John Oliver’s 21 minute comedic rant on the problems with retirement plan service providers was entertaining but none of the information was new to financial services industry professionals. What caught our attention was the 4 million views on YouTube, a viral response to a technical subject. The DOL ruling has been extensively covered by the industry press but none of their articles even scared Viral Status. What can we learn from John Oliver’s approach to help us create viral content?
Most of the content that goes viral is posted on a platform that supports video or better yet is in a presentation made at a TED conference and posted on their website. Chris Anderson shares some of the common characteristics of the most successful TED talks in his book TED Talks. The hack to create viral content can be found in the book but the overarching point is that verbal content is significantly more powerful than written content. To prove that point, his video presentation of “TED’s secrets to great public speaking” has significantly more hits than books sold. Our advice is to write your own TED talk and videotape the presentation. Take that video and post it on your YouTube channel and track the number of views. It won’t go viral but it will establish a baseline that you can use to monitor your progress. Social media platforms like YouTube and podcasts give us the unique opportunity to distribute our message to a wider audience and to get an accurate and unbiased assessment of its effectiveness which is a material improvement to your Mom’s or your spouse’s opinion.
The essential element of a viral post is a great presentation. A great presentation needs to have a single subject and explain it in a way that mixes humor, emotions and vulnerability without using any industry jargon. While this might be difficult in the moment, it can be planned and delivered flawlessly through social media. I find it is easier to be vulnerable and emotional on camera or on tape than in person. Maybe that is why I love social media and why my friends are always surprised by my social media content.
A viral post will grow and peak in popularity over the first month as people share it with their social network and the post starts to show up in Google searches. After that spike, it will decrease dramatically but it will not go away. We have found that the best way to increase a good post’s shelf life is to repost it on your company website and on your company YouTube channel.
Viral posts can become the equivalent of a one hit wonder if we don’t cultivate their success. The good news for wealth managers and singer/song writers is that using new technology tools to self-publish books and self-distribute music can help gain fans and clients. This explains why Google identified this trend and bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. Social media tools don’t replace hard work but they can accelerate its impact. Thankfully wealth advisors won’t need as many fans as music stars to succeed. They also won’t need to hang out in small smoky bars either to build their business.