Being Realistic About Gaining a Viral Post…

Viral post

… 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, my Pinterest page and my Instagram page

74 thoughts on “Being Realistic About Gaining a Viral Post…

  1. Agreed! I think this needs to be addressed more. I’m in a communications program at school and I’m in all these lectures that are teaching me all these great ways to get businesses online and we’re learning about all these company success stories, but not one professor has even uttered the L word. I’m just waiting for someone to do so because you’re right, it mostly is luck. I’m still waiting for my 15 minutes of online fame, so maybe I’ll be lucky soon.

  2. This is true. I also realized that posts with how to and those situations that people can relate to get the most read, shared or liked. Just keep on posting what you like and how yoy can help others and you’ll be drawing like minded individuals. It can be sad that the blogging branding and marketing lately are slowly killing the heart of bloggi g and bloggers.

  3. The closest I have seen to viral was the small dog’s thirtieth post… and I don’t think it was her content that did that, more to do with her insistence on using Roman numerals and the resulting ‘xxx’ in her title… πŸ˜‰

    I really don’t see the point in wanting to go viral. Sure, it can open doors…it may be that one stroke of luck that brings a breakthrough into paid writing… but for how many? Numbers matter far less than whether or not a post reaches that one, unknown person you actually wrote it for…

  4. This is a fab post. The closest I have ever come to a viral post is by changing the image on an old post and re sharing it as I was bored. On two occasions I have seen a huge blog spike (4000 views in one day – to me in my little blogging world this is viral) and it’s not something you can easily replicate. It’s a random and unpredictable event. The downside is when things return to normal lol!

  5. Aaah Suzie, you always speak such sense.
    I like your “how to” style posts because you are always honest. I have seen quite a few of the “How to make thousands on your blog” and “how to write viral content” style posts. They always seem fake to me.

    We should just keep plodding along writing because it can make us (and hopefully the occasional reader) happy.

  6. Love it! I stopped getting hung up on stats fairly quickly and just enjoyed the interaction from my die hard followers. It’s their voice that matters to me. I wrote a post about my dad’s accident recently and when I told him I’d had a massive number of responses asking about his welfare he asked; ‘have I gone virus then?’ πŸ˜‰

    • lol… that was funny… I’m sorry to hear about your dad… and you are so correct… die hard followers… the people who genuinely stay because they’re interested in what you have to say… or… something like that right…hehehe…

  7. I have NEVER had a viral post. The most views I have ever had on one post is about 300 and I have never got anywhere near that since! I am stats focused in regards to the fact I do look at them in more detail now and am trying harder with my social media. I would love for it to happen one day, won’t hold my breath!! 😲😲😲

  8. You make very valid points here! However, how do you explain the brand new bloggers who seem to have blown up over night? I’ve seen numerous bloggers over the years who have 1000s of followers, hundreds of likes on posts, and a crap ton of engagement after being a blogger for three months. I understand that blogging takes time and tons of energy and focus, yet there are those exceptions and it’s all still a mystery to me!

  9. Encouraging post! I was featured on Freshly Pressed once and enjoyed the attention — and thought it would remain. Ha! Reached nearly 300 in a day and quickly dwindled to normalcy. (My first clue that something abnormal had happened was that someone asked if I would link to their website from my blog — I guess they thought my “viral” episode would spread to them.) Another time, my sister died, and my post about that generated a lot of attention from people who knew and loved her. But I don’t want to repeat that experience! I’ve written some masterpieces and some trash, and I’m always surprised when the terrible posts get more attention than the others. I’ve never gone viral, but I’m sure the other side of that glory would be equally depressing.

    • Oh my gosh I’m sorry for your loss! Yeah, Freshly Pressed is good for a day or two, it certainly helps with the follower numbers, but it’s always a come down…

  10. Such sage advice as always Suzie! I haven’t had a post go viral and after reading your post and the experience of others I don’t think I really want to aspire to those dizzying heights. I’m happy with my slow but solid growth of regular readers, learning new skills and challenging myself to continue on this blogging journey. I’m realistic enough to know I’m not in it for the fame but rather the connections and growth of myself. Thanks again for putting it into perspective and for all your great initiatives which are helping bloggers the world over.

  11. My viral post was years ago where all I did was simply throw together a WordPress gallery of Martin Luther King Jr quote images.

    In my opinion and little experience of viral, I agree with you. Rarely does it bring the rest of your content exposure.

      • Well since most the high numbers were on that post, it didn’t really effect how I felt. When I was freshly pressed one month into blogging, that was exciting. Not so much the stats, but the recognition. Back then I didn’t really pay attention to stats. My numbers are low now because I constantly stay inconsistent. But the 1-6 likes I can get on a post are enough for me because I was able to relate with someone thru my writing. Personally, I think I’d shy away now if I had more of a following and interaction on my blog.

  12. Great post, Suzie. I have had a few posts get a several hundred views and it was exciting. But I have learned to be content with my current state of blogging, and remind myself that my mission in writing is to make people laugh and think. I had one post get a lot of views on Stumble Upon but not a single comment so to me it was meaningless – no engagement. I am so grateful that I now have a consistent following and people who comment and share a laugh with me in this huge blogosphere where choices are unlimited. I am building slow but sure, abandoning comparisons. And it makes me happy!

  13. I think all those going viral posts (although, I do like virus better now!) are written by people who’ve never had a viral post in their life. What they’re hoping for is to drive a viral post. The best one that I ever saw written was from a woman who shared the post that went viral, a post about what to do with leftover vegetables. She admitted she didn’t know how to duplicate what happened because she tried.

    • That’s amazing haha! I couldn’t agree more – it’s like those who write about how to gain millions on views on Pinterest and don’t actually use it, or those who talk about why .org is better than .com and have never used .com.

  14. One of my teacher posts went “viral”. For me it was viral anyway. When most of my posts MIGHT get a total of 50 views this one got nearly 300 in one day. Just like you, the blog stats returned to normal the next day. You’re right… there is no secret, no pattern, no tricks into going viral. Just have to get lucky!

  15. I much rather have comments on posts than them gaining vast amounts of views. At least when you get comments (well, most of them anyway) you know somebody has actually read your post. The thought of one of my posts getting thousands of views and very few comments is a bit of a nightmare for me. I much rather be engaging with my readers than trying to guess how many visitors actually read my post against how many visitors ended up at the post by mistake.
    This is certainly a great subject to debate, Suzie.

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