Blogs are my favorite CMS for “going viral.” Cheap, easy, expandable, everything you could want. But when you’re launching a blog and your goal is going to be lots of social media and viral traffic, you’ll need to make sure you pick the right theme. Here are a list of 10 things your theme must have to “go viral.”
1. Social Buttons
Most blogs these days have the sociable plugin, so that there is a list of social sites at the bottom of every post that allow readers to submit and vote on the post. For real traction, you need to do better than these teeny little buttons. Put big, honkin’ voting buttons on every post on your site. For instance, I really like what Brent Csutoras does on his blog.
2. Images and Video
Experienced social media marketers will tell you that you should always add images and if you can, video to a post to help it do better on social voting sites. So you should make sure that your theme’s central content area is wide enough to handle high-quality images and embedded videos. I would typically recommend at least 500px wide.
I would recommend ideally, not to put any advertising on your site if your goal is to go viral and do well in social media, but that’s not always feasible (or profitable). So if you absolutely must include ads, keep them away from the top of your content and ensure that they blend in well with your site and are, above all, relevant. A good blog theme should include advertising areas under each post and lower-down in the sidebar.
My research has shown that timely content, like news, tends to get shared more frequently than humor, opinion and other non-timely categories. So your blog theme should emphasize the date and maybe even the time that you posted.
To go viral you’ll need for your content to be trusted on some level. So your theme should induce a feeling of authority. Don’t use extremely common (or default) themes as these will make your blog look fly-by-night. Make sure to include an about page, any awards or recognition the blog (or author) has received, and perhaps a photo of the author. Tell the visitor why he or she should invest them time in this blog and trust what it has to say.
7. Built-In Viral Calls-to-Action
The sociable plugin allows for a line of text, a viral call to action, generally something like: “if you like this, please share.” For real infectiousness, I say take it a step further and include a call to action in theme of your blog on every post page. Try hitting on some of the viral triggers my survey outlined and give readers easy suggestions on how (or who) to share the content.
8. Piggybacking & Funneling
The concept of piggybacking is something I think (and talk) about a lot. The idea is that if your content becomes popular with a group of savvy users on one site, you can often count on those users being members of other, similar sites. This way you can leverage one traffic stream into more streams. Funneling is something that I read about a little while back. The concepts are similar and can be exploited by a good blog theme. Make sure than posts link to other, similar posts. Your theme should include something like “if you liked this post, check out these too.”
9. Emphasize Comments
On a blog, in a viral context, comments function as social proof (making it obvious that other people are also interested in this post) and as an incitement to respond and keep the conversation going. So your theme should include an area to highlight recent comments in the sidebar, as well as the number of comments on each post. You may also want to look at improving your comment section, with gravatars or a reputation system for frequent commenters.
Those people who come to your site as a result of it “going viral” or becoming popular on a social news site, are the type or are most likely to be able to make it do that again. So keep them around. Your theme should highlight your feeds, subscriptions, Twitter account and your various social media profiles. You want these savvy and contagious users to become frequent users.