How Can I go Viral?


Perspectives on Going Viral

by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

You wake up one morning, check your phone, and spit out your coffee. You have thousands of likes on Facebook, hundreds of retweets, and an inbox that has exploded. Your little blog — which normally gets a dozen views per day and has an audience of exactly two, your spouse and mother — has been shared all over the internet, and that post you wrote last night, in your pajamas, has gone viral.

Going viral is different for everyone, but it can be a strange blend of exciting and terrifying — and very emotional, as writer Sam Dylan Finch described in his recent interview. Here, four bloggers on WordPress.com share their experiences.

Gretchen Kelly, Drifting Through My Open Mind

Gretchen KellyLast November, Gretchen Kelly published “The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About,” in which she described all the tactics women employ to move safely through a world of sexism and harassment. Nearly two thousand comments and more than two million views later, the post continues to generate a lot of activity.

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

Twitter is where my post first started to get some traction. I knew something was going on when I started seeing retweets and comments from non-bloggers. Soon, my Twitter notifications were going crazy. People started asking to publish it in different languages, and the Huffington Post and Upworthy contacted me. It was circulating on Facebook, too, but I wasn’t as aware of that. I think it was shared initially because it resonated with so many women. Then, it was shared by people who were angered by it. There’s definitely a sweet and salty feel to going viral.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

I don’t know if anything can prepare you for the turbulence of going viral. I learned that I’m not as thick-skinned as I’d like to think. I received so many positive, touching messages from both men and women. But the negative, hateful comments? Those were tough to take. At times I let them get to me and affect my mood. Eventually, I had to turn off notifications on my phone and take a break from it all.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. I almost scrapped the post right before publishing it. I was filled with doubt, worried that no one would get what I was trying to say. But I published it and hoped for the best. I try not to question or overanalyze anything when it comes to my writing or blogging. It’s a struggle because I think generally, writers are an over thinking, self-doubting bunch. But I also know that overthinking can be the death of creativity. I try hard to just go with it and let things happen. So, no. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

My desire to blog hasn’t waned. What was a challenge was deciding what to write next. I am not a niche blogger, and I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I sometimes write about feminism, but I also write about grief, about my life, about love. Would I lose new followers or let them down? Would people pick it apart like some did with the viral post? Eventually, I just wrote what was on my mind at the time. I’m still working on that not-overthinking thing!

Matthew Fray, Must Be This Tall to Ride

Matthew FrayLast month, Matthew published “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” Before he knew it, the post had gone viral — no promotion needed on his part. Since then, he’s been experiencing the aftermath of the experience, which he reflected on in “Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes.”

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

Kind of. I work in digital marketing, so checking web traffic and content performance is part of what I do. I published the post on January 14th. It was viewed 263 times that day.

This is how the post performed afterward:

Matthew-Fray-Stats-Chart

Matthew’s post views from January 15-28, 2016.

Views are slowly returning to whatever my blog’s new normal will be.

It was nothing more than some readers sharing it on Facebook, then their friends sharing it on Facebook, and then their friends doing the same.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

I learned that blogging CAN make a tangible difference in people’s lives. A silly post about a dish by the sink — the deeper meaning was sadly lost on many readers — sparked countless conversations about marriage online and among couples. Some people said their relationships will never be the same. In a good way.

One thing I learned about myself is that everyone will not like or agree with me, and I need to be able to live with that. I didn’t like having so many people who didn’t know me make judgments about my marriage and my beliefs based on one post that most didn’t seem to read all the way nor understand. Moving forward, thicker skin will be required.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

There are sentences in the post which made sense to me and regular readers because we have context, but to millions of strangers, some thoughts were understandably misinterpreted. Had I known so many strangers would read it, I’d have exercised more thoughtful and prudent word choices. But, big picture? This got people talking about marriage in meaningful ways. I’m proud of that. In that respect, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

In my two-and-a-half years of blogging on WordPress.com, people have mostly been exceedingly kind when leaving comments. Opening the floodgates to a larger cross-section of humanity introduced me to criticism and some less-than-pleasant insults in a way I had never experienced.

Sometimes people (or maybe it’s just me) have a unique capacity to ignore the ninety percent saying nice things, and hone in on the ten percent who aren’t. I didn’t always handle that with grace and professionalism. Learning to accept that not everyone will agree with me, like me, or understand me will be my biggest challenge moving forward.

Lisa Durant, Can Anybody Hear Me?

Lisa DurantIn April 2015, Lisa wrote “The ‘After’ Myth,” a post about losing weight, yet failing to discover and truly love herself. A year on, the piece continues to resonate with readers.

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

Although I can’t be entirely sure, I think a photo made my post go viral. Since my post was about my weight loss journey (or, as I prefer to put it, my life gain journey), it included a before and after photo of my physical transformation. While I understand that a dramatic high-impact photo makes for good clickbait, in this scenario, it’s kind of ironic. That post (and my entire blog, really) are meant to take attention away from the physical and focus more on the mental and emotional challenges of major weight loss.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

I was surprised at how many people were surprised by my willingness to talk openly about personal topics. I also felt a bit of fear over being so visible. I’ve always been an open book, but I’ve never had so many readers paging through. I learned that people are a lot kinder than I ever knew. I was shocked at how few negative and critical responses I received and overwhelmed by the support I found.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I could have capitalized on it. I could have ridden the wave of being visible and used it to gain even more exposure. I could have grown my blog, sold ads, and tried to turn it into a career as many others have. But I purposely chose not to, and I don’t regret that choice. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed briefly writing for other publications as a result, but I also chose to retreat and let the viral post run its course. I suppose that’s one other thing I learned about myself: I don’t want to be famous; I just want to write.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

At first, going viral made me second guess everything I sat down to write. I worried that whatever I posted next would never be as good. I also became much more aware of how many people could potentially see the sometimes very personal things that I tend to bring up in my posts. But then, I realized that these fears were exactly the right thing to write about next, and so I did. And, I made a decision and a statement: I couldn’t promise that every post would be viral-worthy or even interesting to anyone else, but I could promise to be honest. I decided that I would continue to do what I’d been doing for years: write for me, not for an audience.

Corinne Rogero, Duly Noted

Corinne Rogero“I Should Be Engaged,” Corinne Rogero’s quiet musings on being more mindful in the moment and creating meaningful connections, made lots of noise in January as well. Ten days after,she beautifully reflected on the experience that turned her world upside down.

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

I think a lot of millennials are bombarded with the notion that engagement and marriage are the keys to happiness. So the word “engaged” in my post’s title perhaps drew people’s attention, and I’m sure some readers hoped to hear a valid reason for why they deserved to be engaged in the marital sense as well.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

There is greater power in sharing stories and exchanging words than perhaps we’ll ever fully realize. And I think because our words hold such weight — whether we realize it or not — they deserve to be shared in ways that connect with other souls and land somewhere deeper than mere surface level.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think many people expect their post to go viral when their cursor hovers over the “Publish” button, and because my experience was just as unexpected, I don’t think it could have taken place any other way. I was writing just to write, and it just so happened to be read around the world.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

Immediately after my post crossed the 1,000,000 mark, I felt pressure to publish posts of the same caliber — that anything under a million views meant it wasn’t a good post. And the same expectation carried over into other social media platforms where I’d gained hundreds of followers because of my post. Suddenly, each Instagram photo or tweet had to be perfectly clever and professionally delivered. But I’m reminded that whether a post receives one or one million views, those one or one million people are exactly those who need to read it. Playing the comparison game in writing will only stifle your voice and suffocate your story.

Looking for something to read? Explore the latest picks from our editors at Discover.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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