Recently I have become increasingly fascinated by how quickly stories can spread on the internet via social media and after 2 posts on my humble blog unexpectedly gave me over 28,000 hits in one month, I found myself asking the infamous question “What makes content go viral?” I think this is something, that everybody is searching for, but I’m not sure there is a black and white answer and let’s face it, if it really was that simple, everybody would be doing it.
The only person that I can think of who has the whole viral thing under control is Neetzan Zimmerman. When he was writing for one of the world’s biggest blogs Gawker, he generated more traffic than all of Gawker’s other writers combined, before leaving to become the Editor in Chief at Whisper.
With no background or training in journalism, I found his story fascinating and also inspirational, but anyone looking for a key that will unlock all of his secrets will be disappointed because the key to his success is down to good old fashioned hard work and elbow grease.
A 12 hour shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. that consists of posting 10-15 items a day where most of them do not go viral would be soul destroying for those wanting a fast track to success, but nothing in life comes easily and this is all part of the fun.
Everywhere you look, we are bombarded with constant adverts telling us that we can lose weight quickly in only a few weeks or make large sums of money for doing very little in the comfort of your home, but life simply doesn’t work this way and maybe I was brainwashed by being raised on a diet of 80’s TV shows that always ended with a moral at the end of every episode and that you really can achieve anything you want, if you work hard enough, but this kind of work ethic has stuck with me over the years.
We are all guilty of sneering at that certain someone who has achieved more in their life as simply lucky, but I remain convinced that behind any success story is someone who has worked tirelessly for countless hours without reward before their moment of glory arrived.
The nearest you will get to finding the secret ingredients of that viral post recipe that Neetzan Zimmerman has mastered, appears to consist of a combination of human interest stories that evoke primal emotions with a compelling angle and great headline. Beyond this, there are many hours examining stats under a microscope, trying to establish exactly why some posts are more successful than others and working on these clues to improve your future posts.
Finally the most interesting piece of advice from Zimmerman was “I never self-promote,” he says. “I find it tacky. That’s just never been my style, and I’ve done well enough without it that it never occurred to me to change.”
Once again, a refreshing quote that reveals why so many fail when both producing and promoting content. If we are all honest with each other, self-promotion is a massive turn off and it makes perfect sense to set your content free in the digital world and if it really is relevant and interesting people will share it.
It really doesn’t matter how much you try and force feed your material to people, sometimes things just won’t work out, so why try and make yourself look desperate?
I think sometimes we look in the wrong places for success and try and over complicate things, when you break everything down, despite all the technology at our disposal, ultimately we are simply social creatures motivated by listening, communicating and teaching.
When you take a step back, it all seems so simple, but maybe this dreamer thinks there is something more enriching to be offered when browsing the internet other than endless lists and what TV character are you quizzes.
What are your thoughts on what makes successful content?