February 23, 2012

FutureBuzz: Viral ‘Cat Facts’ post is a case study in organic marketing

Originally posted 2/21/12 on

A bit ago a fun texting prank went popular on Reddit called Cat Facts. It was then reposted enthusiastically, as viral images are, across platforms (the social web doesn’t happen in silos). Future Buzz readers already know how this works.

Here’s the image in case you missed it:

If the 100,000+ votes / comments on the original Reddit thread and hundreds of reposts didn’t give it away, people loved this.

Not just for the trolling aspect. If you read the comments on any of the threads many expressed their desire to receive daily cat facts.

With comments such as:

  • I actually would like to have “Cat Facts” sent to my phone.
  • Please tell me there is a real cat facts SMS service.
  • who in their right mind would want to cancel such a thing?!

So much demand for Cat Facts was generated due to this one image that Google Trendsreported the first significant increase in search volume for the phrase cat facts…well, ever:

So imagine you’re the site owner of the domain ranking highly in search for the term cat facts. Undoubtedly you benefit from this demand by receiving significantly increased inbound traffic.

This happened — started to receive a surge in traffic. Except instead of embracing the free marketing generated by the Cat Facts prank and attempting to convert that awareness into an outcome, the owner responded with the following message in red:

This messaging would, unfortunately, put off someone who was seeking information on opting in to Cat Facts. While sure, many may have been looking to prank friends, plenty of cat fans were also now genuinely interested in receiving updates about cats.

Instead of posting a message saying “sorry, we don’t do this” and ignore the wave of attention generated (which would cause the flood of new visitors to bounce) the site owner could try an approach like: hey, while we’re not responsible for the fun Cat Facts SMS prank, you can still get updates on cats — right from us: enter your email (or other CTA) to get updates from for free.

Try to match the offer with what the world was now suddenly interested in, then work to continue to grow demand. It could be a whole new channel to monetize for the site owner (who currently is monetizing the site via ads).

If they were truly ambitious, they could go a step further and fulfill the interest in subscribing to mobile cat facts, perhaps even turning it into an app.

The point of this thread isn’t about cat facts or this site in particular, of course. The point is the be opportunistic and flexible to take advantages of the serendipitous opportunities the social web sends your way. Know Your Meme was an entire site built around this concept, to the tune of 20 million pageviews per month (not to mention acquisition by a larger site).

Organic spikes in attention are almost always an opportunity. They shouldn’t be shunned, instead, you should capitalize on them to build equity for the future.

Digital Marketing, News, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing , , ,
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