Up the Viral Staircase

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?

66 thoughts on “Up the Viral Staircase”

  1. Follow directions, read the box,
    Like some erections, dressed in socks.
    The basest pleasure, the purest treasure,
    Arrives when reckless, a ‘what-the-heck’ mess.

    SO much better not to follow
    No more BS one must swallow.
    Rules, guidelines, instructions be damned,
    My rebellious nature must not be jammed.

    So in answer to the questioned asked,
    Who’s author seeks in glory to bask,
    I confess I’m not faithful or true.

    (Maybe I should have written Haiku)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tend to believe most directions, recipes, et al are more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.

    and seriously-2000 words? I thought conventional wisdom was that no one has an attention span longer than a tweet these days. Are there really enough of us who will sit and read 2000 words at one go to send something like that viral?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Um, well, maybe not so good at this…can we talk about something else? Like creativity. My own independent thoughts about how to do something are far more interesting. I often re-invent the wheel.

    I cannot complete a form correctly for love nor money. I hire people to do this for me. People who can actually follow directions.


        1. I was in Walmart yesterday and a jumbo snickers bar the size of the old-time one remember when the nickel ones were small in the diamonds were big the dime size snickers bar now sells for a dollar 24 at Walmart I couldn’t believe it


  4. Good morning. If I think there is a good reason for following directions, I will try to follow them. I might even follow directions when they are not completely reasonable. Please don’t give me directions to do something that I think I should be allowed to do as I see fit. My tendency is to be rather oppositional when I am told I should do something a certain way and I think I should do it my own way.

    We should all be independent and think for ourselves, right? We shouldn’t just do things because we are told to do them. On the other hand, people who always have to do things their own way can be a hard to deal with. I might be in the hard to deal with group sometimes.
    If you have some instructions for me that I don’t like, you might get some instructions that you don’t like.


  5. I’m good at following directions when they’re good directions. If someone wants me to do something but they can’t articulate what it is they want, I will get very frustrated and neither of us will end up happy. I find that a lot of people assume I know more than I do–must still have the librarian vibe going–so they’re surprised when I ask for clarification, even when I remind them I’m a temp and no one trained me on X and I’ve only been around for X number of weeks/months. A great many people also assume because something is important to them, I will by default think it’s important too, and remember…well, anything…about it (99.5% of the time, they’re wrong). At work I insist on step-by-step directions I can write down and refer back to, because I know I’m not going to think about whatever it is again until I have to. And I wonder why I haven’t advanced in the business world…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. step by step is important if you are completing a task that required assembly or structure. if im changing the brakes on my car i want to have step by step directions.
      in life i have always said i am a great worker and a terrible employee. leave me to my own means and ill figure out a way to get it done. most people cant give directions on how to do it as good as what i end up with but that irratates some folks. it is hard for me to watch people experiment with the stuff i ask them to do. why dont they just do what i tell them. i tend ot walk through it with them step by step a couple of times to make sure they understand why they are doing it in a different way than the way i have asked. if they are clear on their intent i let it go as long as the results hold up. if it ends up being a bad deal and that happens too often they dont last. there is a reason i am working for myself and these workers are available often times. i have a couple good people right now and i am elated, the road to getting good people is covered with folks who are available for a reason.


    2. I know for a fact I have not advanced in the business world because I cannot resist trying to find a better way when presented with tedious directions.

      Or worse, asking the damning question, “why are we doing it that way?”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice. Time for a quiz. I fume at all the folksy, robot ‘we’ chaff on WP, and not reading a paper any more, I miss the nourishment.

    Also the phenomena of bloggers rushing around ‘liking’ everything…it took me a year to realise this was going on…and that, rather than the gooey feeling of – ‘well, at least 6 people read my stuff’ – actually, really nobody at all has read any of it, except me – 60 times…or when you ‘log out’ to look at the blog – and return and the stats have rocketed…because of…you, what fun, all the best.


    1. yep blogging is an interesting club of buddies you end up hanging with. how to grow it? somtimes it is good t o grow sometimes not. our group has settled in at a smaller number than i thought it would and we have room for 3 new people so if you want in we can accomadate you as long as you arent bothered by the behavior of all those other people. you and me a re ok brightonsauce but i question some of these other guys…..

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Don’t be narrow-minded, Steve.

        If Worchestershire can have sauce, so can Brighton.

        IIRC, Brighton also has a beach and memoirs.


  7. In my world, there is a special ring of Hell set aside for people who create forms. It is clear that they rule the world. My famous good nature melts when I’m forced to fill out a form that keeps telling me I’m doing it wrong when I’m actually following instructions. Few things enrage me as much as telephone triage systems that give me three or four options, none of which is remotely related to the reason for my call. I refuse to give a false answer, which makes the phone system tell me repeatedly that it didn’t understand my response.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. insanity is doing it again the same way and expecting a different response.
      i think its bill who has fun keeping the internet police for having any idea who he is. always sounds like fun appraoch


      1. You can be driven to insanity, tim, by forms that give you orders about how to fill them out . . . only they fail to mention some of the rules, like no spaces between the numbers in your credit card.


    2. Steve, I can so relate. Not only am I hopeless at filling out forms (and, unlike Jacque, I don’t have the option of hiring someone to do that for me), but surveys and phone triage systems drive me batty. Almost all my answers to surveys start with “it depends…” and that’s not an acceptable answer. I have used “gethuman.com” a couple times when attempting to talk to a live person on the phone and it actually worked.


      1. There are almost no real surveys anymore. There are push surveys, intended to persuade you to believe a particular point of view, and there are faux surveys, intended to get your email address and other personal information. Nobody really cares what you think.


        1. You are so right…I don’t care that you think that surveys don’t care what I, you, we think. But that leaves a vacuum. Now I will need to watch Fox News so someone can tell me what to think…. Oh no!

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t know where I am at all, really. I thought this was a lonely guy’s blog, and I would cheer him up with a comment – but there’s a dozen different voices about the room. I would have worn my hat, and stuff…yes I am English and reckon this here is probably America, or Canada.


      1. that’s not good is it. I’ve been trying to spell Minnesota for a minute or two. On the Great Lakes? Very nice. I looked and saw a photograph of a very nice man. I am a little confused tho…I will ask my American friend the difference, culturally – Prairies, or Chicago.

        I’ll shut up till I’ve done my research..All the best

        Liked by 1 person

    1. brightonsauce (I hesitate to use the initials I as I usually would) – No wonder you’re a little “at sea” – we’re a group of people following our former favorite dj from a beloved morning music program – if you go up top under the picture, you’ll find some more info about where you’ve landed. You sound like fun – we’d love to have you come back.


      1. Agree with BiR. Come back.

        Dale may or may not be lonely, but I know the rest of us usually have a darn good time on here.


  9. I wonder if WP will like me today.

    Some directions are meant to be followed. Like the directions on the box before the colonoscopy. It’s better to follow those.
    But the Red Arrow on left turns? Please… if the road is clear I’m going.
    And I enter through the exit more often than not just because that’s a silly rule; I’m probably going to that side of the store anyway.
    How about those arrows on the floor at IKEA? Pshaw! You can’t tell ME where to go!


    1. Wait til your kid gets pulled over and ticketed for running those red arrows and finds out its a reckless driving charge
      Learn how not to do it is the bottom line at my house


  10. I used to jump in icy puddles…to entertain the big boys, when I was three, four years old. I still jump in the puddles, but occasionally in this life I get an oaf at the water’s edge who lifts his fat finger, points and calls me an idiot. So I thump him. xx


    1. The nice thing about MinnesOOOOOta in January is that if you jump in icy puddles, they are just solid ice. No finger shaking idiots allowed. And no water. Just Ice.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Am I good at following directions? Well, it depends. Verbal instructions, especially complicated ones, definitely not. Written instructions? Sometimes – I like them to be straightforward: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, etc.. The picture instructions that Ikea puts in their boxes can confuse me quite a bit, but some days I can get them pretty well.

    Unfortunately, some people think they can give me instructions on how to live life. Life, unlike assembling Ikea furniture, does not follow step 1, step 2, step 3 very neatly.


  12. Recipes get followed the first time I use them – after that, all bets are off. Daughter loves the new Lego sets that have instructions for how to make a particular Thing – I would chafe at that, but understand her delight in the accomplishment of turning a pile of plastic bricks into a bakery or vet’s office. Steps for resetting a password – yep, I’ll follow those. But don’t get in my way if I am trying to make something new – that will just make me cranky.


  13. Husband has been trying to follow the myriad directions involved in retiring from the State system. He has had to rewrite and resubmit his letter of retiremement three times to get the wording just right for HR and the ND Public Employees Retirement System. He says it is harder to retire than it must have been to escape from East Berlin. He also had to resubmit his forms to start a limited liability corporation through the ND Secretary of State Office. Our accountant submitted the wrong forms the first time.


    1. Wow. What if he found it impossible to retire? Is there a low-slung office building somewhere in North Dakota filled with extremely aged men and women constantly submitting their resignations, only to be denied?


  14. I was once told that I had a reputation for doing a good job, but never doing it the way I had been told to do it. That’s not exactly true. I will do a thing in the way that makes the most sense to me. If that happens to cooincide with the way I’ve been told to do it, then fine. But anyone who expects me to follow their directions to the letter, even when it seems to me to be inefficient or counterproductive, clearly has an unrealistic impression of his authority.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s playing at the Riverview (for the cheapskates among us). I’m so cheap I reserved it from the library. I am #236 on the wait list.


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