written by Sean Enns | March 14th, 2013
I’ve written before about viral content. It’s a hit and miss. Honestly, it’s usually more miss than hit. Honestly, it’s mostly miss. Almost entirely miss. Unless you have something like the Harlem Shake or Grumpy Cat (or, in this case, both), you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of going viral.
That’s why, when it happened to me, well, to say I was ill-equipped is an understatement. I won’t go into details, though if you want them – there’s a great post from SMCs’ own Sean Smith that explains what happened.
Today’s post is a departure from my normal shtick about SEO and mobile. Hindsight being what it is, I understand what happened now much better than I did then. So I’m going back and dissecting the day’s events. Like a sheep’s eyeball in a high school biology class, I’m taking it apart piece by piece and exploring the anatomy of content that went totally, unimaginably, viral.
It started on a Monday, for me anyway. It actually started on a Saturday, but I didn’t hear about it until Monday morning. By that time, it had already gone a few rounds on some personal Facebook profiles.
This is a key component of viral content. It really helps to have grass roots social media support in advance. People are more likely to add to a conversation if it already has some legs.
Hindsight being what it is, what I’ve learned from my experience is that it’s not about the content; it’s about the surprise. It’s why the Harlem Shake works. We love to be caught off-guard. Even more, we love to catch other people off-guard. It’s why one surprising comment drove a post that ended up with 20,000 views in just under 48 hours.
Have an opinion.
It pays to have an opinion, even to be opinionated. When comments start flying, there will be plenty of people on both sides of the issue. Hold your ground, especially when people start to challenge your opinions.
I can’t stress this enough. If you thought you were right when nobody was watching, you should be just as right in front of 100, or 1,000 or 10,000 viewers.
While it’s hot, keep the conversation going.
Stay on topic, encourage dissenting opinions, whatever keeps the conversation going. If you, like me, believe in the wisdom of the crowd, then you, like me, believe that the conversation is what matters. Sometimes people go off topic. It’s your job as a moderator to keep them on topic, but to let the conversation guide itself.
When it’s not, know when to stop talking.
The life-cycle of these things is about 48 hours. Once it’s over, you should let it be over.
Affect positive change.
If the contents of your post were positive, then let them remain a positive force. If they weren’t, then you might want to think about changing the conversation. At the end of the day, all we can hope for is to affect some positive change. I tried to do it by redirecting my post to a new piece of content that brings attention to a local not-for-profit. You might do that, or raise awareness about some other issue.
Got the fever?
Have you ever been on the inside of a piece of viral content? Share what you know here!