The holy grail for most bloggers is writing content that gets shared organically to the point of going viral. While many people before me have shared tips and tricks about making this happen such as stuffing an article with keywords, submitting it to various social platforms and content aggregators, and posting about it on forums, there really is just one thing you need to do – write content that resonates with people.
Easier said than done you might think, and you’d be right, but here are a few crucial questions you can ask yourself before you publish anything. Doing so will help you create something that your readers will want to share with others.
1. Who do you want to read it?
You need to know exactly who you’re writing your post for so you can use language and cover topics that will appeal to them. Your ideal reader is not everybody. If you’re in the wedding industry your ideal reader is not even ‘people getting married’. It is much more specific than that.
My ideal reader for Rock n Roll Bride is female and between the ages of 24 and 30. She’s planning an alternative, budget friendly wedding in the next 12 months. When it comes to formulating my content, I think about what this very specific person might like to read. There are always people on the fringes, of course, but by targeting this person precisely I am able to write in a much more cohesive way and easily second-guess what their reaction to it might be.
2. How can you help them?
Often it is the things that you think are really obvious that turn out to be the most popular. My Want Great Wedding Photographs? blog post is a great example of this.
Another of my posts that was widely shared was 50 Pieces of Advice for a Happy Marriage. I know my ideal reader is a girl planning a wedding, and so the likelihood is she’ll also be thinking about marriage too. What bride-to-be wouldn’t want to read 50 simple tips that she can easily implement to make sure her marriage is a happy one? This article was doubly successful because it also was an attractive read to those on the fringes that are already married.
3. What personal stories or insights can you share?
Putting your personal spin onto a story will create a much stronger message that one that’s just completely factual. If people enjoy reading your blog the likelihood is that they do so because they like your voice and want to hear your opinion.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share things honestly with your readers. It will engage them, and make them more likely to share it. My How to Have an Imperfect Life and Weight Loss and Weddings articles are good examples of this.
4. How can you back up what you’re saying?
To craft a well thought out and rounded blog post you need to do your research. Even if it’s a topic you think you know a lot about, don’t be afraid to see what other people are saying and use that extra information in your post.
Obviously you shouldn’t be reposting other people’s work or words and claiming them as your own, but by learning as much as you can about a subject, and then rewriting it in your own voice, you’ll create something much more concrete and ‘shareable’.
5. How can you make people intrigued enough to click through?
I’m not one for fancy SEO tricks, but there are a few simple things you should be doing with each blog post to ensure that as many people as possible see it.
Firstly, think about how you title something. Make sure it is something ‘grabby’ and engaging that will make people want to click through if they saw it pop up on their social media. Things like numbered lists, ‘How to…’ and the promise of solving a common dilemma usually work well.
Next up, when you post your article to your social media channels, think about the intro text that you use. Don’t just write “New blog post!” and link to it. That’s not very captivating nor is it going to encourage people to click. A quote from the article, what problem it promises to solve or a reason why people need to read will result in much more engagement.
Finally, make sure your opening paragraph is amazing. If it’s long winded, self-deprecating (my biggest bug-bear is posts that start with “Oh I’m so sorry I haven’t blogged for ages!”) or doesn’t get to the point quickly, people won’t continue reading. Remember a lot of people will first see the post via Facebook or their RSS feed and all they’ll see is that opening paragraph.
You need to intrigue people immediately with a catchy opening line, hook them in with an explanation on what the article is about and then keep them reading by telling them what problem you are going to solve.
A few other things to remember:
Positive content is more likely to go viral than negative. What was the last thing you found online that you then shared on your own Facebook or Twitter? I bet it wasn’t someone having a big old moan. I bet it was something cute, life affirming or something that made you feel all warm and fuzzy as you read or watched it.
Think about how you can help people. If you share something that genuinely helps people they’ll be more likely to share it with their friends too.
Emotional content is much more likely to get shared. Something that evokes emotion – whether positive or negative – is more likely to get shared. How can you make your reader feel emotional as they read your words, look at your graphic or watch your video? How can you make them laugh, cry or get angry? What personal stories and insights can you include to do that more effectively? My recent post, You Are Good Enough was so popular people because of the emotions it made people feel as they read it.
Practical content is massively popular. i.e. posts that teach people something that they can then go on to do themselves. DIY tutorials are an example of this and you only have to look at Pinterest to see how popular those are!
Think about longevity. Topical or news-focussed content has it’s place, but content that doesn’t go out of date will continue to be popular, even when it’s come off the front page of your blog. Some of my most popular articles still get a lot of traffic from Google. Think about common problems or recurring issues that people are always searching for, like whether women should take their husband’s name, rather than just reacting to the latest news story or industry drama.
Stand up for what you believe in. Be brave and put it out there. It may be scary to take a stand for something, but there will be other people that feel the same way as you. These people will piggyback off what you’ve said by sharing it without actually having to find the words themselves. Remember when I wrote about not being sure if I wanted to have babies for example?
Social media content that goes viral is both awesome and scary. Last weekend I posted a graph I’d found online that perfectly summed up my feelings on about gay marriage on my Facebook page which went viral. It was liked over 194,000 times, shared over 18,500 and reached well over 14 MILLION people. This was amazing and brought a great deal of attention to Rock n Roll Bride, and more importantly to something I feel very strongly about, but it also came with a hell of a lot of negative backlash. The post received over 5000 comments and many of them were completely disgusting.
Creating content that goes viral is a dream for many bloggers, but just be aware that when your content goes beyond your usual audience, you will start to attract some people that you’d rather not. As long as you believe in what you’ve written, you’ve done your research and can back up any claims you’ve made, then a few complete nutters shouldn’t ever stop you. Hateful comments come part and parcel with making a difference or taking a stand, so if you start to get them, then huge congratulations to you!
One final point about creating viral content is that it’s often quite unpredictable and you usually won’t know which articles or updates it’s going to happen to. All of my posts that have reached massive amounts of people have been a complete surprise, it’s sometimes really astonishing what resonates the most. However in looking back at the ones that it’s happened to I’ve been able to pull together these points. I hope you can use my findings for yourself and create some content that reaches hundreds, thousands or even millions of people too!
- Images: Betsey Johnson