In life, there are some rules you can't break. The earth will always revolve around the sun. Jay Cutler will always tease you with that cannon arm and those smoldering eyes, but then break your heart with a brutal interception. And last but not least, good content will always need to be promoted (and promoted far more aggressively than you think). But what if your content actually starts to get shared on its own? As your grandma probably told you at some point, failing to plan is planning to fail. So what’s your plan if content goes viral? Note than when I say “viral”, that doesn’t mean that Matt Lauer has to talk about it. But if it starts getting shared organically (like a case of pinkeye spreading through your kid’s school) let’s just agree we can call it “viral,” and we should really wash our hands for two "happy birthdays." So when that happens, take a deep breath, and follow these three steps. When your content goes viral

Step 1: Ramp Up Outreach

When a piece goes viral, it’s tempting to watch your traffic shoot up and say “thank you, Internet. Now there’s nothing more I can do.” But in fact, the worst thing you can do is kick back and watch. In fact, now’s the time to ramp up your outreach efforts immediately. If you create an infographic and the Huffington Post just shared it, you should immediately pitch it to Forbes, Inc., CNN, and other publishers at the top of the pile. As Kyle talked about in our recent webinar with Buzzsumo, outreach has become less about pitching publications and more about pitching writers. Publishers still love exclusives, yes, but writers are incentivized by digital publishers to do one thing above all else - write (and share) content that gets clicks. So if you can provide them with content that’s going to be shared socially, they’ll publish your piece and thank you for the opportunity to do so. And in many cases, the writer themselves won’t mind publishing a piece that’s been published elsewhere already, especially if it’s only been published relatively recently. Tip: If the piece has already been widely shared, pitch the piece with an interview with one of your in-house subject matter experts. It will give the writer an exclusive angle on the piece, and allow you to showcase some of your (or your client’s) expertise. Bonus Tip: When you’re trying to capitalize on a piece that’s being shared, make sure you prioritize outreach to top-level publishers first, and then follow-up by pitching it to blogs and industry publications. We recently published a case study on a tech-industry infographic we created that went viral, and as it did so, we targeted top-tier sites like Venturebeat, ZDNet and BG Report before moving on to digital security publications. Bigger publications tend to be more concerned with publishing something while it’s fresh. What’s more, the fact that the piece has been shared on sites like Venturebeat and ZDNet can lend more credibility to your pitch to industry sites and blogs.

Step 2: Find Misattributed Posts

If your piece is being shared on top-tier publications, it’s probably naturally being syndicated and shared across other sites. This is one of those awesome things the Internet tends to do, but once again, you can’t just kick up your heels and watch. Instead, you need to start emailing the folks who are publishing your content without providing attribution (read: links) to your site, and ask them to update their post. One of the easiest ways to find places that have organically shared your is via a reverse Google image search. How to reverse image search for your reblogged content Once again, the sooner you can do this, the better the chance they’ll actually change the link while it’s fresh in their minds. And when you send someone an email, try to sound like a respectable content marketer rather than a gross SEO by saying something like this.

Hi *Writer’s Name*, I saw you’d shared this infographic via Forbes on *infographic topic*. Just wanted to let you know that we created that piece, so was hoping you could update the source to *our site*. *Insert pleasant formalities about the article and/or their work and/or local sports team*. Thanks, John Q. SEO Content Marketer

Step 3: Join the Social Conversation

Finally, you should make sure you get in on the social conversation. Sharing to your social profiles, retweeting publishers and writers, and/or mentioning them in tweeting about the piece can help you capitalize on the momentum of the piece and add plenty of new fans to your social channels. What’s more, you’ll want to make sure your existing fans know that you’ve created some awesome content, and it’s been widely shared. What's more, earned media is more widely trusted than owned media,  so sharing your earned placements with your owned audience will make your brand look more established and credible. They’ll like you even more than they already do (if that’s even possible).

Wrapping Up

As more and more brands ramp up their content marketing budgets, and publishers and audiences are inundated with pitches and new infographics, guides and interactives, it'll become tougher and tougher to get content placed, and shared. What this means is that if you ever create a piece that develops any momentum of its own, you need to capitalize on it immediately, by ramping up your outreach, finding unattributed shares, and joining the social conversation - because failing to do so is a huge missed opportunity.