Hey you beautiful crazy person.
Allow me to use this third sentence to humbly welcome you to Viralbloggr.
Yeah, I know, we spelt it a little funny. It’s a free training; we couldn’t afford to add an ‘e’ to the title.
How’s that for a great bad joke to break the ice?
Anyway, I’m Brendan. Nice to meet you. I’ll be the one taking you through this short course today.
A bit about me: I’ve been travel blogging since 2014. In my first year, my blog Bren On The Road grew to over a million page views. Since then I’ve grown a following of around 11,000 social followers, written and published a couple of ebooks, hit a few top blogger lists, made a bit of money, and been featured in a bit of press here and there.
I don’t claim to be a travel blogger extraordinaire, but hopefully I know enough to teach you a few things today.
This particular training is about creating viral content. This is something I have been able to do quite well throughout my blogging career. I’ve had many viral posts, and we’re going to break down a few of them together in the course below. It’s actually a very interesting subject, with a lot of different interlinking aspects. The goal is to get them clicking together in synergy, to create the ‘perfect storm’ of viral-friendliness. That’s when we see things explode. This training is about understanding that explosion.
Not much is needed by way of introduction or disclaimers, so let’s just get into it. We’ll be covering a lot in the next several thousand words, so I’d encourage you to get a pen and pad, maybe a Mars bar, a cup of green tea, get cosy, and take lots of notes. It’s all good stuff!
Viral content is content that has been shared a crapload of times. That’s it.
However, the term is broad. How many times is a crapload? There are some articles out there that get millions of shares. Does that mean your blog post that got 500 retweets isn’t considered viral? Does it mean your article with 1,000 Facebook shares isn’t viral?
The answer: Who cares.
What we’re focused on in Viralbloggr is getting your content shared a lot. Whatever your threshold is for “a lot” is, is totally up to you.
I’m usually pretty happy when my shares go over 1,000. That’s a soft target I aim for. Of course, if Buzzfeed put out a big article and it only got 1,000 shares, someone would probably be getting fired.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t worry about me, and don’t worry about Buzzfeed. If your blog posts have been getting 10 or 20 shares, and you create something that gets 300, that’s a huge success. That’s the kind of thing we’re aiming for. A huge spike in shares compared to your normal traffic.
Here are a few posts of mine that I’ve considered big successes:
That’s just three of many.
They’re probably pretty normal numbers for a site like HuffPo, but amazing for a little travel blog like mine.
Later on in this section we’ll be going through some of these posts, breaking them apart so we can really dissect what made them successful.
What makes content go viral?
The million dollar question.
Here at travelbloggr we’re concerned with creating viral travel content. This makes things a little different compared to the usual “Five reasons to date a piano player – you won’t believe number 3!” type articles. Travel is a slightly different beast.
After analysing hundreds of viral posts from travel blogs, including my own, here are the five main elements I’ve identified for viral travel content:
- Connect with identity
- Connect with emotions
- Appeal to narcissism/self-love
- Be visual
- Be unexpected
Usually, the most successful pieces draw from all five elements.
Of course, there are many other aspects to viral content, such as the formatting, the heading, promotion and all that other good stuff. But for now, we’re concerned with the actual content itself.
Let’s take a closer look. We’re going to analyse a few posts here, and see how they draw on the five elements mentioned above.
A quick disclaimer: The type of content we’re breaking down today is not the only type of content that goes viral. There are other types of travel content, including photo essays, bucket lists and how-to-guides that get six-figure social shares. However, I believe that is a much more difficult game to play, especially for your average travel blogger, and you really need to create something spectacular to go viral with those types of content. The “formula” I’ll be breaking down today is, I believe, the easiest and most effective way to create viral pieces, mainly because anybody can create them. Not only that, I believe these types of viral content provide the most long-term benefit to your blog, in terms of being evergreen and building a loyal readership. That’s what we’ll be focusing on.
This is actually one of my favourite blog posts, and I never started writing it with the intention of creating something viral. However, halfway through writing it I had a strong suspicion it was going to be a viral hit in Tanzania. Before publishing I decided to make a few changes to groom it for a social media wildfire. Sure enough, around five days after publishing it blew up, and got over 18,000 views in just a couple of days. Since then it’s had a few more viral spikes too. Let’s take a look at why it went viral.
1. Connect deeply with identity
When I talk about identity, I’m talking about who you are as a person.
This is important, because people share content that is about them.
If you’re not a runner, there’s no chance you’d share content about runners on Facebook, even if someone asked you to. If you don’t have kids, why the heck would you share a parenting meme with your friends? To get people to share things – you have to make it about them.
I’ll say this again.
To get people to share things – you have to make it about them.
This is always good for travel blogging, because people’s identity is so closely tied to where they come from. Americans are all proudly American, Italians are proudly Italian, Australians are proudly Australian and so on. This makes it one of the easiest parts of someone’s identity to hit, because it runs so deep into their very being. When you try and hit people’s identity as a martial artist, or a dancer, or a vegan, they might have only been those things for a few years. But a Tanzanian has usually been a Tanzanian their entire life.
If you read the post in question, it touches on many childhood memories of Tanzanians, many cultural pillars, many embedded behaviours of the Tanzanian people, and many things that make Tanzania unique. It was almost as if I had been studying them, and this was my final report. Imagine if somebody followed you around for a month and then wrote a report about your life. Wouldn’t you be dying to read it? Wouldn’t you show it to all your friends? (especially if it was funny, and interesting, and most imporatantly, true).
When you tell somebody about themselves like this, in an introspective way, you will always connect. Your words can be praising, humorous, even critical, but they need to connect. Say something nice. Say something not so nice. Say something funny. Just make sure it’s true and it hits them deeply.
When you do that, they will have no choice but to click the share button and say, “OMG this guy came to Tanzania and he describes us so accurately! LOL.” Before you know it, your post is roaring through Facebook.
2. Connect deeply with emotion
You want to evoke an emotional reaction, not just with your viral content, but with all of your writing. That’s what makes writing powerful.
It’s a place you won’t forget quickly. You’ll miss hearing the karibu in the streets, the smell of freshly grilled goat at lunchtime, the shouts of mzungu! followed by a smile and a wave, the kids’ laughing faces, the warm African sun, the tire sandals, the one dollar bottles of konyagi, the oddly delicious sour milk, the mosquito nets, the boda boda rides, the power cuts, the warm beer, the muddy shoes, the tip of Mount Kili peeking out over the clouds, the funky bracelets, the posters of Ludacris outside every hairdresser, the chipsi stacked in the window of every food cart, the shoes being sold on every street corner. There’s something about the place. You’ll miss the love. You’ll miss the chaos. Everyone falls in love with Tanzania.
To you this paragraph probably means nothing, but to a Tanzanian it hits home. If it were about your country, it would hit home too. It tugs on emotion, whether it be pride, nostalgia, sadness, reminiscence. That’s the kind of thing that will make people read your content not once, but two or three times. And then of course they’ll do what? Share it with their family and friends.
3. Appeal to narcissism
As I said before, people love it when other people tell them about themselves.
Imagine all your friends were sitting around talking about you – and you were hiding in the closet listening to it all. Wouldn’t that be the most interesting thing ever?!
Let’s admit it. We’re all a little (or a lot) narcissistic.
This is what makes bits of content like this so appealing. Why do you think those Buzzfeed quizzes are so popular? Find out which Game of Thrones character you are with these five questions! It’s the stupidest thing ever, but people love it because it’s about them.
Again, with travel writing this is easy. When you write about Germans or Norwegians or Canadians, you are essentially telling a whole country about themselves. If you do it well, you’ll bring out the self-obsession in all of them. And of course with that comes lots of Facebook likes and shares.
However, the trick is to talk about the people, not the country.
Oh Tanzania has so many nice mountains!
Newsflash: Nobody in Tanzania cares about their mountains.
They want you to talk about their mannerisms, their expressions, their idiosyncrasies, their contradictions, their quirks, what you found interesting about them, why you liked them, why you didn’t like them, if you understand them. It’s similar to human nature’s hunger for gossip.
You know, there’s this weird things Tanzanians always do at breakfast…
That’s going to get a their ears pricking up, dying to hear what you’re about to say. And if it’s accurate, and funny, they’re definitely sharing it with their friends.
Initially this post was all text, essay style. Then halfway through I noticed it had all the right elements for viralness (is that a word?) and decided to add in some photos. I have no doubt that without the photos, it would have got far less shares. People are very visual, and photos are just as powerful at connecting with people’s emotions as words.
I wouldn’t say the photography in this post is exceptional, but it was good enough to give it the extra boost it needed.
Take a look at what people have written about Tanzania. Usually it’s about safari animals, or Maasai tribes, or beaches on Zanzibar.
Nobody ever writes about the culture. Nobody writes about the children. Nobody writes about the day to day life.
If you want your post to go viral it needs to be unexpected in one of two ways:
- Mindblowingly better than everything else.
- Totally different to everything else.
Can you write about a safari better than every other safari post on the internet? Probably not. But you can write something totally different that nobody’s seen before. Try that.
- Identity – yes
- Emotion – yes
- Narcissism – yes
- Visual – yes
- Unexpected – yes
In the end the post got around 27,000 shares, mostly on Facebook, and over a hundred comments. Definitely a viral success!
Posts that pull on very similar elements to this post are:
10 Reasons The Philippines Should Be Your First Stop In Asia (67,000 shares)
There’s Something About Finland (4,000 shares)
Why You Need To Go To Bulgaria (42,000 shares)
This was an interesting post. I actually was reading a pamphlet about the airport and noticed so much incredible stuff in there, like a swimming pool, free movie theatre, Playstation corner, games cafe, and I was thinking, this would make an incredible blog post. I spent the next two hours running around the airport with my camera taking photos of everything. As expected, the post was a hit. Let’s break it down.
1. Connect deeply with identity and emotion
Take a look at the stats for this post over about ten days:
This was back in 2014, when my blog was still brand new. It was crazy. I got about 50,000 page views in a single day, and if my server hadn’t kept crashing it probably would have been double that.
But the most interesting thing about those numbers is where they came from. It’s all from Singapore. If you were following the Twittersphere during the spike you would’ve noticed tons of people sharing it with messages like “OMG did you guys know we’ve got like, the raddest airport in the world?”
Singaporeans were super happy to show off something cool about their country.
While it may not connect with identity or emotion as much as the previous example, it definitely played a factor. Singaporeans wanted to show the world their amazing airport. Like I said, with travel it’s easy. It’s like sports. Almost everything you write has the potential to speak to an entire country.
2. Appealing to narcissism
Again, people love to read things about themselves, and they love to share things about themselves.
Imagine the airport in the post wasn’t from Singapore. Imagine it was the airport from your own country instead. Wouldn’t you share it too?
If this were a post about “10 Best Airports In The World” and Singapore came out #1, it would not have done nearly as well. A few Singaporeans would have shared it, sure. But it would no longer be a post about Singapore. It would just be a post about airports. That is not going to appeal to people’s self obsession nearly as well.
By making the post about Singapore only, it gave those people an opportunity to share something cool about their country, and only their country. Big difference.
What you’ll also notice in this post is a few scatterings of humour. It doesn’t read like an information brochure. It’s fun to read. It makes people laugh. People go to social media to be silly and have fun, not to read textbooks. Funny and playful content is always shareable.
Lots of photos. Without the photos, this post would have been a dud.
Shock and awe is always powerful. That’s what I’m talking about when I say “Be unexpected”.
Probably the main reason this post did well was because it’s unexpected. People don’t expect these kinds of things inside an airport. On top of that, most Singaporeans didn’t even know their airport had these things! People were literally scrolling through the post thinking “Seriously? All this stuff is in our airport?”
Take this, and combine it with some tugging on Singapore’s national pride, and you’ve got a pretty potent combination for a viral post.
- Appeals to identity – some
- Appeals to emotion – some
- Appeals to narcissism – yes
- Visual – very
- Unexpected – very
The post got around 22,000 shares, which is great, and it actually ended up being one of my most trafficked posts. I also got some media reaching out to me, including the PR staff from Singapore Airport itself, looking to collaborate on a few things.
Take a moment to think about how this post differs from the previous one about Tanzania. To recreate a post like that one, you need to know a country quite intimately. You would need to have travelled there for several weeks or months, befriended local people, maybe learned some of the language, eaten all their food. There are probably only a handful of countries you’ll be able to write a post like that about.
However, this Singapore post is different. Anyone can do it. Anybody can take a camera and run around the airport taking photos of cool stuff. If you look at it, the photos aren’t even that great. I took them with a crappy point-and-shoot. I wasn’t even in Singapore for 48 hours. Yet I managed to create a viral post about Singapore.
The trick is being able to recognise when content has the potential to go viral, and then capitalising on it.
I had an inkling this post could do quite well, maybe 5-10k shares, but it blew up way bigger than I imagined. This is actually a really great post for us to break down, because every single one of you can recreate something like this on your blog.
Here’s the backstory. I’m from New Zealand. I grew up there, I lived there for the first 25 years of my life. That means I know the country really well (duh). Now, who is the perfect person to write something that (a) appeals to New Zealanders’ identities, (b) connects emotionally with New Zealanders, and (c) is introspective and unexpected?
You would need someone who knows the country intimately, who knows what people from New Zealand are like, and who can write with authority on the country and the people.
Obviously the perfect candidate is; a New Zealander!
The point I’m trying to make is; if you want a place you can write something viral about today, start with your own country. You know it better than anyone else.
1. Connect deeply with identity
One thing that New Zealanders encounter a lot while travelling is commentary on their English. Many people find it hard to understand our accent, and also the large number of slang words we use.
However, we also experience this in our own country. Explaining our slang words to our visitors is something that New Zealanders experience all the time.
Obviously, writing about our unique language is going to connect very deeply with people. It’s something we’re all very aware of, and proud of. It’s going to bring out our national pride on full display. It’s something so closely connected to our identity that people will have no choice but to identify with the post.
What is a unique cultural trait embedded in your own country? Perhaps something with the food, with sport, with the weather? Think about how you could recreate these emotions with your own fellow countrymen and countrywomen.
2. Connect deeply with emotion
This was the reason I put examples of each slang word in the post. I wanted to get people saying these words out loud, in sentences they probably heard all the time when they were kids. There were a lot of older slang words included in there too, which are not so common anymore but were used a lot back during my school days.
These kinds of things bring back memories in people, and whenever you can do that, you are going to revive emotions. You are going to make people happy, sad, proud, embarrassed, whatever. It doesn’t matter what the emotion is! As long as you are connecting, the chance that they will feel enough to share it on their Facebook page goes up twenty-fold.
As the tweetstorm was growing for this one, there were countless people sending it to friends saying things like, “Hey Jess, here you go, now you’ll be able to understand me next time we meet!” It was triggering memories, of who knows how long ago, it could have been years or decades! But the post was real enough to bring those memories back to Facebook years later.
3. Appealing to narcissism
If you’re an American, there’s probably very little chance you’re going to share a post about Scottish slang words. Why would you? It’s not about you. We only share things about ourselves.
Again, with this post, you’ll notice all the traffic actually came from New Zealand. Check out the stats over the couple of weeks after it was published:
Although 20% came from Australia and 16% came from the US/UK, I’m certain the majority of those people were New Zealanders living overseas (there’s a lot). Appealing to people’s self-adoration always works.
Ask yourself, what is something your country is innately proud of? What are you known for? What do you want, or not want, to be known for? These are things that will swell or prick your people’s narcissistic side – something that never fails to get them sharing.
Again, people share things that make them laugh. People want to be able to tag their friends and say, “Hey, check this out, this is hilarious!”, and more importantly, they want their friends to reply and say, “Holy crap that was hilarious!”, and then share it too, growing the avalanche even larger. Writing the post in a goofy way with silly examples was completely intentional.
If humour is not your thing, you can make up for it with something else that gets people’s attention. Making it visual, usually through photography, is a great equaliser. Consider this post, which also appealed to the same New Zealand identity, without much humour, but with many photos. It still managed to bring in around 8k shares.
While there are a few blog posts about New Zealand slang on the web, I could not find a single blog post that was as thorough or as genuine as this. Most of them were tourists writing posts along the lines of “Check out these 10 funny words Kiwis say!” Unless that post is written so brilliantly to the point of Pulitzer quality, it’s not going viral.
This also underpins the idea that nobody can write about your country better than you can. You’re the one who knows how to tug on your country’s emotions, how to show your country off to the world, or criticise them in front of it. And writing about your own home always makes for fantastic travel writing too.
Remember, write something better than everything else, or write something different to everything else. Ideally, both.
- Connects with identity – huge yes
- Connects with emotion – yes
- Appeals to narcissism – yes
- Visual – no
- Unexpected – yes
This is my most successful viral post, getting almost 100,000 shares, and it will probably hit that mark not too far in the future. Like I said, this post is great because anyone can replicate this result.
Writing about your own country is something most travel bloggers don’t take advantage of. Of course, don’t waste your time on a 10 Favourite Things To Do In New Zealand post. There are already thousands of those, plus anyone can write that after a week in the country. Instead, try and think of something something that only you, a native, could write. What is something that connects deeply to your identity and emotions? What are some powerful memories you could revive? What can you criticise about your country? What can you praise? What could be funny? What could you show through great photos? What do your fellow citizens love/hate about themselves?
Answer those questions and you will, guaranteed, have a viral post on your hands.
Here’s what we know about creating viral travel content:
Appeal to identity
Connect with the root of who people really are. When you talk about their cafes, and their lakes, and their museums, it’s all very meh. Sure, it might do well in search engines. It’s not going viral though. Try and write something that will make people proud of who they are and where they come from. Write about their behaviours, their beliefs, their bad habits, their fears, their lives. That is what will get them hitting the share button.
Appeal to emotion
People take action when they feel emotion. It doesn’t matter what the emotion is. It can be joy, anger, shame, frustration, anything! The only thing we are trying to avoid is indifference. You will always see people sharing something on Facebook saying things like, “Oh my gosh this makes me so angry,” or “Oh my gosh my heart is melting!” You will never see someone share something saying “Hey this article is kind of okay and I don’t have any opinion on it at all, check it out.” Safe, flat, indifferent content gets you nowhere. Tap into people’s emotional pools. They won’t be able to resist clicking the share button.
Appeal to self-love.
We’re all narcissistic. We all love ourselves at least a little bit. We all love reading about ourselves. We all love telling others about ourselves. For people to share something, it’s going to have to be about them.
Photography and images are huge in travel blogging. Plus, good photography has just as much, if not more, power to bring out emotion as words do. If there is any way to add images to your post, do it.
For your content to get shared a lot, it needs to make people go wow. To be wow content, it needs to be either; (a) mindblowingly better than everything else, or (b) completely different to everything else. Focus on the wow.
Before you move on
Before you go on to the next section, I strongly suggest spending a few minutes brainstorming some ideas with these concepts in mind. 90% of going viral is creating the right type of content.
Grab and pen and paper and start scribbling down ideas. Think of the places you have been, the places or people you know best, the places you have spent the most time in – what are the quirky, interesting things you can write about those people and those cultures? If you’re still new to travel, what are some of those things you could write about your own country?
Next we’ll be talking about promotion, but taking a minute to come up with some post ideas will help you put these promotional tools into context.
So you’ve created your perfect piece of content. Now we need to get it out there.
You’re probably thinking this is the key – that all the secrets to viral content are hidden in some secret promotional strategy.
Let me tell you about the first post that went viral on my blog. It was called 10 Reasons The Philippines Should Be Your First Stop In Asia.
My blog was about a month old. I didn’t even have Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. I had a brand new Facebook page with about 40 (yes, 40) likes on it. Every single one was from friends and family. I was a blogging nobody.
I shared a different post (it was this one, about Filipino food) on my personal Facebook page. One of my friends tagged one of his workmates, who had a small Filipino food blog, with about 9,000 Facebook fans. He shared my post to his page. He then clicked around my blog and found my 10 Reasons post. He shared that too.
A lot of his Facebook followers liked the post. They shared it with their own friends and family. Their friends and family shared it with their friends and family. Overnight, the blog post started to avalanche. It roared through the Philippines. 37,000 page views in a single day:
Let’s break down what happened here:
- I didn’t have a lot of followers. In fact, I had none.
- I didn’t do any promotional tricks or pay for any exposure.
- I didn’t rely on famous blogger friends to push it out for me.
- I had zero push from any SEO, social media presence, or media mentions.
All I did was create honest, unique content, that targeted both emotion and identity (unintentional at the time, I must admit), that was very visual, and carried personality. All that was needed to go viral was one (one!) share from a Facebook page which had 9,000 fans.
Not a million fans. Not 50,000.
The truth is, most viral content doesn’t actually need much push. Think about the last thing you shared on Facebook. Did anybody explicitly ask you to share it? Did anyone send you an email saying, “Hey, can you do me a favour and share this on Facebook? I’m trying to go viral.”
No. Something happens inside of you and you just click “Share”. That’s how viral content works. It connects with people. They want to share it. Even if you asked them not to share it, they probably still would.
That’s why we’ve focused so much on breaking down the actual content itself, rather than promotional hacks and tips. If you create the content right, you just need that one initial bit of exposure, and it doesn’t even need to be big. If the content is viral-worthy, it will start the fire on its own.
Obviously, promotion helps. After all, if I hadn’t shared it on my page, and my friend didn’t have a friend who had a blog with 9,000 Facebook followers, maybe my post wouldn’t have gone viral? (although I suspect it still would have, eventually).
The cool thing is, we don’t need to leave this to chance. To guarantee getting those initial 9,000 eyes on our soon-to-be-viral post, there are a few simple things we can do.
1. Start through your own channels
Promote it through all your own channels. This includes:
- Your Facebook fan page
- Your personal Facebook page
- Your Twitter/Linked/Google+/Pinterest/Stumbleupon
- Your email list
- In your blog sidebar/homepage
That’s all pretty obvious.
2. Through Pinterest group boards
If you’re not on Pinterest, you should be.
On Pinterest, there are things called “group boards”
They can be set up and managed by anyone, and are no different to other Pinterest boards, other than the fact that several people contribute to it. They usually have a large number of followers, making it the perfect place to promote your content if you’re new to Pinterest or have low follower numbers.
To find group boards, you can do two things:
- Look for group boards with a site like pingroupie.
- Look at other big travel bloggers on Pinterest and see what group boards they’re a member of.
You’ll be able to tell a group board by the multiple profile photos in the bottom corner:
After you’ve found the group boards, you’ll need to send an email or message to the board owner to ask for an invitation. Some will ignore you, some will say no, some will send an invite. It’s a roll of the dice.
If you can’t get any traction on Pinterest, don’t fret. It’s mostly a secondary option for what we’re trying to do here. For travel blogs, Facebook is a far more fruitful platform.
3. Through big Facebook pages
In my experience, a Facebook share is the most valuable social signal when trying to go viral. Why? Because it means that someone has just shared your post with every one of their friends. Those are people with similar interests to that person, who trust that person, and most people have several hundred if not thousands of friends on Facebook. All it takes is a few of those friends to share it as well, and you’ve reached hundreds of thousands of Facebook pages.
So here’s the trick.
Your personal Facebook page is good. Your friends will read your stuff. Share it there. As we’ve seen, that might even be enough!
Your Facebook blog/fan page is even better. These people clicked ‘Like’ on your page. They want to see your posts! But chances are, you probably only have a few hundred or few thousand followers there.
To be guaranteed a viral wildfire, you want to get shared on the big pages. The pages with hundreds of thousands of followers.
Here are just a few (of many!) very large Facebook pages I’ve had my content shared on. Every single piece of content went viral.
Think about how powerful this is. This is millions of people you’re getting your content in front of. Building a following like that would easily take many years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing. You’re getting exposure for free. And if you get shared on pages like this, it’s not even a question. Your content will go viral.
So how do you get these features? It’s simple. First, you look for potential pages with a simple Facebook search.
Then, just ask!
You will get lots of people saying no:
But if you’ve done things right, you will also get people saying yes:
Now, a few guidelines to keep you out of trouble, because spamming people on Facebook – the social media site known for creeps and stalkers – is not a joke.
Do not do this for every blog post you write.
These are serious pages who have spent a lot of time and money building their Facebook pages. The truth is, 99% of the time they don’t really give a crap about your blog posts. The best case scenario is they ignore you. The worst case scenario is you get reported for spam – say goodbye to any more viral Facebook opportunities after that. Remember, not all your posts will have viral potential. I would never try to push a regular blog post (say, A Glimpse At Morocco) this way. This is just a personal blog post about my time in Morocco, there’s probably a million others like it out there. Nobody except my own audience cares about this post. Big Facebook pages won’t care about this post. Famous bloggers don’t care about this post. Save your requests for your truly unique, viral-worthy content.
Make sure your content is freaking amazeballs.
If you are going to reach out to a page with a million followers, you better be damn sure you’ve got something worth sharing. This is why I encourage you to write emotional, unique, identity charged content to go viral. Not how-to guides and technical content. You need something special. Something that is going to make those pages go, “Wow, we’ve never seen anything like this before.” The Traveller’s Guide to New Zealand Slang is a good example. If you’re sitting there wondering whether your post is good enough, it’s probably not good enough.
Be more than relevant.
Relevance is not enough. If you write a post about the 10 Best Cafes in Milan, yeah, sure, that’s relevant to Tourism Italy. Do they care? NO. You’re just another stupid blogger to them. If you want Tourism Italy to read and share a post, it needs to be more than just relevant. It needs to make them cry with pride that they are Italians. You want your content to be so deeply connective that they feel like they wrote it themselves. You want them to be thanking you for giving them the chance to share this with their readers. There’s Something About Finland and Have You Been To Tanzania? are good examples of this kind of content.
Do not spam!
I repeat, do not spam. Do not just send all your posts out to every single Facebook page you can think of and see what happens. This is the ‘shotgun’ approach, and you’ll probably get reported for spam, and Facebook might even stop delivering your messages after that. Instead, take the ‘rifle’ approach. Pick your content wisely, pick your requests wisely, and deliver personalised messages. If your content is actually viral worthy, you only need one share on a big page. One! After that, you’ll get a few hundred or thousand people from that page sharing it, and the avalanche will start on its own. I’d recommend starting with just two or three pages. If the response is good, try a few more. And so on. Quality, not quantity.
4. Your network of influencers
Ideally, you don’t want to rely on the off-chance that one of your friends knows a blogger with 9,000 Facebook fans and then pray that he tags him in your post after seeing it on Facebook and then pray his blogger friend actually likes the post and shares it.
What would be much easier is if you just knew a blogger with 9,000 fans. Then you could just send him an email saying, “Yo, John, could you give this a whiz on your Facebook page? Thanks mate I owe you one!”
As long as you only do that once a year and not, say, every single week, he’d probably oblige. I know I would.
This is where networking comes in. If you don’t network with other bloggers, you should really start.
Whether you do it by guest posting, interviewing, or just reaching out on Twitter or email and saying hi, it’s always handy to have a few friends in the industry. I mean, you can start right now by tweeting me. I’ll say hi back, I promise!
This is particularly handy in times like this, when you’re trying to get the word out on something. If you have a special piece of content, just send a few emails around asking for a nudge. If the content is good, most will oblige.
5. Sites like reddit and Medium
There are countless sharing sites like this, and sometimes they will help you give your content an extra push. However the truth is, you shouldn’t need sites like this if your content is truly viral worthy. As soon as it touches Facebook, Twitter and the other major sites, people should start sharing. John shares it with a hundred friends. Ten of those friends share it with five hundred friends each. Ten of each of their friends share it with…and yeah, you get it. Of course sharing on these sites won’t hurt, so go for it if you have the time.
Most people overestimate the importance of promotion in creating a viral post. The truth is, a post that is truly viral-worthy will go viral with very little promotion. You shouldn’t need to ask people to share it, they will share it on their own. You shouldn’t need to beg other pages to share it, the content should speak for itself. This is why we focused so much on the content itself, rather than tricky marketing and promotion techniques.
What you should really be focused on is getting your content in front of that initial set of eyeballs. After that, the viral wave should start on its own. You can leverage other Facebook and Pinterest pages to do this, or even your own Facebook following and email list. All you need is that initial push, and the techniques above will help you get it. If you manage to get your content shared on a page with 20,000 followers and it has all the right viral elements, it will go viral.
So you did it. You made something kickass and your fifteen minutes is here. Hundreds of shares, thousands of shares, 10k shares, 100k shares, maybe even a million. It’s happening.
Congratulations. It’s all very exciting. However, the reality is viral posts are completely useless if you’re not prepared for them. Here is a short list of things you must do once you’re on the viral wave.
1. Notify your web host
There is nothing more heart wrenching for a blogger to have tens of thousands of people clicking your post on Facebook only to be shown a “Sorry, this website is down” page. It’s the most horrible feeling in the world. Trust me, I know.
When my first post went viral, my web host was crashing every hour. I had a crappy Bluehost account and it just simply wasn’t ready for the avalanche of traffic (the same thing happened with the second viral post, too).
Due to web hosting crashes, I would guess I’ve lost out on hundreds of thousands of page views, at least. It wasn’t until I changed to a more stable host that I stopped having these problems.
If you notice a post going viral, get in touch with your host immediately. Let them know what’s happening and get them to upgrade your plan a few tiers. Yes, pay the extra money. You do not want to crash during a viral spike! Trust me.
2. Make hay while the sun shines
Don’t just sit around wetting your pants while watching your stats page. Get some results!
If your priority is money, place a few more Adsense ads in the post. Try and add some affiliate links. Maybe add some affiliate banners. Get that paper!
If your priority is list building, add some in-content opt-in forms. Add an opt-in form to the header, the sidebar, add a ribbon opt-in.
If your priority is social media, add Facebook follow boxes in your sidebar, to your header, place one in a pop-up box if you have to.
As I said earlier, most viral traffic is useless traffic. 99% of these visitors will read your post, laugh, cry, and then close it and never visit your site again. Your job is to capture as much benefit as possible from your traffic surge. Whether it’s a jump in email subscribers or a little more ad money, you probably only have 24-48 hours to really take advantage. Use it wisely!
3. Respond to comments
It’s likely you’ll get a lot of comments. Respond to them. This keeps people coming back. It also keeps people on your page longer, increases engagement, and more people will bookmark your page. These are all good things.
Try and interlink to the rest of your blog as much as possible. You don’t want people to read your one viral post and then leave. You want to them to click through to your other posts, read your story, become a long time fan. Make this as easy as possible for them.
You can do this by adding popular posts to your sidebar, adding “Related posts” links in your content and below the post, and maybe even adding a pop-up.
5. Check the rest of your blog
Most of us have things that are a little scratchy on our site. When’s the last time you read your About page? Chances are you wrote it two years ago and you’ll probably cringe if you read it again today. We tend to forget about stuff like this.
Take a quick tour of your blog and check that you’re happy with all your pages. The usual suspects are the About Page, the Contact page, the Start page, and your welcome emails for your subscribers.
6. Keep sharing!
You want to ride this wave as long as possible. If your post has lit up, keep sharing it! Share it again to your Facebook page. Encourage your readers to give it an extra nudge. “This post is zooming through the Twittersphere right now! Have you read it?” Go back to the promo tips in the previous section and get to work. You can usually extend a viral wave by one or two days if you reach out to the right people.
Congrats. That was a huge training, but you made it.
Here at travelbloggr we’re passionate about endorsing quality content in travel blogging. As you’ve seen, with viral content this is no different. Travel blogging is about sharing the world in the most genuine way possible, and what better way to do that than to create real, emotional, insightful content about the people and places we visit. It’s not surprising that people love this type of content enough to share it with their friends and family too.
Hopefully you’ve learned a lot in this Viralbloggr course, and I encourage you to start brainstorming ideas around the things we’ve talked about. What places can you write about intimately? What interesting things have you seen, both abroad and at home, that will appeal to people’s emotions, identity and self-adoration? How can you make it different to anything else we’ve seen?
This is something that’s seldom found in travel blogging today, but as you’ve seen, the rewards for this kind of content can be huge. Hopefully we’ll see more of it – from you and many others.
Anyway, that’s it from me today.
We plan to have more free expert trainings like this in the coming months, so stay tuned. Until then, you can check our many other great articles about growing your travel blog here.
See you round!
Viralbloggr was written by:
BREN | brenontheroad.com
Bren is a former Chartered Accountant from New Zealand.
In 2011 he started his journey around the world and has
never looked back. You can find him writing here at travelbloggr,
or at his personal travel blog, Bren On The Road.