About fifteen years ago I heard how blogging would change the world of journalism and transform the ways we consume information.
Someday every person would write a blog and traditional news gathering would soon give way to a million beautifully written first-person accounts of every important event and critical issue. Paid reporters would become obsolete.
I thought that was silly, and I was certain blogging was something I would never do.
Time made a fool of me on that last point.
But I’m not yet convinced that personal blogs can change the world aside from simply increasing the level of written noise. Although with so many computer users out there offering their precious attention to online articles, the potential seems great.
In a sense this is like playing the lottery – you don’t blog for very long without entertaining the fantasy that something you’ve written will “go viral” and lead to a situation where so many people are following you and reading your work, you can lounge around in your pajamas all day, making a comfortable living by sharing your interesting thoughts with an eager, easily transfixed world.
The power of massive popularity is potent! I started blogging in the Fall of 2008. Almost six years in, I’m still viral-resistant and massive-popularity free.
But the other day I read about a survey that explains what I have to do to score big. The researchers took a look at what it takes for online content to be widely shared, making the person responsible for said content an overnight sensation.
All you have to do is follow the steps upwards to glory, right? A sort of viral staircase. It turns out certain kinds of articles are shared more readily than others.
The problem is this: writing one of those articles sounds like a lot of work. I didn’t start blogging to put in any actual effort.
The survey, from BuzzSumo, is pretty clear about what succeeds. Long, in-depth, well-researched pieces (at least 2,000 words) are preferred by influential people who share lots of “content”. The most widely shared posts inspire feelings of “awe”, “laughter”, and “amusement”, in that order.
And if you don’t already know the difference between laughter and amusement, your cause is hopeless.
There were more viral content triggers listed based on interviews with people who were asked why they shared a particular story online.
The reasons were:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to one another
- To define themselves to others (give people a better sense of who they are)
- To grow and nourish relationships (stay connected with others)
- For self-fulfillment (to feel more involved in the world)
- To get the word out on causes they care about.
And one more thing – most of the top-shared articles were quizzes! This conforms with the theory that people will readily share a thing if they think it provides a window into their own personalities.
All very instructive, and of course I’d love to write a post that will be seen by millions. How am I doing on the checklist? Not so well. At this point I’ve written fewer than five hundred words – not even a fourth of the way to the required 2,000 word point for world-dominating status.
Clearly I will have to find a way to short cut this guaranteed-viral content process.
How? With a stupid poem, of course!
I’ve highlighted all the key words so there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that I’m doing what I can to touch every important base.
Please please please share what you saw -
A blog that filled your heart with awe.
It’s deadly aim on social cues meant
you felt waves of deep amusement.
And when thinking of it, after,
you convulsed in gales of laughter.
Observations, so aligned
your personality defined.
A simple string of words has willed
that you feel fully self-fulfilled.
And if you don’t know what that is,
It’s too late now – this is a quiz.
A post that hits its targets well
and rings each viral content bell
except this heartless length command -
the word count must exceed two grand!
At seven hundred now – No dice!
Unless, of course, you read it thrice.
How good are you at following directions?