Why Marketers Should Pay Attention to Google Flu Trends

Rick Burnes
Rick Burnes



flu trends

If you're a marketer or small business owner and haven't seen  Google Flu Trends , go check it out now. It's cool.

Flu Trends is a simple application that  Google.org launched earlier this week  to give U.S. residents better data about cases of  influenza . Google's data closely mirrors data from the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control , but Google says theirs sometimes appear earlier, so they could serve as a leading indicator of nasty flu epidemics.

Flu Trends is also a terrific piece of marketing for Google. 

It's been picked up and turned into a week-long meme shinning positive light on the company. It's one of the top emailed articles on  NYTimes.com , it's been written about in The  The Wall Street Journal  as well as dozens of blogs and it's on the home page of  Techmeme . For Google, the project probably cost next to nothing. All in all, Flu Trends is a textbook example of inbound marketing.

That's great, but at your company you don't have access to the world-class statisticians or global search data that Google used to build Flu Trends. How can you hope to create similar content, if those are the resources required?

While you might not be able to create content that has the scale or complexity of Google's, it's easy to create marketing content that's equally as magnetic. Just be creative. More specifically, there are three things you should do:

(1) Do Something That's Timely --  Pick content projects that are already on people's radar screen. Google's timing with Flu Trends is perfect because the flu season is about to begin, and people are beginning to think about it. Doctors are giving out flu shots, the weather's getting colder and it's finding its way into conversations, all of which Google now has something to add to.

(2) Use Unique, Interesting Data --  OK, you don't have access to the search data (or the processing and analysis resources) Google uses for Flu Trends, but focus on data that you do have. And if you really don't have anything, collect data from your customers in surveys, or even anecdotal data at industry events.

(3) Do Something That Helps People --  Aside from being interesting and unique data, Flu Trends resonates because it helps people. It addresses a problem that that's bigger and more personal than search advertising relevance. Find problems like that to focus on, and you'll win respect.

What am I missing? How can small businesses or marketers on limitted budgets create marketing content as effective as Flu Trends? Let's discuss in the comments.


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