How The Cheese Advent Calendar Went Viral
In the very first episode of Viral By Design I’m joined by Annem Hobson, creator of The Cheese Advent Calendar and other viral phenomenons.
We talk about what it takes to build a viral product and how smart PR can be used to engage huge audiences for free.
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- Google Forms – Collect feedback from your list
- Twitter Advanced Search – Research what people are talking about
3 Key Points
- Understanding what your market wants and staying in tune with them.
- Building a list of engaged and interested users you can get feedback from and sell to.
- The Idea is far more important than having a finished product. Stay agile and focus on getting attention.
Twitter is a great place to research viral ideas – people publish their own stream of consciousness all day every day and you can start to spot micro-trends and collective desires.
Using existing social proof that there’s a need or desire for your idea pre-qualifies it to press that it has a good chance of getting attention or resonating with their audience.
Rallying your tribe around a cause, for example #CheeseNotChoc, gives people something bigger to associate with and feel like they’re a part of a movement.
It’s easy to find a wholesale manufacturer to partner with simply by picking up the phone. Annem found a product in the supermarket which had a similar format and simply phoned the number on the back of the packaging.
Small, ingenuitive brands and even solopreneurs have a massive advantage in being agile and able to test ideas. They’re closer to their audience whereas bigger companies struggle to find authentic feedback and startup creativity.
There’s no reason not to get started and test your ideas before you’ve started producing them. Annem achieved global press with a cardboard cutout she made on her kitchen table. The idea is the most important thing.
When trying to get press, put yourself into the shoes of the specific journalist you’re going after. They want to write about you – but you need to give them a reason!
Press Releases are not essential, don’t worry about it being a magical formula that ticks all the boxes. Just make sure the journalists have the most interesting, story-telling parts of your product or brand as succinctly as possible.
You can find most journalists on Twitter.
Building a mailing list of people who are interested in your product provides a sounding board for developing new products. Asking people, genuinely for their direct feedback builds good will and lets you know exactly what they want to buy from you.
This same list will become an avid base of buyers when your product is launched. Annem sold out of her Cheester Eggs within a few hours just by mailing her list once! She ended up selling four thousand!
Story telling with simple video is super powerful for marketing. Annem made a behind the scenes ‘making-of’ video which the press embedded into their articles gaining massive exposure.
If you’re looking to use paid promotion such as Facebook ads, consider carefully what sort of content you would engage with yourself. If you see ads that resonate with you and catch your attention, make a note or screenshot them to replicate for yourself later.
Getting the ad content right first makes using paid promotion like ‘pouring gasoline on a bonfire that’s already burning’ and boosts it massively. The alternative is like trying to push a boulder up a very expensive hill.
When trying to reach your audience and seed your idea, consider who your audience is and on which social media platform they spend their time. Think about the syntax, the rules, and the social etiquette of each platform for maximum effectiveness.
Getting something ‘talked about’ and generally getting attention regularly leads to paid work or the opportunity to sell a product or service. Annem’s husband Mike made a meme which went viral on Reddit and ended up getting paid to do work for London Fashion week off the back of it.
Tap into your existing network. If you don’t know how to do something, ask your friends. Tweet, post on Facebook – you may be surprised how well connected you are and how close you are to the people with the answers you need.