… or Why You Should Lower Your Expectations.
In the online world, the idea of going ‘viral’ is a coveted goal. There are endless explanations as to what viral is, from having ten times your normal amount of traffic to suddenly having tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of views.
The more time I spend on Pinterest, the more I see posts being shared around that focus on the whole viral nonsense: ‘How to Get Your Posts to Go Viral,’ ‘How to Have a Viral Post,’ How to Go Viral…’ Blah, blah, and again… blah. There seems to be a little obsession with it at the minute, and I get asked the same question all the time…
‘What can I do to make my posts go viral?‘
I’m telling you absolutely, a viral post happens 99% of the time purely by chance. A post could have been researched and crafted for hours, be littered with keywords, have an effective title, contain beautiful images and shared across every area of social media and in link-ups multiple times, and even have paid advertising behind it only for it then to be seen twenty or a few hundred times. Similarly, a post that has been hastily drawn up with no thought of promotion in about ten minutes can be seen five hundred or a thousand times. A post can suddenly gain large amounts of traffic years after its original publication seemingly from nowhere, or it will continue to attract little interest. Some bloggers still assume that something will happen simply by pressing the publish button. For those who are stats focused (and, of course, not everyone is), it’s confusing and frustrating.
I’ve had several viral posts, and each time it was a complete surprise. In 2014 I shared a post I had written about teaching on my personal Facebook page. There was no expectation – it had been written months before and hadn’t received anything substantial. The next day, I awoke to several thousand views on the post – my teacher friends had shared it with their teacher friends, who in turn shared it with their teacher friends… and it kept going, and going, and going, at one point gaining over 14,000 views in a single day which was miles above and beyond anything I had ever received before. It hit 80,000, then 90,000, and my evenings were spent that week excitedly refreshing my stats page just so I could see the counter go up.
The second viral post I had was about my experience with a Sociopathic ex-boyfriend, and these views came from Stumble Upon. I didn’t even have an SU account at the time – someone had shared my link on there and it had taken off over the Christmas holidays of 2014, and within a week I’d received something like 40,000 views.
These sorts of stats, particularly for someone who was only eighteen months into their blogging journey, was unbelievable. It was exciting and uplifting, and I made the massive mistake of assuming that these would be my stats each year.
That didn’t happen.
In fact, the massive increase in stats dropped pretty quickly (within a matter of days) and three years later (four-and-a-half years of blogging in total) I am still to emulate those stats, despite the fact that I created and run the biggest blogging Twitter hashtag of the weekend (#SundayBlogShare) and am the owner of a Facebook group where the members are ridiculously generous in the sharing of each others posts. I learned that the views from a suddenly popular post disappear as quickly as they arrive – sometimes a post can have a thousand views one day and then twenty the next, and I’m still trying to prevent myself from having expectations before publishing a post in order to avoid disappointment. I’m not the only one – a good bloggy friend of mine had a popular post a few months ago and has been disappointed with her stats ever since. The process of going viral not only raised her expectations, but the seeming crash of her stats afterwards (which didn’t actually crash, they just went back to what they were before the post) left her feeling frustrated with the whole blogging process in general, which was exactly the same way I felt when my numbers plummeted. It’s not the first time I have seen it – the crash and burn in the viral aftermath can be extremely detrimental to self-confidence and questions start to appear that were never considered before: what’s wrong with my writing? Why don’t people like my post?
As a blogger, if stats are important to you (and again, I know that not all bloggers are stat focused) I’m imploring you to realise that most of the bloggers with a ridiculously large following have spent years of daily blogging, creating images, tweeting, pinning, sharing, commenting, and even then a large following does not always equate to a massive amount of views. Be consistent in what you do, build connections, share your posts regularly. Learn about how effective different areas of social media are and then learn how to use them properly. Create a daily checklist and a tracker of your stats so you can monitor your growth. Be patient.
Above all (and in order to preserve your sanity) forget about the word ‘viral,’ stop obsessing about something that is beyond your control and stop reading posts that will ultimately only serve to undermine your self-confidence.
What do you think? Have you had a viral post? Do these sorts of posts put you off blogging?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.