You secretly dream about going viral, right?
Of course you do! We all want to grow fast and put our own little dent in the universe.
But isn’t that also the problem? Everyone’s trying to do the exact same thing!
And it’s not 2005 anymore — you can’t just create something remarkable and expect your readers to share it. There’s just too much competition these days.
But what if I told you that there’s a proven, repeatable system you can follow to make your dream of “going viral” a reality?
I call it the “Ladder Technique,” and it works like gangbusters.
Sound too good to be true? Well that’s just because you haven’t seen how much work it takes! Most people who discover this strategy will never take action.
Fortunately for you, their lack of discipline is your opportunity…
You see, everyone wants results fast, but few are willing to put in the hard work needed to get those results. But if you apply the Ladder Technique to your next blog post, I guarantee your “return on time invested” will be higher than ever before.
Sure, you’ll need to invest more time both creating and promoting your content. But the amount of traffic you’ll generate for every hour invested will be far more efficient. And who doesn’t want better results for their time?
That’s how you scale up fast, fire your boss, and build the kind of life you’ve always dreamed of. But you’ll never get there if you don’t step off the content hamster wheel and focus on making an impact each time you hit “publish.”
So are you ready to learn the secret to making content go viral? Then let’s get started!
What Is the “Ladder Technique?”
“[Social proof is] the tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it.” – Robert Cialdini, author of Influence
The Ladder Technique is a simple strategy for going viral by using social proof.
It’s the process of promoting your content to the people most likely to share it. Then, as your share count and traffic numbers increase, you develop “social proof” that your content is valuable.
As you “climb the ladder” and reach out to increasingly influential people, your success rate will be higher. And with enough promotion and shares from influencers, you’ll stimulate a viral effect.
Viral Math: Why Influencer Outreach Is the Key to Success
Going viral doesn’t happen automagically.
There are only two ways to consistently go viral:
- Build a massive audience of people who share everything you post
- Persuade influencers to share your content
Both approaches work, but you can only use the first if you have a huge email list. And since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re not quite there yet.
And that’s hands-down the biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make — promoting their content as if they already have a big audience. Then they wonder why they’re not getting any traffic.
It’s just how the math works out!
When someone shares your post, you need at least two of their followers to share it again. Anything less than that and your content won’t spread.Only a tiny percentage of people average 2+ shares when they post something on social media…and those people are what we call “influencers.”
Let’s use me as an example…
When I post something on Twitter, where I have around 2000 followers, I get roughly one retweet for every three tweets I share. Keep in mind, I have nearly 10x more Twitter followers than the average person and I’m still not an influencer.
That’s why you can’t rely on “average people” sharing your content. You might get a handful of shares, but the people who are sharing it won’t get re-shared.
Now that all sounds fine in theory, but what does real-world data say about the effect influencers have on viral content?
The data shows that having just one influencer share your content results in nearly 32% more social media shares overall. And there’s a multiplier effect as more influencers share your post.
Alright, so now you know that you need influencers to share your content, but how do you actually persuade them to do so?
Because let’s get real: the influencers you need to share your content have probably never even heard of you. Why should they care? What’s in it for them?
That’s where social proof comes into play…
Why Social Proof Is Like Rocket Fuel for Influencer Outreach
If you were an influencer, what would you be more likely to share?
- A blog post that’s already going viral
- A blog post with no shares or comments
The viral content, of course!
Influencers need to believe that sharing your post will benefit them and their audience.
If they share something low quality, they’ll lose trust with their readers. But on the other hand, sharing something amazing helps to build authority.
At the same time, you also need to recognize that influencers are busy and they probably won’t read your blog post to verify the quality for themselves.
And that’s why social proof is so important! They don’t even need to read your content to know that it’s good.
The two best forms of social proof for influencer outreach are:
- A high share-count on your blog post
- Shares from other well-known influencers
Both are tangible, verifiable ways to “prove” that your post is high quality and will benefit their followers. By making it easier for influencers to trust you, you’ll increase the odds of them sharing your post.
And as your share count continues to climb, increasingly influential people will become more receptive to you outreach emails. That’s why the Ladder Technique is based on building social proof as you “climb the ladder” of influence.
Make sense? Then let’s dig in and talk about how it’s done!Use the Ladder Technique to build social proof when promoting your content! Click To Tweet
How to Promote Your Content Using the Ladder Technique
When performing the Ladder Technique, you’re going to approach your promotion strategy using three steps, or “rungs.”
At each rung of the ladder you’ll perform specific activities, with the goal of generating as much social proof as possible. Then, when you advance to the next rung, influencers will be more receptive to sharing your content.
Here are the rungs that you’re going to climb:
Rung #1: Promote to your own audience using email and social media
Rung #2: Promote to the people you mentioned in your article
Rung #3: Promote to other relevant influencers, starting with the least influential and working your way up
I’ll break each step down, so you know exactly what to do each step of the way…
The 1st Rung: Getting Your Audience Involved Early
First and foremost, you’re going to need your biggest fans to share your content for you.
This is the quickest step of the process, but it’s critical that you get started on the right foot. If you can’t get your audience to share your post, you’ll find it exceedingly difficult to convince influencers to share it when you take your next step up the ladder.
That’s one of the reasons why content quality is so important. The higher the quality, the better your response rate will ultimately be.
Here we’re going to do all the “usual” promotional activities, but with a few advanced techniques thrown into the mix.
As with any content, the first thing you should do is send an email teaser encouraging your email subscribers to check out your latest post.
I know there are a ton of different email newsletter strategies, but when you’re trying to go viral, your best bet is a simple announcement email that teases the topic.
Here’s an example that Jon Morrow wrote for Unstoppable:
The point of an email teaser is to make your readers curious and entice them to click. There are a variety of techniques you can use to drum up curiosity, but an easy technique if you’re not sure what to write is to use the following copywriting framework:
Problem: Introduce the problem your post is designed to solve. Your readers should know they have this problem, otherwise you chose a poor topic. The more relevant the problem, the stronger you’ll hook them.
Agitate: Next, you’re going to agitate the problem by talking about what it actually means to your readers. How does the problem affect their lives and make them feel? The more you can get your readers to imagine the pain, the more motivated they’ll be to read your post for the solution.
Solution: Finally, you’re going to promise a solution to that problem. Your content is the solution, so all you’ll need to do is promise to remove the pain and link to your post.
Here’s an example of an email teaser that follows this framework:
See how that email identifies the problem of keeping up with industry trends, then uses competition to agitate that problem, before finally promising a solution?
It’s a simple and effective technique for generating high clickthrough rates on your announcement emails.
How to Get 50% More Readers In 2 Minutes of Work
Keep in mind, even if your email is quite good, you’ll still only get a fraction of your readers to open and click.
That’s why I also recommend setting up an automation in your email tool so that you can send a follow-up to the people who didn’t open your email the first time.
Be sure to use a different subject line and wait a couple days for that email to go out again.
You’ll be amazed how many more readers you’ll get by simply resending with a new subject line. Works like a charm!
Pro Tip: Remind Your Readers to Share (Without Being Pushy)
I also recommend setting up a second automation to go out to everyone who clicked the link to read your post.
Here’s an example of Jon Morrow using this strategy after I clicked on his first email (above). In that email, he included a link to “share it on Facebook,” which gives you the ability to click a couple times to share. It’s already pre-loaded for you, to make it as easy as possible.
Depending on the size of your list, this could help you generate a significant number of social shares. The more we can get at this early stage, the better!
Sharing Your Content On Social Media
The next step for Rung #1 is to schedule out a bunch of social media posts for your new article. You can be aggressive on platforms like Twitter and Instagram (~10 shares over the first couple weeks), but don’t go overboard on Facebook (share it a couple times in different formats).
Here are some ideas for promoting your post organically on social media:
- Create tweetable graphics for each time you mention an influencer or expert and @mention them in the tweet (this is super powerful)
- Share quotation graphics on Instagram and link to your post on your Instagram profile
- Ask Facebook and LinkedIn Group admins for permission to share your post in the group (ask first!)
- Create tweetable graphics for each time you mention an influencer or expert and @mention them in the tweet (this is super powerful)
- Make an announcement video for Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Live, and YouTube
- Create a Pinterest-optimized graphic and share it to Pinterest and any relevant group boards you may be a part of
- Check relevant forums, Quora, and Reddit for questions related to your topic and give a super detailed response based on the content of your post. Then provide the link “for more information.”
- Share your subheadlines with “page jump links” to individual sections of your post
Don’t Forget Your Personal Network!
And last but not least, be sure to personally ask the people who love you (like your mom and friends) or owe you favors to share your post on one of the social networks that appears in your share counter (see example below).
Depending on your social sharing plugin, you may have different options from those above. For the purposes of social proof, the networks you include in your sharing plugin are going to be the ones you want to focus the majority of your attention on.
Okay, so that’s the first rung. Hopefully by now you have at least 50 total shares listed on your blog post, because in the next step you’re going to start reaching out to influencers in your niche and we want them to believe you when you tell them how badass your content is.
The 2nd Rung: Using “Ego Bait” to Get Influencers Sharing Your Content
Now that you’ve gotten the ball rolling, it’s time to go after some big wins.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept of “ego bait,” here’s a quick definition:
Ego bait is an asset that was created to get the attention of a specific person, either by quoting, mentioning, or linking to that influencer by name. By positioning them as a trusted authority, your content indirectly benefits them. As a result, they have a greater incentive to share or link to your content.
So first, you’re going to make a list of everyone you mentioned or linked to in your post. You can drop their information into the first column of this spreadsheet (it’s read-only, but you can make a copy).
Don’t know their email address? Check out this resource from HubSpot, which offers three simple techniques for finding anyone’s email address.
Once you’ve completed your spreadsheet, it’s time to get CRAZY with your email outreach. Yes, crazy!
Email Outreach Tactic #1: The Hyper-Personalized Video Email
Now is not the time to focus on scalability or speed. Instead, you want to personally craft each email for the influencer you’re reaching out to.
Your goal should be to maximize your response rate, because these are the influencers most likely to share your post.
In fact, you should go way above and beyond to wow these folks, because landing even just one share from an A-lister at this early stage can have a massive impact on your success as you move up the ladder.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Create a personalized :60 video thanking them for sharing whatever you mentioned and let them know you featured them. Tell them you would be over-the-moon if they shared it.
- Embed that video on a custom landing page (I recommend LeadPages) and include some click-to-share options for Facebook and Twitter (bonus points for pre-crafted social posts that mention the influencer by name).
- Send them an email with a video thumbnail and link to your personalized landing page
Here’s an example script for your email:
Subject Line: I made a video to thank you…
I just wanted to drop in and thank you for your advice about performing effective keyword research. It’s changed the trajectory my business.
In fact, it’s had such a big impact, that I’m telling anyone who’ll listen all about it.
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I created a short, 60-second video just for you.
Keep up the great work!
P.S. Please let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help you with one of your projects.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, that’s because it is!
But trust me when I say that it’s totally worth the effort when you see your final share count and traffic numbers.
Terrified of video? Then go ahead and use the two-step email outreach process that I’m about to show you in Rung #3.
The 3rd Rung: Creating an Avalanche of Social Shares
Depending on the quality of your content and outreach, you should be in pretty good shape by now. But we’re not done, because there are still a ton of untapped opportunities for driving quality traffic to your content.
Remember that each hour you spend promoting your content to influencers is FAR more valuable than an hour spent creating new content. The more time you spend on Rung #3, the more efficiently you’ll drive traffic to your site.
In this step, you’re going to promote your content using two techniques:
- Round-ups (aka “best of” lists)
- Influencers with a relevant audience
Promoting Your Blog Post to Round-Up Publishers
First, I want you to promote your article to publishers who create monthly, weekly, or even daily round-ups. Depending on your niche, these may also be referred to as “best of” posts.
The reason these round-ups are so valuable is because they generate links, traffic, and shares. They’re essentially a force multiplier in your promotion strategy.
Think about it like this: if someone links to you in a round-up, they’re probably also going to email it to their list and share it multiple times on social media. Each of those engagements will drive more traffic to your content and extra shares.
Plus, if that round-up ever starts to rank in Google, you could also see referral traffic to your post well into the future.
To find round-up publishers, you’re going to use Google and search for things like:
- “Your niche” + “roundup”
- “Your niche” + “link roundup”
- “Your keyword” + “roundup”
- “Your keyword” + “link roundup”
- “Your keyword” + “best of”
- “Your keyword” + “this week”
- “Your industry” + “roundup”
You’re not looking for just any round-up, only the ones that go out on a schedule. Here’s an example of a search result for a recurring weekly round-up in the SEO space.
When you find a publisher that creates round-ups, look up their information and add them to the same spreadsheet you used before. There’s a separate tab for round-up targets.
Once you’ve identified all those opportunities and added them to your spreadsheet, it’s time to identify specific influencers…
How to Identify Influencers Using Twitter & FollowerWonk
You’re probably familiar with several influencers in your niche, so you can start by adding those to your spreadsheet. Once you run out, this tool will help you find even more opportunities.
It’s called FollowerWonk, which is included with Moz Pro (they offer a free trial for your first 30 days).
FollowerWonk gives you the ability to search Twitter bios for specific keywords, which is a quick way to identify influencers. And that makes sense, because Twitter users typically mention their area of expertise in their bio.
In addition to identifying influencers, FollowerWonk also provides a “Social Authority” score, which is a good measure of how valuable each “expert” would be if they shared your post. It calculates that score by looking at their “retweet rate” and the retweet rate of their followers.
And if you think back to the section on viral math, then you know that an influencer’s retweet rate is much more important than how many followers they have.
In other words, Social Authority the perfect measurement for how much impact a particular influencer can have on your chances of going viral.
So that’s why I use FollowerWonk, but if you’re on a tight budget, you can also use Advanced Twitter Search by entering your topic into the search field and then sorting by “People” once it loads the results…
It will take longer to build your list this way and you’ll lose the Social Authority metric, but it’s free and will help you identify people with relevant audiences. As you identify potential influencers, go ahead and add them to your spreadsheet.
Here’s how to use FollowerWonk:
1) Login to Moz
2) Click the “Search Twitter Bios” option under “FollowerWonk”
3) Search for terms that would indicate someone considers themselves an expert in your topic area. Don’t worry if your list is small, you can always repeat this step multiple times with different search queries to build your list of influencers.
4) On the results page, sort the influencers by “Social Authority”
5) Now continue down the results and add the names, Twitter handles, and Social Authority score into your spreadsheet. You can go as big or as small as you want here. Just keep in mind that it’s more efficient to spend extra time promoting your content than it is to create more content.
I recommend that you target at least 200 people.
6) Once you’ve finished adding influencers to your spreadsheet, sort them by Social Authority and start promoting to the least influential people first.
Note: If you can’t seem to find a particular email address, you can also send them a tweet directly by starting your tweet with their handle. Here’s an example of someone who reached out to me on Twitter to request a share:
— Ruth Ann Monti (@TimeStormComm) January 23, 2017
Email Outreach Tactic #2: The Two-Step FYI Email
If you’re reaching out to a particularly important influencer, then you may want to use the video email strategy I showed you previously (with minor modifications). Otherwise, I recommend a more scalable approach.
Instead of blasting your link all over the internet, I suggest a two-step email process. This usually gets a higher success rate, because you’re not asking for anything in the first email…it’s just an FYI.
However, when someone asks to see the article, you have a high likelihood of them sharing it or linking to it in their round-up.
Email #1: The FYI
Subject Line: An article I think you’d enjoy…
I recently completed a 25,000+ word guide on How to Rank Higher on Google in 2017.
It’s the most detailed and up-to-date guide on the topic. It’s already generated over SHARE COUNT shares on social media, including from influencers like NAME DROP and NAME DROP.
Let me know if you’d like me to forward that guide your way and I’ll gladly send it over!
Thanks again for all you do at BLOG NAME! You’ve been a huge inspiration to me :)
Email #2: The Link and the Ask
Here’s a link to that article I mentioned: [url]
By the way, it would mean the world to me if you would share it. [Click-to-share link]
P.S. Please let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help you.
The last thing I’ll say about these email templates is that your primary takeaway should be the overall strategy, not the specific word-for-word script. I can guarantee that within months of publishing this guide there will be hundreds of people stealing these scripts verbatim and blasting them all over the internet.
And just like the unscalable, hyper-personalized email works BECAUSE it’s so personal, people are equally unlikely to respond to a word-for-word email script they’ve seen half-a-dozen times. Makes sense?
There are no magic words that make this strategy work. So instead of copy-and-pasting, put the scripts into your own voice and inject your personality into it. Make sure your emails are relevant and offer value to your recipients.
Because that’s what actually works!
Optional: Link Building For Long-Term Search Traffic
Once you’ve stimulated a viral sharing effect on your content, you may want to invest a little more time building backlinks, because then your content will have a better shot of climbing Google’s rankings and driving long-term search traffic.
However, I only recommend you take this final step if your blog post is:
- Higher quality than the other posts ranking for your target keyword
- An evergreen topic (the information will still be relevant in 3+ years)
- The keyword drives a high volume of monthly searches (at least 1,000)
If your content meets those criteria, then you can also use Moz’s Open Site Explorer Tool to steal your competitor’s links.
The strategy itself is fairly straightforward:
- Identify all the URLs that are linking to the top 20 posts for your keyword on Google
- Send an email explaining why your post is superior
Unfortunately, this process involves a lot of detail that’s outside the scope of this particular topic, but I’m going to be sharing every step in my SEO guide (coming soon!) on the Persuasion Nation blog.
To get that guide when it’s published, be sure to sign up for my email list!
Have you decided?
Are you going to be an action-taker, or keep trotting along on the content hamster wheel?
Because let’s be honest for a second…your blog posts will NEVER go viral if you don’t promote them. In fact, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get the kind of scalable traffic you’re hoping for unless you take promotion seriously!
But as you discovered in this guide, it’s not just about putting the in the time. You also need to be strategic about your promotion strategy.
Otherwise, you may miss out on key opportunities that could make the difference between viral success, and time-consuming flop.
Fortunately, I’ve laid out the action plan for you. Assuming your content is share-worthy, all you need to do is follow the plan and execute.
I promise you, once you see the results from your first attempt, you’ll never want to skip promotion again!