber. Using something like Google Docs/Sheets is inefficient and can be vulnerable to hacking. Many contact management services are free depending on your email list size, and will enable you to sort and target people as your list grows. (Added bonus, most ensure that you stay on the right side of online marketing laws).
- Add a Facebook pixel to your website. This will ensure that you can track and retarget visitors to your website and learn more about their online buying habits. Big Brother is watching and, in this instance, YOU are Big Brother.
- Acknowledge what you don’t know and adjust accordingly. When it comes to marketing and social media virality, things move rather quickly. This can be great if you’re positioned to capitalize and monetize. If you’re not familiar with social media marketing, then I highly suggest that you hire someone who is. Investing in a professional social media marketer can position you to reap financial benefits from your efforts for the long term.
- BONUS: You do NOT have to start a Facebook group to capitalize on the benefits of a Facebook group. Member, Shahid Zhyir (pictured), gained over 46,000 reactions on his first post in the group and hundreds of friend requests. Zhyir is now exploring brand ambassador and modeling opportunities.
It Can Be Very Smart to Pivot. But How Wise is a Pirouette?
In recent years, as we look at launching lean and ideologies out of the Lean Startup movement, the word ‘pivot’ has become prevalent. In a nutshell, founders are encouraged to launch their ideas to market quickly and with as little upfront cost as possible and then ‘iterate’ or ‘pivot’—tweak or modify—their ideas to adjust to what consumers are willing to pay for. The concept in theory provides real-time market research.
In addition to being prepared when your product or service goes viral, you may also capitalize if your market dictates that you pivot—change direction from your initial offering. I emphasize may, because, depending on your team, market knowledge, etc. it may prove prudent in the long term to stay your course. The Beard Game Matters Facebook group founder says he started the group, “to have a collective space to collaborate with other men with beards and to promote his beard care products.” What he uncovered is that ALL social media is an opportunity for online dating.
And this is where it appears he has chosen to not just pivot but to change course completely. The group has gone from a place for bearded men to share grooming information to a place for bearded men “and the women who love them” to connect, romantically. The group now boasts opportunities for in-person singles mixers around the country and group members can sign up to get on the waiting list of the soon-to-be-launched Beard Game Matters online dating site.