523 Ways to Be Awesome, my second book in a series based on a viral blog post I wrote a few years ago, hits shelves on April 5th. The theme of the book is celebrating the ways you're already Awesome and adding tiny Drops of additional Awesome to your life.
As we prepare to launch early next month, I've been thinking a lot about how to make the good things in my life and career just a little bit better, which brings me to the following question – What could I have done differently when my post went viral to more successfully harness the momentum it created?
Here are 7 things I wish I'd done when my post went viral.
Image: Dan Bluestein via Flickr via Creative Commons license
1. Don't sit around waiting for lightning to strike.
I should start by saying that lightning did strike for me. Shortly after the post went crazy, a publisher reached out and asked if I was interested in turning it into a book. We've been working together ever since, and we're editing the third book in the series.
Obviously this was a crazy lucky exception.
If you've written something that's resonating with a large group of people, take time to brainstorm ways your single idea could grow into something bigger. Then reach out to magazine editors, publishing houses, or bigger blogs who share your vision to see if you can get your message out to a larger audience.
It's much easier to approach The Man if you've got epic stats to share. "You should publish my book because... 100,000 people."2. Start gathering contact names immediately.
Even if you're not ready to start an initiative or create a product based on your viral post, it's worth the time investment to start gathering names and email addresses immediately of every person who leaves a blog comment, sends you an email thanking you for the post, or asks you to fly to Texas to speak at their women's shelter.
If in the future, you do decide to make something more out of your content, you have a working mailing list of people who are interested in your message. It's much easier to start this process right away than to try and harvest the information months later.
A spreadsheet works, but I would suggest signing up for a free service like MailChimp to gather these details and keep them organized. Of course, do not add people to an email list without their permission.3. Create an avatar and feed her.
If you could boil all the readers who loved your post down into one conglomerate ideal reader, what would she look like? What are her likes, dislikes, hobbies, passions, and concerns? This is your avatar. She is the person you are writing and selling to. Once you know who she is, work to consistently generate content she will enjoy.
For starters, if you're not doing it already, go into the post that's doing so well and add links to your other content you think your avatar would love.4. Comment on readers' blogs.
I was not actively blogging when this particular post went viral. It was a one-off because I had something to say and, oh yeah, I still had a blog where I could publish it. So, when comments and likes started pouring in, I just sat back and watched, not sure what I wanted to do with it.
I was taking a break from blogging for a couple of years until my kids were all in school. I wasn't actively networking or audience building, and I'd given up all my freelance contracts.
However, even if I wasn't intending to build a blogging empire, it would have been a great idea to reach out to some of the bloggers who commented, simply to build good will, to solidify contacts, and to get a better feel for who these readers were who were so affected by my words. If I were planning to build a blogging empire, these contacts would have been invaluable!5. Create an appealing graphic.
I'm not a designer. I write words. However, months after the post hype had died down, I would still see new shares on Facebook with the dumpy visual from my original post and I would cringe. It takes immense mental effort for me to scrape together even a mediocre graphic to go with my posts. So I don't create graphics every single time.
However, if a post is getting shared like mad, take the time to put together something half-decent and visually appealing to be associated with your words and insert it into the post after the fact.6. Produce a short self-pubbed e-book.
If people are really passionate about what you've written, they may want to own a piece of your work. Consider converting and expanding your viral content into a short, self-pubbed e-book while the post is still hot.
With Drops of Awesome, I was talking about something people had been talking about for decades, but doing it in a way that happened to strike a nerve at the exact time the post hit the internet. Tomorrow someone else will be saying the same thing again, only better.
It would have been fabulous to have a product available quickly to help spread my message during the fifteen minutes people were most interested in hearing it and generate some income.
Writing a short e-book would not have precluded me from pursuing other projects related to the subject matter in the future but would have given me somewhere to direct readers who were searching for more.7. Save your warm fuzzies.
Not every post you write will go viral. In fact, sometimes your very best posts, the ones with the most passion and research and effort behind them are destined to become cricket fodder. Chirp chirp. Are any literate humans out there on the interwebs?
It gets discouraging when you feel like you're writing to no one. Even when I'm blogging for a client, it's frustrating when my writing doesn't seem to engage readers. Sure, I'm getting paid, but I'd much rather get paid to have a conversation than to yell into a black hole. As a side note, my clients prefer that as well.
So, when you have a post that does well, put all the positive comment notifications and email responses in a warm fuzzies folder. Then later, when you're having a dry spell, open that folder and drink up all the positivity your writing has inspired in the past. It will help remind you why you're doing this and what's possible.
You're not going to knock it out the park every time, and you can't do everything perfectly. I didn't have the time or knowledge to do all these things with Drops of Awesome. But I could have put a little more thought and effort into harnessing the power of my viral post to help grow my blog.
What things have you done to leverage momentum when a post went viral?
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