3 Ways to Get Your Vanilla Networking Emails to Go Viral

by Ryon Harms on October 12, 2009

I get mass emails from my professional network all the time. Most of them are lengthy updates on where somebody is on their job search. I don’t mind getting them and I try to help when I can, but unfortunately I rarely ever feel compelled to forward those messages on to the rest of my own personal network. If I did feel compelled to do so the original sender might benefit from the exponential exposure to thousands of other executives in my network, not to mention the many thousands more from the networks of the other recipients.

That means the messages you send to your hundreds of contacts could introduce your name and expertise to thousands of potentially important executives, further closing the gap between you and the decision makers that can give you what you need.

So the question becomes, How do I craft a message that motivates others to spread my message? To start, assume the position that most people will not spread your messages out of the goodness of their hearts, but if you give them something worth spreading they will be happy to do so as a way to create good will with you and others.

You don’t necessarily need to be an expert marketer or a social media maven to create messages that go “viral.” And by viral I mean that your messages take on a life of their own and get forwarded on without you actually pressing send. It’s actually not as difficult as it sounds if you walk into crafting your message with the intent to get people talking. Here are three ways to turn your one way email messages into a conversational spark:

  1. Give them something of value. The ultimate value that you can provide your audience is value they can spread to their own networks. An example might be a job posting that wasn’t quite right for you (let them know why as a way to describe what you are looking for), but that might interest them or somebody they know. Not everybody will feel compelled to share information with others, but you’ll find that the proactive executives within your network are also on the look out for great content to forward on.
  2. Give them something to talk about. People are inherently social; they’re always looking for opportunities to tell others about a great movie, an awful restaurant experience, or a business trend that could change the landscape for a particular industry. When you read a newspaper or industry blog keep your eyes peeled for some gem of information that you think might be useful for executives in your network. Make sure that information further emphasizes your expertise and shows that you’re somebody with your finger on the pulse of that particular subject.
  3. Take a risk, be controversial. Vanilla messages that repeat what’s already been said a hundred times will never go viral. In my experience, the messages that get the most attention are the ones that take a position against the common consensus. I’m not saying to write something you don’t believe in. But if you can back up your contrarian opinion with a well thought out argument and facts, you can quickly establish yourself as an independent industry voice and a person worth promoting.

Keep in mind that the point of these messages is to reinforce your ultimate goal, whether it’s to find a job, get your name out there, or create sales opportunities. The most productive way to come up with content is to write about subjects you feel passionate about.

Once you identify those subjects you’ll be much more likely to write inspired messages that catch fire with your audience and take them past the tipping point. If you can achieve that just once, I promise you’ll never send another vanilla email again. And your network will thank you for it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

career sherpa October 13, 2009 at 9:24 am

Ryon: I liked this a lot! Instead of me-focused, your suggestions imply other-focused to be successful! Thanks for your insight!


Brien October 14, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Thanks for the post. Not sure if I will forward it because it is not controversial enough 🙂



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