It’s like striking the digital lotto. Every blogger wants their writing to spread through the Internet like a bad case of the Avian Flu. The problem is– there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to what strikes the public’s fancy at any given moment! Some of the best writing out there is tucked away in dusty unseen corners on little blogs with no social media presence or SEO. And bad writing on a popular site can spread everywhere and annoy the crap out of our newsfeeds.
So is it just plain ol’ luck? Is it based on popularity? Yes…and no. Today we’re going to take a look at three blog posts from bloggers I’ve met in real life. They are normal people– one is a college student, one a mom, one a midlife blogger. All of them without any idea that a post they’d write one day would take off.
So here they are:
- The Michigan Accent & Michigander’s Slang Words
- 15 Ways You Might Know You’re From a Big Family
- Ya’ll Laughing at Us? Bless Your Hearts
Taking a closer look at their Facebook status buttons, you can see that all of these got over 34k likes on Facebook. The Michigan slang words post has over 237k likes. We can assume that the traffic to these posts are probably double or triple the number of likes (since lots of people read posts and choose not to hit the like button).
Do these three posts have anything in common?
Broad and pointed
Say what? All three of these posts are attractive to a broad audience. Lots of people can identify with big families, making fun of people from the South (sorry!), and different accents around the country. But notice that each post also targets a specific demographic? Southerners, Michiganders, and big families. Part of what makes these posts so shareable is that people (when they relate to the post) want to share it with all the people they know that are in the same category as a way to bond.
So a southerner reads “Ya’ll…” and then laughs and posts it to her friend’s wall, who also relates and wants to share. There seems to be a magical mix of broad and pointed in each piece.
The Big Families post was published very close to Thanksgiving– a time when big families enjoy their…well…big-ness. The Ya’ll Laughing post was published a day after a very large Southern snowstorm. She rode the way of the news and scored big. In talking with Melanie, she’s noticed certain times of year when her post gets a ton of traffic (perhaps during college football season or other times when people are bonding over their local sports teams).
It’s hard to ignore the fact that funny posts go viral more often than serious ones. All of these posts poke fun at stereotypes surrounding themselves. And there is another point. Each author IS IN the demographic that they are mocking. It’s one of the golden rules of humor. If you are a Yankee and are making fun of Southerners, it’s not going to go over well.
You can make fun of it if you ARE it or HAVE it. <tweet this>
This goes along with humor. The posts are funny and believable and relatable because the authors are writing about their own experiences.
I read recently that viral content doesn’t necessarily discuss a new topic, it just sheds an authentic and unique perspective on it. <tweet this>
Other examples of viral content and what they teach…
9 Reasons I Regret Being a Stay-at-home Mom: Lisa evoked a lot of emotion (both positive and negative). Viral content is rarely neutral. When you arouse someone’s anger, joy, or surprise, you are more likely to get your piece shared.
25 Things Successful Educators Do Differently: I wrote this post, which originally was published for Open Colleges and then reposted on dozens of education sites (all with over 1k likes). So what was it about this piece that triggered an outbreak of sharing? It reached a broad, but pointed demographic (teachers), it evoked emotion, and…it was practical. Lists and practical content are more likely to be shared.
Format your content for online reading
You’ll notice that some of these posts are long, some are short, but ALL of them use either headings, short paragraphs, quotable phrases, or lists. Big long chunks of text won’t get shared…or read for that matter. Break up your content and organize it in a way that’s memorable.
No necessary backstory
Have you ever seen a blog series or blog post part III go viral? No. People don’t want to have some information or backstory in order to understand your piece. It should stand on its own, without anything else necessary to round out the picture.
Not everything you write is going to have the potential to go viral and that’s okay. But, if you think you might have something on your hands that could, make sure it does the following things:
- Reaches a broad audience, but also has a pointed demographic
- Evokes emotion (laughter, surprise, anger, awe, etc.)
- Is authentically yours and has a unique perspective, even if it’s a well written about topic
- Is formatted for online reading
- Doesn’t require a moment of backstory from your readers
- Is it practical?
- Is it in a list format?
- Is it surrounding a hot topic?
- Does it have photos or videos that enhance the writing?
Let me know in the comments if you had a post that went viral. Did it follow these rules or did you do something different?