Perhaps the one thing that unites SEOs, content marketers and anyone with a Web site is that we all want our content to go viral. And we all sometimes struggle with getting  it to do so. While there are tons of posts on how to promote content or how to woo bloggers, sometimes a mini-case study is the best way to show these principles in action and master the steps. Well, yesterday we all got a good one thanks to the marketing efforts of web comic Matt Inman aka Oatmeal.

Want to know how to attract 12 million eyes in just four hours?  Grab a pen. You’re not going to want to miss this.

Step 1:  Create stuff people like.  Lots of it.

You’ve heard it all before: Content is king. Users love unique content. The search engines need something to chew on. Yeah, whatever, it’s all sounding about a bit like 1997 up in here, isn’t it?  What you really need to do is create stuff people like.  That’s it. It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t matter if it’s a Web comic, a resource, a video, or even a sock puppet.  Just that you’ve done your research to know people will connect with it. And that you get off your butt to actually create it.

Step 2:  Build a loyal network of minions fans.

It’s called social media for a reason. If you want people to support,  promote and help you go viral, you have to help them first.  You have to give them a reason to care about you and make an effort to invest in them.  When they see you’re legit, they’ll flock to you like fist pumps to the Jersey Shore.

Step 3: Speak to the people you want to reach.

Create content with a purpose.  If you want that blog post to get on the radar of your industry’s top writer, address them in the post or write them to say it exists. Don’t just sit around and wait for the Good Content Fairies to drop your post in their lap.  They’re too busy having tea with Santa and the Easter Bunny.  You have to take matters into your own hands. If you want Tumblr, a site with 55 million unique visitors a month and one of the top-40 sites by page views (source: Financial Times), to notice your State of the Web: Winter 2010, call them out.

Step 4: Apply peer pressure

It works.

Step 5: Go viral

Go viral when Tumblr accepts your offer four hours later and puts your content in front of its entire network.


Not so hard, right?  Thanks to Matt for providing us a great example in how to market ourselves and our content.  You have the steps. Now it’s up to you to work them.


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


39 thoughts on “How To Attract 55 Million Eyes In Just 4 Hours [pictures]


      • rick on said:

        But let’s not make it sound like an overnight thing. The example he used is what you can do after you’ve been creating cool content for a while and gotten those 130k Twitter followers. The key is to create lots of cool content over time and not give up if/when the first thing doesn’t immediately hit. Had I drawn that same cartoon (ha!) it probably wouldn’t have gotten Tumblr’s attention and i’d not have 100 people to retweet it. (though you never know…).

        Moral of this comment: Do all of that over and over and over.


  • Michael Dorausch on said:

    It’s one thing to read this and think “Not so hard, right?” but reality is that we overlook this stuff everyday. Sometime we need people like Matt to smack us in the face with reminders of how “easy” this stuff is. Damn that Inman for stealing my eyeballs.


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      I agree. I think we have a tendency to make things a lot harder than they really are. Matt reminds us it doesn’t have to be so hard. It just has to be different.


  • Joe Hall on said:

    Matt Inman is a genius content developer. And you can tell that he has a ton of fun doing it. Sometimes I think, if I we all just had fun instead of chasing $$ and rankings we might be producing some amazing stuff as well.


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      Amen, brother. :) It’s the difference between the stuff I write for the marketing blogs and the stuff I write on my own. I mean…not that writing about social media isn’t my true passion in life. BECAUSE IT DEFINITELY IS! ;)


  • Michelle Lowery on said:

    Wait, are you saying there’s no such thing as the Good Content Fairies?! Drat! [kicks dirt]

    These are great lessons from Matt, but the thing he does that I appreciate most is he makes me laugh. :-)


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      Wait, are you saying there’s no such thing as the Good Content Fairies?! Drat! [kicks dirt]

      I know, I know, we didn’t want to tell you… ;) And we laugh, but how many people spend all this time writing interesting stuff…and then sit back and WAIT for people to find it ?!


      • Michelle Lowery on said:

        Yes, I’m traumatized now! :-P

        Seriously, it boggles my mind when people have that “if you build it, they will come” attitude about their content/site/product. But what really gets me is when you explain to them that they have to go out and get those eyeballs, and they act like you just asked them to literally hand theirs over.


    • Ross Hudgens on said:

      I’m personally not so certain about the book. The title/cover seems really weird to me, not sure how it’ll sell to people not fans of the website (which there are a lot of, obviously.)

      Nice post Lisa!


      • Dr. Pete on said:

        I own a copy of the first version of his book from a year or so ago, and it’s a great thing to leave lying on your coffee table when people come over. “Why do you have a book about dolphin-punching?”


        • Lisa Barone on said:

          My favorite is when you’re out with non-nerds and someone asks if you’ve seen one that comic where [insert one of Matt’s genius creations] and you have to resist your urge to yell, “z0MG I KNOWS HIM!” :)


          • Dr. Pete on said:

            LOL – Yeah, I’ve only met him in person twice, I think (for all of about 20 minutes), but I milk it for all it’s worth ;)


  • Alan Bleiweiss on said:

    I <3 when this stuff happens. All too often stodgy 20th century ad agencies think they can force viral, yet fail completely. Someone like Matt, who lives and breathes thinking outside the box, has a gift for it. It comes naturally to him. Or it appears to, which really is all that matters in the end.

    Kind of like he doesn't think outside the box, he lives outside it.


  • Dr. Pete on said:

    The thing about Matt that I think so many people overlook (especially the “Why does HIS content get so much attention while MY Justin Bieber blog gets ignored?!” whiners) is that he pours a ton of time into his content. I can’t imagine how long just this one post took, and that’s after years of honing the skills to create his comics. Whether his content is anyone’s particular cup of tea is one thing, but he’s definitely earned the success.

    Whenever I slap together a blog post and then see Matt’s last creation, I’m embarrassed. It’s a great reminder to raise the bar.


  • Nick LeRoy on said:

    Matt’s content is very unique and he writes content that his audience can relate too. I found out about the ‘Oatmeal’ from his “when a web design goes to hell” comic. Being that I work at a web design and development firm it was circulated and read by all of us… why so successful? He touched on a topic that a lot of us have experience with and we were rolling on the floor because of the way he displayed the info.


    • Hillary O'Keefe on said:

      Exactly! You have to admire the absolutely PERFECT combination of legit information and ridiculously funny commentary he delivers. From his “How to make your shopping cart suck less” comic, the statement about needing compound eyes to read a home-brewed CAPTCHA system made me think “Right on!”, while the premise of DiscountKoalaMeat.com made me laugh hard enough to disturb my coworkers.

      Therein lies the type of value that I’ll share with others every single time.


  • Gabriele Maidecchi on said:

    What I notice all around is that awesome content isn’t sure to come to succeed, while bad content mostly does if well promoted. If you think about movies, even bad movies become blockbusters if the hype machine works behind their back. Lots of times bad content is still king if there’s kick-ass promotion behind it, what do you think?


  • Vlad on said:

    You’re making it sound so easy… yet it is so incredibly difficult. Not only is it difficult to attract a fairly large audience, but the audience will not necessarily buy your products. There’s no point to attracting a large audience if that audience doesn’t bring you any money. I’d rather have 1000 leads than 100000 individuals signing up to my page because of catchy article titles and have 10 people buy something.


  • Christine on said:

    As with all things on the Internet it sounds easier than it really is. As someone mentioned – if someone without that number of followers tried to do the same thing, Tumblr would probably just shrug it off.

    This is where the sales letters of Internet Marketing Gooroos would declaim: “One Simple Trick To Attract 55 Million Eyes In Just 4 Hours”
    Sorry, not to imply that you are one…! I just couldn’t resist that.

    It takes years of consistent effort to get to such a point.


  • Sarah on said:

    I believe in the power of content. Good quality content is the basic thing you should do. If the content is interesting for people, you’ll easily gain a huge audience, provided you are open to feedback and don’t neglect communicating in social networks.


  • Val @ Web Tracking Guide on said:

    Great story, very nicely reported. And I’ve just discovered The Oatmeal, so special thanks for that!

    As for this being an example to follow… Well yes, there are aspects everyone can embrace, and you pointed them out right. I just don’t think it’s realistic for everyone to achieve similar results. It’s like pointing at a superstar football player, and saying “see how much you can achieve if you try really hard”. Not to diminish the value of your analysis, your suggestions are still very useful!


  • Jessica on said:

    Thanks Lisa for a great post which has giving me few ideas about how to create things that people would like and that could potentially turn viral. If the mountain doesn’t come to Mohamed, Mohamed will have to go to the mountain, right? ;)

    I am amazed that I have never thought this through. Thank you so much!


  • Brian Johnson on said:

    If only I had the creative mind of Matt Inman… His stuff is just so awesome. Sometimes I think if everyone spent far less time on figuring out how to go viral and how to be social and make friends and grow, and more time on whether or not they are even creatively or intellectually capable of making amazing content, the world/internet would be a much better, and more successful place. You can carry a boat downstream but in the end if it doesn’t float, you might as well have just walked.


  • Lannon Harms on said:

    Thanks for the awesome post Lisa! There’s so much more to the post than what the name suggests. As usual I believe it all starts with having a great imagination and then, in Matt’s own words “get off your butt to actually create it”! I feel motivated!


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