Expanding the Dance: ‘Going Viral’

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The sorts of things that ‘go viral’ tend to be short, funny, outrageous, pithy. Thoughtful 300-500 word posts that ask you to spend a bit of your day exploring a topic deeply don’t seem like obvious candidates – not even the funny topics (I had hopes for Five Things to Do with Excess Zombies, but nope. Didn’t go viral).

If your goal is ‘going viral, first, write good content. Second, prettify it in a way that makes people want to stay on the page. Third, keep writing. And keep writing. And keep writing. And somehow, let people know about your stuff. Then pray, or ask the universe for help, or cross your fingers. 

Aye, there’s the rub. So much of ‘going viral’ depends on luck, above and beyond what the originator can do. I often find really good stuff that other people have written or created and ‘boost the signal’. I hope other people do the same about mine. And I write about so many different things that I’m often astounded at what does and doesn’t get peoples’ interest.

Something I wrote in twenty minutes just to loosen up my brain? Hundreds of hits. That truly deep and meaningful piece about making sure your son isn’t a rape statistic (as a rapist)? Not even fifty. The most popular article on Am I the Only One Dancing? is an article I wrote about how to wear business casual fashions on a budget.

I was stumped for a topic, and I’d been doing some perusing of pattern catalogs, so a throwaway article was born… and has had thousands of hits in the last several months, mostly because its Google ranking keeps rising.

Sometimes my political articles are the most popular, sometimes the fluff, sometimes the stuff I write about self help and mindfulness. Sometimes my book reviews go around the world and back again, and sometimes they fall flat on their face.

This blogging has been great practice for the reality of rejection in the publishing world. Ninety percent of what I put out there gets buried in a week, even or sometimes especially the good stuff. The trick is to keep writing, keep making sure as many eyeballs see it as possible.

Out of curiosity, I looked around for articles on ‘going viral’, and after reading them, I realized something important – no one really knows why one article goes around the world at lightning speed and another sits unread. No matter how talented the artist, to some extent fame and fortune rely on luck and good timing.

Going viral involves ‘word of mouth’ advertising to, at the very least, prime the pump until something gets the attention of major media. People share it with their friends because it touches something inside them. Today’s questions will explore why and how we share what we find.

  • Are you more likely to share something funny, something horrible, or something ‘important’. All three?
  • What was the last item you shared on Facebook or Google Plus or Twitter or some other social network? Why did you share that article?
  • When you share, who do you share with? Do you have different lists of friends to share different items with?
  • Are you more likely to share a photo or an article? When people share an article with you, do you generally read the article, or do you simply skim the headline and move on?
  • How important is the headline to get you to click on the article?
  • Once you’re on the article’s ‘home page’ what sort of thing will get you to stick around or to come back? What kind of stuff will make you run away without reading it? Bad fonts?
  • Do fonts and graphics and ads make a big difference or a little one? Which of those is most important? What about the color scheme of the site?
  • Are you forgiving of typos and/or minor grammatical mistakes? What about formatting issues?
  • What things have ‘gone viral’ that you think should have remained obscure? What has gone viral that deserves every bit of it?
  • Personal question for those of you who have been reading for awhile, out of curiosity: What category of article that I write is your favorite? What is your all time favorite post? Why? Feel free to link in comments.

On that note, please share this website (and this article and any others you like) with friends and family using the handy buttons at the bottom near the comment form. Comments are great, too, and I try to respond to most if not all of them.

The video I’ve enclosed is of a little girl who clearly deserves fame. It’s about a minute or so long. Take the time to have a look.

“Young Girl Kills the Guitar” (Her name is Zoe Thomson. Remember it.)

  • Why Content Goes Viral: the Theory and Proof (
  • 5 Tips for Creating Viral Content (
  • What Compels People to Share Your Content? (
  • 5 Reasons Your Viral Video Won’t Go Viral (
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