How do you take opportunities and run with them? This is the most central question to businesses in every arena: striking while the iron is hot is the key to success. When a piece of content goes viral, even a bit viral, it’s because people are responding to and engaging with your content on a large scale. That’s exciting.

There’s a rush to the whole process, a validation that comes from a marketing piece that’s working. It’s satisfying. It feels like success, but it’s nowhere near the end of the process. In order for that bit of success to really mean anything in the long term, you must take advantage of it. Sitting back and thinking that this magical rush of traffic is going to last is a recipe for disaster. Your action is still required to keep it going.

In today’s fast-paced world of online marketing, this is truer than ever before. In order to make the most of those online efforts, it’s critical that businesses capitalize on the surge of traffic that comes from a viral piece of content.

Be ahead of the game

To be fair, this actually needs to happen before a piece goes viral. If you are scrambling to get your content up every day, then you’re not going to be able to respond quickly and adequately when you have the chance to capitalize on a piece that’s going viral. When you get a surge in traffic, you’ll want to get more content up quickly so your new audience will stay on your website, rather than bounce off.

This means taking concrete steps to plan your content:

  • Create a content publishing calendar
  • Invite team members to contribute their perspective to content
  • Automate/schedule social media posts
  • Set regular team meetings to improve content
  • Look back and learn lessons from previous success, don’t just shoot in the dark

When something does take off, being ahead of the game will allow you to respond appropriately when you need to, rather than scrambling to maintain what you already have while also responding to a deluge of comments, emails, etc. Success comes to those who are prepared.

Keep engagement alive

Respond to every comment. This might seem like overkill, but it’s important to remember that going viral is like a rolling ball, one that you need to keep pushing in order to keep that momentum going. While the internet is most definitely a disconnected medium, part of its appeal is that there is so much possibility to have a personal connection, to be reached and to reach.

A common mistake in going viral is assuming that pieces will just keep on chugging, an assumption that is at its core, erroneous. The more of a personal touch that is offered to users, the more that companies reach out to users, the better the connection will be and the more likely users will come back.

Another key point to remember here is that you are not just touching the person who left the comment when you respond, there is an exponential return here. People read comments on posts, and they see your responses.

Also on StartupNation.com: Keep Your Audience Engaged with Interactive Content

Tweak engagement

Quickly go in and add some links to related content, directing the massive influx of users to where you want them to go. Make a push for more effective user engagement and more effective tie-ins with other content. Here are some solid strategies:

  • Add a pop-up call to action to encourage readers to follow your content or join a newsletter
  • Improve your sidebars or freshen your banner
  • Add in more links to your related content
  • Insert social media prompts. Boost those Facebook and Twitter numbers!

Look at the piece and make the absolute most that you can of the engagement that you’ve got. Capture some of that viral audience so they stick around for future content – make sure to keep that bounce rate LOW!

Send out for pickups

Viral pieces can be picked up by larger venues like HuffPo or Search Engine Land. When you have a piece with momentum, try to see if you can get it picked up buy a larger platform. Often businesses don’t realize that they can just submit their pieces to these online publications, even if they’ve already been published.

Republication is a little known way to take a piece to the next level, and to help you to push your own website to the next level. If your piece can be picked up elsewhere due to its popularity, you can easily launch that viral piece into the stratosphere.

Follow it up

Once a piece has gone viral, that doesn’t mean that the topic is done. Take advantage of the boost by creating a follow-up piece. The key here isn’t to rehash information that you presented previously, but rather to offer the audience something new and fresh that entices them to engage with you again.

Don’t wait for all of the momentum to die down before jumping in with a follow-up piece. Jump back in as the crest of that viral wave starts to recede, but before it’s gone completely. Focus on offering something to your audience that they haven’t seen before and be sure to move on to the next step to further capitalize on your viral content.

Learn your lesson

This is the last and most key piece of the process. Analyze the magic that you’ve witnessed, and figure out why it worked the way it did. Were you at the front end of a trending topic? Did you offer something completely new? Was there something special that you did on social media to spark what happened? Can you repeat this process?

While you might not be able to catch lightning in a bottle, you can definitely learn from it. When a piece of content goes viral, it often comes unexpectedly, but through strategic marketing, engagement and targeting your audience, you can give a piece of content its best chance for going viral. Be thorough in your assessment by meeting with your team to debrief on the process, being sure to rehash not only what it was that led to the piece getting started, but also by exploring what parts of your response were most successful. If a piece of content unexpectedly goes viral, expect to have to stand up and participate in its success. A good content marketing strategy can help make things go viral again and again.