Rebuilding yourself (and your blog) after going viral
It's not that this blog is "all that", necessarily. But, I have spent some time in the spotlight as my story has circulated around the Internet. It's wonderful when it happens. Stats soar. People offer words of encouragement (or hate). Then, what?
Here's the thing about going viral: It's not always good. But still, the majority of us bloggers want to be seen. We want recognition.
Most of us don't start blogs to live in a world of loneliness. We start them to argue a point. To tell our story. Maybe even to have an impact. Whatever the reason, we write to be read.
[bctt tweet="Most of us don't start blogs to live in a world of loneliness" username="thinksaveretire"]
The wider our audience, the better. A 10,000 pageview/day blog is certainly more successful than one that gets 1,000 a day, right?
But shit, it's kinda like management in a "be careful what you wish for" sort of way. If you are the kind of person who gets affected by what other people think of you (it's okay, there's a LOT of people out there like that), then going viral may not turn out quite as well as you might think.
Especially once your content escapes the bounds of the community in which you write. We're all supportive of each other. Most of us are going through very similar paths in life, and we all want very similar things. That is - financial independence for one, and maybe even early retirement.
However, the average Joe or Jane out there doesn't give a shit what you want and may not be quite as supportive.
The two biggest negatives about going viral:
I'll be honest, I don't give a shit about the haters. Haters are going to hate regardless of what you do. Even if it's the exact same thing as them, they'll find a reason to hate you. Let 'em. Hate takes way too much effort for me.
The haters are out there, and they will let you know how much they hate you. After all, that's what they do. Otherwise, they wouldn't be haters.
In other words, you will get hate. From complete strangers. Maybe even from your friends and family. If not hate, maybe passive-aggressiveness. They won't call you as much or just pretend they are busy. In other words, things could change between you and those you know. It happens.
Are you ready for the hate? It's easy to say that you don't care or just ignore haters, but when the time comes when you're actually getting hate (and lots of it), it's easier said than done. Are you really ready for it?
The negative rebound
Once the virus begins to subside (and it will), things slowly return back to normal. Your traffic returns back down to where it was before and you're kinda back to square one, finding a path toward another viral exposure of your blog or story - that is, if you even want to go viral again.
Take a second to imagine this scenario: Something you wrote just got shared and it's making the rounds online. Twitter. Facebook. It's all over. Maybe a media outlet picked up on your story too (or, maybe the media outlet was the reason your story went viral). Everybody's reading about you or at least something you wrote. Your blog is getting pummeled by traffic.
Things are looking good.
Then, tomorrow happens. Your stats nose-dive as the next viral thing makes the rounds. People no longer care about you or what you wrote. They're off to the next thing. But, you're still sitting there and watching your blog's traffic sink right back down to where it was before, and you're thinking: "Aww, what the hell?" Was it something I said?
Yup, happens all the time. It's typical. We humans in first world countries are attention whores. We're bombarded with the latest and greatest thing, then move on to something else. Your story got caught up in the tidal wave for a day or two, but the wave's gone. Hopefully, you enjoyed the ride.
What do you do now?
First, understand something: This is the name of the game. It's how it works. You get exposure. People see you. Every last person on the face of the planet has an opinion. Those opinions are free, and most of us just loooooove to share them. Admit it, we all do. We love telling people what we think.
If your story is in the spotlight, then it'll be the subject of opinion. Some people will love it. Others will hate it. And, everything in-between.
That's life when you're living in the blogosphere.
To me, it's fun. It's a challenge to see just how far I can bring my story. It's exhilarating when I succeed. Mission accomplished!
Now, on to writing the next story.
P.S. I also feed on hate. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, though.
[bctt tweet="Going viral is like super-heated exposure, though, it often comes with hate" username="thinksaveretire"]
How to go viral
Going viral requires exposure, plain and simple. That exposure can come from a variety of sources. If you're a blogger, it's probably going to come from popular influencers in the community. The goal is to get your stuff in front of them, and hopefully, they will share it with their huge audience.
I was featured on CNBC, and from there my story was picked up by downstream media outlets like Don't Waste Your Money and a slew of associated Scripps network outlets around the country. They all shared my story and it went gangbusters on Facebook. Friends were contacting me because I showed up in their news feed. Plenty said I was "famous".
Totally not true, but okay, let's go with that. :)
In my case, CNBC was the influencer. Then, the story (as well as a couple follow-ons) were picked up by others and the story continued making the rounds. Hell, rapper Akon shared our budget, too, on his Facebook page with over 50 million views. That was interesting!
Sometimes, it's about timing it right. I maintained a political blog years ago that I've since shut down. I wrote a story shortly after a major national news event happened and it got picked up by a very large and well-known alternative news source. Traffic soared. I got all kinds of hits on that article and I was livin' large for a couple of days. Of course, the traffic returned back to normal shortly thereafter. But, I accidentally timed it right. I published at the right time. A media outlet happened to see it. The pieces fell into place.
Over the years, I've also learned not to write with the intent of going viral, because more times than not, it won't work. I've been amazed that some of the content that I thought was top-notch did not end up doing so well, and other content that I threw together in 15 minutes on a Saturday night, probably somewhat drunk, turned into some of my best, well-read stuff.
It's amazing how these things work sometimes. You can't plan on going viral or getting super popular. Many times, it just happens. My plan is to always create the best content I can. I know some of my stuff will do well and other things won't. That's okay. It's all a part of doing business in a creative space.
Also, don't write the same old stuff and expect to go viral. While it can happen, your chances are reduced if the material you're creating isn't unique in some way. For example, I went viral because it was my story. My story. But, it also wasn't a "5 ways I saved money last week" post, either. The article that got shared detailed our budget as mid-30s early retirees. That material isn't all that common online.
Oh, and being visual helps. Infographics (like the one on the right!) can be super beneficial in going viral. Pictures and colors. Giving people something interesting to LOOK AT will increase your chances of something major happening with your content.
And, I will absolutely love you forever if you pin that graphic to Pinterest. That's right, forever love. What a deal, eh? ;)
Other tips that help: Be controversial. Be different. Be shocking. Hell, be dangerous. You need not over-sensationalize your story, but finding that unique angle to whatever you're writing about will increase your chances of going viral. Give the people something really fucking interesting.
Lastly, some have found amazing success on Reddit, but be very, very careful over on Reddit. Reddit has an incredibly loyal following of dedicated users who are super sensitive to self-promotion (for good reason!). If you sign up for an account just to publish your own stuff, you WILL get flack. You might even get banned from some Reddit discussion topics. I don't post my stuff on Reddit. Ever. It's a community I've never really cared to get involved in, but I absolutely recognize Reddit's potential to start "viruses".
Have you ever gone viral? If so, what did you write/create that caused the Internet to take notice? Can you identify what caused your stuff to take off?