Going Viral in 2020: 4 Weapons of Each Hyper-Successful Blogger
Mind that going viral in the digital age doesn’t necessarily mean being read (meaning the old-school “word by word and sentence by sentence”) by as many people as possible. The attention span of internet users has become so alarmingly short that you can call yourself lucky if a person who clicks on your article skims the headline, the title image, and a few sentences below.
Going viral merely means scoring a massive number of social shares.
Then, naturally, we must ask: What motivates a person to share a piece of your content (whether a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode) to their followers?
There are pretty much two basic scenarios:
a) Either they have indeed invested their time and energy into reading/watching/listening to what you created, they love it, and are thrilled to make others aware of its existence.
b) They don’t necessarily care about the content itself but they believe that sharing it (i.e., displaying it on their social media feeds) will boost their own credibility, or, in fact, the credibility of their online persona.
Especially when it comes to blog posts, which — compared to videos or podcasts — ask for a bigger portion of our mental awareness, we often share them without reading them ourselves first — just because they give the impression that our followership might find them valuable, entertaining, or shocking.
VALUABLE — a piece of content that makes our life easier or that teaches us something new
ENTERTAINING — a piece of content that offers amusement and distraction from gray daily routines
SHOCKING — a piece of content that is surprising, scandalous, bizarre, controversial, or disturbing… and thus hard to resist for an average human
And if we look at the other side — that of the blogger — what motivates them to chase the chimera of virality?
A traditional writer simply wishes for their “work of art” to be understood and appreciated. The more readers, the more their message to the world is heard.
Most of the authors these days want quite the same, except there’s one more factor — quite an essential one — in the game: business.
Making one’s living purely by writing is not an easy feat, to say the least. What matters right now is one’s personal brand. As an example, let’s mention traditional book publishers who have recently been known to give preference to writers who have (on their own) succeeded in gathering a fandom of loyal followers across social platforms before offering them any kind of a deal.
Every reader, or skimmer, of a viral blog post is a potential buyer — for example, of your latest/future book, merchandise, online course, webinar, or your other businesses’ products and services. The more clicks on your content, the more clicks (as one would hope) on any call-to-action (subscribe, buy, visit…) links.
So how can you make your post stand out given the fact that a staggering 5.5 MILLION BLOG POSTS are written EVERY DAY?*
It would seem that every creative idea has been exploited and that the competition is tougher than ever. Yet, if you look closer, you can identify a few common denominators of every single blogger who has made it, i.e., whose writing has spread on the internet like wildfire.
If you thought that creativity would steal the first spot, you were close but wrong.
Believe it or not, going viral is not about lighting upon the right idea. Creative people are able to visualize connections between things in a way others would not think of. Without creativity there is no creation. Without creativity there is no art. Without creativity there is nothing.
And yet. There is this one sweet cherry on the top of the cake: authenticity.
“What does it even mean to be authentic?” I hear you say.
Authenticity is a twin sister of vulnerability. To be authentic means to tap into your true self when creating — which can be terrifying, by the way. To be authentic is to write as if you were never going to be judged.
And if you have just recalled some blog post (excluding the many copycat pieces) which became viral and looked neither original nor ingenious — ask yourself if you would have had the courage to publish it had you been the first one to do so.
If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.
～ Albert Einstein
Remember this: it requires a certain level of intelligence, education, and humility to explain complex ideas in simple terms.
As mentioned above, the best performing blog posts are either teaching you something new or entertaining you. And the best among the best are those that are delivered in an easily digestible way.
The internet users in 2020 will more than ever expect instant gratification and effortless access to information. Every single time they look at their phones, there are zillions of voices screaming at them, whether it be message notifications, news alerts, or the perpetual avalanche of social media updates. As an author, you have a fraction of a second (literally) to win over the attention of your desired reader. A fraction of a second. No need to say that a perfect headline is half of your success. And once that one brings a person to read your piece, maintain their interest by sticking to:
- simple human language
- concise sentences & paragraphs
- consistent formatting (sub-headlines, bold/italics/underline…) to establish a clear visual structure
- and appealing imagery (read: fun, creative, high-quality) since our brains process images much faster than plain text.
When a writer achieves the uneasy balance between authenticity and simplicity, then they need to pluck up all their courage to hit ‘publish’.
Complexity is seductive. One can comfortably hide behind it while reducing the probability of being challenged.
Authenticity is not for the faint of heart. When we’re being authentic, we’re exposing (part of) ourselves in order to strike a genuine connection with our readers while facing the danger of being misunderstood, ridiculed, criticized, or the worst of all, judged.
Successful bloggers are known for showing confidence in what they say. It doesn’t mean that they don’t get hurt by what other people think of their work. Often they do. But more often they receive understanding, recognition, and empathy for trying to be real.
Every accomplished blogger has likely created dozens of writing pieces that they find equally good or even better than those which have become viral. Sometimes even the most brilliant content is utterly ignored since it’s nearly impossible to guess what will or won’t work at a given time. The right timing depends on a multitude of factors, such as online algorithms, trending stories, and current events, or competing blog posts.
A successful blogger then swallows their pride (!) and keeps creating, always to the best of their abilities and potential, so that one day some of their art can be seen at last.
You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success — but only if you persist.
～ Isaac Asimov
In a nutshell, blogging in 2020 will remain for most an essential tool of boosting their online marketing efforts. But for some others, it will still be an exciting instrument of self-discovery and sharing.
Writing as such is addictive, in both the good and the bad sense of the word. Writers at heart know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you hate it but you can never be entirely without it. Often you spend more time procrastinating than writing in order to avoid facing the brutality of an empty page. But then there are those moments when your fingers type and type effortlessly and you feel as if it was not you, but rather something deep within, behind all the wonderful words that appear in front of your eyes. Viral or forever hidden.
* (as of September 2019, Source: Worldometers)