Well, it happened. The thing every blogger dreams about has finally happened to me. A few weeks ago, one of my posts (read it here) went viral!
Within the first few days, it had gotten upwards of 1000 shares on Facebook and hundreds of thousands of views, and the comments were flooding my inbox at overwhelming speeds. Today I want to share with you some of the things I learned from that experience– things I wish someone had told me before it happened.
You Have to Be Ready to Go Viral At Any Time
I was lucky on this one. The way my blog is configured was the product of many, many hours of planning and hard work. Was it perfect? Nope. Will it ever be? Probably not. But all things considered, I felt pretty good about the experience people had when they got there.
Things to Think About
Load time: Now admittedly, mine could (should?) be better. But I’ve done the best I could with the time and budget I have. I have caching set up, lazy loading for my images, and various other measures on my back end that are supposed to keep things running as smoothly as possible. To my knowledge, I didn’t lose many people to poor load times with the drastic surge in traffic and thanks to Bluehost (affiliate link) my site was up and running the whole time. Yippee!
Call to action: When you suddenly get a bunch of new readers, you want to do everything you can to entice them to come back. Make it really easy/intriguing for potential readers to subscribe and make sure you remember to ask them to do so! People are much more likely to do things if you ask them to– but also be careful not to ask them to do too much or they’ll get overwhelmed and choose none of the above.
Ads: We’ve talked about this here before, but as you know, I’m not huge into ads. Did my viral post have me singing a different tune? Well, yes and no. It was a religious post, so after considering throwing up some ads there for about 30 seconds I realized I didn’t feel quite right going commercial with it. Will I install some ad units on the blog eventually? Maybe… but I’m still not sure.
You Never Know What Will Go Viral (or Do You?)
It was just a normal day. Another day, another post. You publish it, maybe share it to a few places on social media and call it a day… but then the NEXT day, you wake up and realize your little post has sprouted wings and is flying all over the globe!
Is there any way of knowing when this will be your story? If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience it’s that there is something of a “secret formula” for posts that go viral on Facebook (where most of my shares happened), and it’s not necessarily the same formula that makes posts go viral on another network, like Pinterest.
On Facebook, however, this is what I’ve noticed: when people share blog posts here, it’s because the author is saying something they want to say to their friends and family, but don’t quite know how to put it into words. Now, I’ll acknowledge the fact that this isn’t always the case, but when applied to most of the truly viral posts I’ve studied, it almost always is.
Things to Think About
When you brainstorm ideas for posts, do you ever think about how to give voice to the unspoken thoughts and feelings of your audience? I didn’t really, but you’d better believe I will now! Do your research on creating content that gets shared.
Going Viral Won’t Make You Rich
Now, if you have a ton of ads on your site, you might see a spike in ad revenue from a viral post and you might not. It depends how much traffic you get and how well you’ve structured your ads and their placement. But in my case, so far my viral post has not translated to much increase in blog income, if any. I did receive an offer for a sponsorship as well as two requests to translate it into other languages for further distribution, which is pretty cool… but it’s no major publishing contract or anything.
Things to Think About
If your posts aren’t going viral, don’t dismay. Virality is not essential to growth and it’s not essential to income. If you want to learn more about creating income with your blog, sign up for my free email course on the subject here.
Your Blog Will Grow, But Not As Much As You Expected
Have I experienced a sustained increase in traffic and readership since the post went viral? Sure! But not a huge one.
The reality about viral posts is that in most cases, the people who read them don’t stick around for more. Full disclosure? I netted about 200 new email subscribers in that week… which is not too shabby, for me! But it’s not enough to completely change life for me as a blogger.
It Probably Won’t Be All Fun and Games
Sadly, many of the posts that go viral (mine included) are those that cause controversy. By no means did I intend for my post to do so, I just wanted to share a little bit about my beliefs, but all the same there were CRAZY amounts of people who took offense to it and made sure to make it known that they did!
This was the biggest, most lasting impression this experience has had on me. I suppose I should be grateful for all the accidental controversy (let’s just say I had to delete a lot of really mean comments and eventually stop reading them altogether) because it helped the post to get more engagement, which in turn got it in front of more people. But to be honest, it was really hard. I mean REALLY hard. Even when total strangers are the ones calling you names, it still hurts and is really tough to shake off.
People love to debate online and they love to feel like they’re right. Social conventions like good tact and manners often don’t seem to apply here like they do in our in-person interactions (although they really should!).
Things to Think About
Are you prepared to handle the negative things people might say about you if one of your posts causes some controversy? If this happens to you and it all becomes too much, then I definitely recommend doing what I ended up doing and enlisting the help of someone you trust to help filter through the comments and delete the most hurtful ones before you look at them. My husband has been super helpful with this, and it’s made a huge difference.
Also, remember that when all is said and done, it’s just a blog post and all the chaos will most likely die down almost as quickly as it began. Give yourself permission to step away and even (gasp!) not respond to every last comment that rolls in. Your readers are important, but they shouldn’t take precedence over your inner peace/sanity!
So, it’s pretty much over now. The comments have dwindled back to their usual rate and so, for the most part, have my blog stats. And that’s really okay.
As it turns out, going viral isn’t everything I dreamed it would be. In fact, I am now even more convinced of the importance of smart and effective networking strategies as a means for sustainable, meaningful growth on your blog.
Over to You
Has one of your posts ever gone viral? What did you learn from your experience? Share it in the comments, won’t you?