For many bloggers, the idea of “going viral” is the pinnacle of blogdom success…unprecedented levels of traffic, a guaranteed increase in social media followers, and the opportunity to have your voice be heard by an astounding number of people. It’s the ultimate blogging goal, but for most bloggers, it’s nothing more than a highly elusive dream.
And that’s how it was for me too…until I went viral.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece called “They Lied…It Matters How You Birth”. I poured my heart into that essay and expected a decent response from my regular readers — I am, after all, a baby blogger and birth is kind of important in the baby world. What I didn’t expect, was that this little piece apparently had a rocket ship hidden up its tail-end, because within a few hours it took off blazing across the internet realms. 1 share turned into 10…then 100…then 10,000 and before I knew it I was contacting my web-host to make sure my site wouldn’t crash. Over 20,000 shares later, I’m still asking myself, “Did that really just happen?!”
So like any good blogger, I wrote about my experience. In list form, of course.
5 Lessons I Learned From “Going Viral”
1) EVERYTHING IS CONTROVERSIAL
I’ve written on my fair share of divisive topics, but my viral piece was positive and encouraging– primarily a declaration that women’s feeling should be respected and valued after birth. How could anyone argue with that? I went to bed that night contentedly anticipating the good-natured comments I’d receive on my piece…and woke up the next morning to more hate mail than my inbox had ever seen.
Lesson learned. In the internet world, EVERYTHING that goes viral is controversial. Positive birth? Controversial. Respecting women? Controversial. You could probably even write an article about the grass being green, and still have a commenter say “How dare you!”
2) PEOPLE ARE THE WORST
Speaking of those commenters, some people are just the worst. Thankfully, the good majority of the comments on my actual blog were thoughtful and respectful, even when they disagreed with my viewpoint. But the comment threads on different Facebook pages were another story…if you write something even remotely divisive, don’t ever read those comment threads unless you have impenetrable emotions. The shroud of internet anonymity allows readers to say things that they never would have the courage to voice in real life. “You’re retarded!” “You disgust me!” “This is the WORST THING I HAVE EVER READ!” (Really? Thousands of other people would beg to differ…)
3) PEOPLE ARE THE BEST
And thank goodness for those other people, because some of them really are the best. Having women open their souls to you, saying things like “I’ve never shared this before, but you’ve helped me find the courage”, and thanking me for giving their experience a voice…forget get my Google Analytics reports (though those are pretty amazing too), THIS is the pinnacle of blogging experiences.
4) ACTUALLY, PEOPLE DON’T REALLY CARE
Going viral makes you develop a bit of a celebrity complex. Hundreds of thousands of people reading your work, comments rolling into your inbox, hoards of new social media “fans”….you’ve made it big! Might as well just go ahead and hire a personal body guard in true starlet fashion. Then you actually step away from your computer screen and talk to someone in real life.
“So I wrote this piece that was shared thousands of times and now my site is blowing up!”
*CRICKETS* That’s what you’ll hear, because real people (especially if they’re not bloggers) don’t really care all that much about what goes on in the internet world. You might think about your blog day and night, but most people will read something once, maybe comment on it (but probably not), and then carry on with their lives.
5) CARRY ON
And that’s really what you need to do too…carry on. Success can be paralyzing. You go viral and in a single day, your site gets more traffic than, well…ever. And all of a sudden the pressure is on! You feel like every aspect of your blog needs to be the picture of perfection and ever piece you write worthy of another viral sweep. But let’s be honest…the chances of going viral a second time are pretty slim, and most of the visitors you had will be just that — visitors. Maybe you’ll gain a few returning readers, but the reality is that building a loyal readership takes time, consistency, and a lot of hard work — not a single viral article that everyone forgets about when the next eye-catching piece rolls around (which is like, the next hour).
So moral of the story: If you “go viral”, enjoy the momentary high (emphasis on momentary), ignore the meanies and be humbled by the supporters…but then keep calm and blog on.
Have you ever “gone viral”? I’d love to know how the experience was for you!
(Coming soon: Part 2 – The “How To” of going viral)