I got up early to work on lesson plans.
Dexter had other ideas.
People will stop you on the street for your autograph! Store clerks will covertly point at you, asking each other, “Is that really her, the brilliant mind behind that brilliant blog?” Your bank account will grow as more and more people hang on every word you write! You’ll soon be chatting on air with Matt Lauer and Ellen! Advertisers and brands will flock to you, begging you to wear their clothes, drink their drinks, maybe even drive their cars!
You. Will. Have. Arrived!
You just need to write that one post that has that special magic to go viral. Or luck into that one reader with the influence to spread your words, your post, your link farther and wider than you could ever imagine. Then you’ll be on the map. You’ll get what’s most important to you — gobs of comments, tons of accolades, visitors and pageviews and new subscribers, klout (yes, with a “k”) and respect and freebies — even a book deal with movie rights.
Or maybe not. Perhaps this is the fantasy some of us carry: if we could just find the right key to embiggen our little stage and get our words in front of more eyeballs, We. Will. Have. Arrived.
But is that really what happens? Surely there are instances in which a previously obscure blog has been catapulted to fame and fortune via one springy diving-board of a post that went viral, enabling the blogger to hit the Big Time in a sustained way.
I’ve recently had a post or two go viral, one on kids and marijuana and the other on a jewelry commercial, and the results were nothing like what I thought they’d be. In spite of a couple of weeks of high pageviews, feel-good attagirls and (in the case of the jewelry ad critique) supporters kindly defending me, I’m still here slogging at my blog with nothing much changed. My stats have returned to my normal, no fans are pointing at me surreptitiously in the grocery store line, I’m still driving my own car, my bank account balances remain the same, and if Ellen did call (Are you the curmudgeon who didn’t like that lovely ad?), she didn’t leave a message. Fame and fortune remain just as far off in the horizon as they were before the virus.
Here are a few downsides to a post going viral.
1. New readers don’t know you or your rules of engagement. When readers visit me from my usual bloggerhood (and even neighborhoods one or two circles out from that ‘hood), they bring wise words, supportive sentiments, relevant questions and considered assessments of the topic. When readers come from farther outside my sphere — people who don’t know me or know anything about me — the rules of engagement seem to no longer exist. In the case of the post critical of Kay Jewelers, it was picked up by The Huffington Post, and addressed by Mommyish (<== don’t hover over that link if you have a school-age child looking on) and The DailyMail. I’m pleased to say that my usual commenters do not treat people the way commenters on those mega-sites sometimes do.
2. You become an object first, a person second (if at all). With a viral post that reaches people who haven’t interacted with you before, some people may talk about you as if you aren’t there listening, reading, dealing with the impact of their words. In my case, people made hugely erroneous assumptions about me and felt no compunction about calling me and others horrid names, words that no one has ever said to my face. There were pages and pages of what I call the comment pile-on, people whose vileness feeds off each other. Here is how I handled that in the case of the jewelry ad.
3. There are also technical aspects, such as the fact that your host’s server may not be equipped to handle a high multiple of your regular traffic. You could find your whole site down at the worst possible time — precisely when people are landing there by the hundreds, thousands, maybe millions. And if you typically are attentive to your commenters, it may become very challenging to keep up with so many of them — especially the nasty ones, ones that miss the point, ones who react only to the headline (who needs to actually read the post?), ones who come to your space with their agenda, or ones that are just plain wackadoodle.
4. The virality effect tends to afford just a blip and not a sustained upward trajectory. Jeff Goins says in his post The Truth About Going Viral:
Should I change what I write about, focusing more on this topic? Should I try to keep as many of those visitors as possible? And what would I do when Monday rolled around, and I had to start blogging again?
The next week, I hit the old grindstone again, and the Internet had already forgotten about me. My traffic spike had mellowed out, and I was back to zero, forced to earn people’s attention all over again.
I’m not gonna lie. Even with the insults and meanness, the misunderstood-ness and the return to pre-virus activity levels, I’m grateful I had these viral experiences and I would welcome them again (so share this post, whydoncha?). It’s a thrill to generate thought and passion in others and to be the provoker of that.
So if you want to give it a shot yourself and report back your results with virality, here’s an infographic to guide your efforts.
What are your hopes and fears about a post going viral?