It's the dream of every blogger to write a post that gets picked up by social media and goes around the Internet like a fast-moving fire.
We see these viral topics all the time. It might be a video of a baby laughing or an article about a mom creating storybook photos. Trying to break the code and understand what will go viral and what won't can seem like an insurmountable task.
Fortunately, by studying what others have done and sticking to some tried and true techniques, you'll have a good chance of tapping into what readers want to read and want to share with others.
Why Do Some Posts Go Viral?
There was an interesting article in the New Yorker in January. The author, Maria Konnikova, discusses the time she spent while she was a student at Stanford studying what topics were most read in the Wall Street Journal. While she couldn't find a pattern as far as the topics, she did find some interesting connections in how the articles were presented to the reader and which ones seemed to go viral. Emotion was the number one thing she found that made a post resonate with readers (tugged at heartstrings, made her angry, etc.)
Even more interesting, though, was that if the article evoked EXTREME emotion, then the reader was more likely to share it. Anger over a scandal, for example, had as strong of an effect as something that made the reader laugh hysterically. She ties this into Aristotle's theory about a person's ethos, pathos and logos and how emotion makes us act.
In the article, she uses the example of the site Upworthy, which focuses on videos. The entire concept of the site has a positive underlying message and the headlines are all designed to evoke some type of emotion in the reader and because readers have shared those videos, the site now has over 87 million regular site visitors.
For example, some recent headlines include:
- Which Companies Buy Elections? A Scary State-By-State Map.
- A Pregnant Woman Learns Her Baby Has Down Syndrome. People Who Have It Answer Her One Big Question.
- Artificial-Intelligence Researcher Tricked Into Falling In Love With A Robot. Twice.
What do you think? Do those headlines make you want to find out more?
5 Quick Steps to Go Viral
5 – Make It Easy to Share
The first and easiest thing you can do to help your post go viral is to make it easy for your readers to share that post.
- Install a Plugin such as 1-click Retweet/Share/Like and Shareaholic.
- Share the link on your own social media pages so that people can quickly share or retweet without having to go through too many steps. Ask them to share and retweet in the post.
4 – Know Your Topic
If you aren't already writing in a niche, you should be. Knowing your topic and knowing it well is what makes for content that can't be replicated elsewhere and that readers will feel is worthy of sharing. If you don't have this knowledge, consider hiring someone who does to write for your blog.
Over at WritetoDone blog, Matt Hutchinson talks about the importance of writing to your niche. However, he takes his advice a step farther and also says that it is vital to stay up to date on industry trends and news in your niche. You can't write trending topics if you don't know what those trending topics are. He also recommends knowing the community you're writing for. He says:
“Find out where your ideal readers hang out online. Visit the most popular blogs in your niche. Read everything that’s discussed in the comments, especially for the most popular topics.”
This is excellent advice, because these are the topics your readers want to know more about. Also, these are the people who are already engaged in online blogging. They are more likely to share your posts with others who might want to know the same information.
3 – Headlines Matter
As shown in the examples above for the Upworthy site, headlines have a huge impact on a reader. It is the first impression she has of your article. It sums up for her whether or not it is worth her time to read what you've written. You have about five seconds to grab the reader's interest and you're competing with millions of other blogs, so you'd better make that headline count.
Jerry Low wrote an article titled “Write Headlines Like Brian Clark, Neil Patel, and Jon Morrow: 35 Headline Samples From The A-List Bloggers“, where you can get a nice list of different headlines that work.
Remember from the analysis in the New Yorker, that you want to try to tug at the reader's emotions.
Bad Example: Peanut Butter Recall
Better Example: Mother Grieves as Peanut Butter Recall Too Late for Two-Year-Old Child
You'll also want to work on adding in some of the other elements of good headlines, such as offering a call to action, indicating the article is a how-to or giving a number of items you'll offer to help the reader, such as in the title of this article.
2 – Self-Promote
Don't be afraid to toot your own horn and let people know about your article. In addition to adding a link on Facebook and Twitter, you should be doing at least some of the following:
- Gather subscriber names and emails and send out a monthly newsletter with a recap of blog posts you've written.
- Plug the article on sites like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon.
- Email friends and family privately and asking them to share your articles.
- Don't forget about Google Plus, which is growing in popularity.
- Get involved on other blogs by leaving comments. However, don't just plug your articles as this can be seen as rude or spammy by others. Simply add knowledge you have in the discussion and if there is a place to add a link, add it. If not, just use your name. Someone may Google you and find your blog.
- Go on blogging tours so you reach readers on other blogs.
- Allow others to post on your blog as this will bring in their regular readers and new traffic.
- Offer to be interviewed at sites that attract your target demographic. If you blog about butterflies, offer to be interviewed on some gardening blogs or an entomology blog.
1 – Content Is King
I've studied extensively what makes a site successful, what causes it to rank well in Google and even have spent time ranking sites for Google. One thing that all high ranking, high traffic sites have in common is that they produce not just good content but excellent content. In the article “How to Magnetize Your Blog and Build Readership“, I talk about what makes for high quality content, including unique items you won't find anywhere else and going a step beyond what anyone else is offering, especially your competition.
In “5 Quick Copywriting Rules for Blogs“, we share with you some basic techniques that will help you write consistently good blog posts that your readers will love and will love to share.
Try Different Things
Although these tips will improve your chances that your blog post will go viral, there is no guarantee that it will. Sometimes it truly does seem to be luck. The right topic at the right time that resonates with readers who share it. It's almost like hitting the lottery when your blog post goes viral.
While still staying within your niche, be willing to try different things. Interview companies and industry experts, add videos, write memes and share them, talk about topics no one else is talking about. You never know what it going to take off and make your site famous or at least bring in a little extra traffic.