The ultimate viral message throughout history is the gospel.
I've watched people try to craft a viral message. We've all seen vain attempts of folks with smartphone cameras who tried to stage a viral message. I've lost count of how many times people have asked me, "How can I make this story go viral?"
A viral outbreak seems to possess random properties. Strategic planning, production quality and Herculean effort work about as well as a candle in a storm.
It's rare that a message delivered from a platform will ever cause a response as powerful as a video of a cat, gently petting a bird.
Unless, of course, the pastor face-plants on the platform, rolls into a vase and is splashed with week-old flower water while preaching a message on baptism by total immersion. At least five videos of the gymnastics show up on Facebook before the pastor's hair is dry.
Time and frequency are the best stimulants to spread a message. We cannot expect our platform message to randomly blow up. Yes, it happens, but rarely by design.
The message of Jesus began with a small audience and no platform. He initially delivered His message to one person at a time. He spoke to universal needs and provided a solution through words that offended most of His listeners, "Come to Me" (Matt. 11:28a).
Christ's reputation grew. He spoke as one with authority. He showed up every day, and He modeled His message.
Jesus' words and actions drew men unto Him. The message matters more than any bell or whistle.
But every message needs fuel and propagation. In this era of a well-defined flat globe, we have greater opportunities to connect our message with people who need us.
Our best message distributor is not Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It's not YouTube or Pinterest. The best medium to spread our message with a one-to-one component is email.
Of course, the efficacy of an email campaign depends on a good email list. I define a good list as "people who need to hear your message." Email will be better received if a relationship has been established or if someone has requested to join the list by opting in.
For example, I have an interest in golf. Almost anyone who plays this game has a felt need to improve. I tend to open emails that address this felt need even if I don't know the sender. Messages about golf schools, private lessons or the latest, greatest putter draw golfers to the altar of 10 more yards.
Email recipients won't grow weary of messages about a topic of interest. If our list is based on quality (proven felt need), it is possible to build lifelong relationships with our readers.
"How often should I send emails?" people ask.
I always answer, "More often!"
"But won't people get tired of hearing from me?"
If you help people, it's hard to think you shouldn't do more. But most email senders have a bad list, and many have less-than-helpful content.
Ask this question: "Will this email help my audience?" Be specific. What felt need does this address?
Few email senders have developed a relationship with the people on their list. List-building is about give and take. The author gives, and the reader takes. That's how it works.
Bad email marketing usually begins with "take and take." Good email does not include a donate button. Save that for well-established relationships.
Readers intuitively render a trust verdict over incoming email. It begins with a decision about whether to open the email. "Do I trust this sender?"
Next, the reader makes a decision about the value of the content.
A long, gray, word-filled page is usually not deemed worthy of the reader's time. Use pictures. Write powerful copy addressed to a specific reader.
Most importantly, send the reader to one of several landing pages for more information. Make sure you call attention to a page of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Write this page with the heart of one who understands felt needs. Don't miss this!
Jesus spoke into the needs of the people He met.
He asked questions and provided life-changing answers.
He taught with repetition.
He built high trust.
He taught with examples and by pointing to the lessons of nature.
At the end of roughly three years of daily teaching, His ministry went viral. Nothing has stopped its spread.
Go. Help people. Try not to face-plant.
Dr. Steve Greene is publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His Charisma House book, Love Leads, is available at christianbook.com, amazon.com or your local bookstore. Download his Love Leads podcast at cpnshows.com, and follow his Love Leads blog at charismamag.com/blogs/love-leads.
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