Want to “go viral?” Think again!

Seems like everybody wants to produce content that goes viral.  Speaking from experience, you should be careful about what you wish for!

Last week I followed with tradition and posted something light and entertaining on a Friday. In fact I thought it was funny — skewering Guy Kawasaki for his voluminous and sometimes bizarre tweets.

To my surprise and delight, Guy actually found the post and had a great sense of humor about it.  And it must have created some traction for him — his team tweeted it out five times over 24 hours. This is a fellow with nearly 300,000 followers.

The post didn’t set a record for an individual day on my blog, but over three days, it was pretty huge — about 5X the normal rate of page views for a weekend. By some definitions, I guess you could say it went viral.

And then the problems started.

When you go viral, you reach a lot of new people outside the comfortable “normal” audience you’ve built over time.  In fact about 95% of the readers last weekend had never been to the blog before.  This was also a new population who didn’t realize I was trying to be funny. People who don’t even know what funny IS.  So I started getting nasty-grams from folks who thought I was being profane: “Who are you to call somebody a devil? You need to look in the mirror, pick up a Bible and ask this man for forgiveness.”  How do you respond to that?

Next came the imposter. Somebody logged into the comment section with a Guy Kawasaki email address and hijacked the blog. Then the “real” Guy showed up to defend himself … or was it a representative? … or another imposter? … and for awhile I didn’t know which end was up. It took me about an hour to sort through the mess, delete the imposter’s comments, and “stand watch” over new comments coming in.  Up until that day I had only deleted one comment in the history of the blog.

Since I made the choice to not have ads on this site, I don’t receive any financial benefit from thousands of new readers coming to the blog.  What about new RSS subscriptions? As best as I can tell, it was about ZERO.  They were all blog tourists I suppose.

I’m really grateful that Guy took my post in good humor and liked it enough to tweet it out.  From the imposter incident, I have a new appreciation that being a celebrity comes with a target on your back. In the end, I’ll settle for my good ol’ {grow} homeys any day!

I really appreciate the consistent friendship and support from the {grow} community, whether I suck or whether I knock it out of the park.  I don’t need viral. I just need you. Thanks!

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  • Well, on the bright side ~ you’ve been through it forwards (Devil) and then back again (Lived). So glad you survived!!

    I’m in process of reframing my blog site to ‘Light Up the Heart of Ordinary’. In fact, I’m right now editing a music clip to post with a Redefinition of Ordinary that I personally feel needs to emerge. (Okay, right now I’m commenting on your blog post – but then I’m going BACK TO music editing.)

    Just last week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how grateful I am to be Ordinary – invisible when I choose, available when I can, courageous and inspiring in the quiet, yet significant in my own way through the all of it.

    I believe part of the reason I’ve been so slow in stepping forward in Presence is an inner fear of actually succeeding to the point where I may lose myself along the way. As happens to many celebrities. (Not that I feel I’m celebrity-able, but then – sometimes Life happens and your legs are flipped out from under you and you find yourself in a place where nothing is familiar and you long for what you had. Kind of like, your weekend.)

    Sorry to ramble. I mostly wanted you to know that I showed up – and I totally relate to your feelings on this matter.

  • Wow, that’s crazy interesting. Glad to watch it from the sidelines. 🙂 At least we’ll all gain from your new insight. Thanks, Mark.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @Sally — You are more than a community member, and you are certainly more than ordinary. You are a BLESSING! Your beautifully-written and thoughtful comments are always stunning and inspiring.

    There have been a couple of times I have been knocked off-center and engaged in the mind-muck that is the social web. It’s easy to get caught up in the political crap and start to drift.

    Ironically, when I am authentically nice and helpful (which I am by the way!) I think that is when I leave myself most vulnerable. People seem to find it hard to believe that I like to be nice and assume I have nefarious motives. This happens all the time!

    Frustrating … but I just need to stay centered and above the nastiness. This is a community that is GREAT at that by the way!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @Frank — Of course you are stunning and inspiring, too. I don’t want you to feel left out ; )

  • Darn, I just had @MarkSchaeferGlobalPR ready to go in Twitter to join in all the Kawasaki madness here.

    Seriously, though, I’m with Sally in being glad to be in our quieter part of the web universe. Seems fun but I honestly don’t know how I would handle such a viral impact.

    Then again, maybe having a publicist on call and getting a good recommendation on a rehab clinic would help out.

  • Mark

    @Johnny — You’ve spurred a business idea — 12 Step recovery program to get bloggers who are too full of themselves through de-tox. A Blog-aholics Program? I guess we could call it “BP” for short? Oh wait .. that’s been taken.

  • Crikey, Mark. Don’t people get irony? I thought it was a hilarious post. Always enjoy your humor posts mixed in with the serious stuff.

    Just reminds me that text – without all that wonderful paralinguistic stuff we have we talk in person – can be a tricky beast some times.

  • Mark

    @Jon … especially when you cross cultures.

  • Ike

    Indeed, Guy has a decent sense of self-deprecating humor. But he is another example of a phenomenon I’ve noticed among online celebrity.

    They tend to attract hangers-on — digital groupies — who self-deploy themselves as strongarm lieutenants to come to the Chief’s defense anytime there is a besmirchment of the Holy Reputation.

    I don’t know if they are just doing it to ingratiate themselves, or if there is an under-the-table arrangement for the payment of Whuffie, but I’ve seen it in action with both Kawasaki and Scoble.

    You can’t hold the Kahunas responsible for the actions of their minions.

  • Mark,

    It comes down to value vs viral. Like you, I’ll take value any day. Viral is big and loud, and – usually – brief. Value is smaller, quieter, more thoughtful, and long-standing.

    Viral may give you a quick jolt of adrenaline, but value will teach you and provide long-term support that leads to meaningful growth – of your knowledge, your ideas, your projects, and yourself.

    Thanks, as always, for the gentle poke to remind us of these things. 🙂

  • I wonder what plans you had that were set topsy-turvy when standing guard on new comments?

    Social media hath no barriers, eh?

    This is a fascinating look at the effects of viral albeit on a smaller scale. I guess I’d call this “viral” and not word of mouth, if there’s indeed a difference.

    Thanks for sharing that, Mark.

  • Mark

    @Ike — I would like to officially apply for the position of your digital groupie. I specialize in Whuffie and besmirchment so would be well-qualified.

    @jamie — Viral versus value — a MUCH better headline dammit. Where were you when I needed you? : )

    @Jayme — Yes it was a little viral. Just a “VI”” really. Thanks!

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  • aw, there are some of us that love ya no matter what 😉

  • Mark

    HEY! Great to hear from you Michelle! We need to catch up soon.

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  • Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Of course we all know that viral doesn’t just happen. And as in the case of Coke and Mentos, one side may not appreciate the other side taking it viral. The devil used you to expand his empire. Seriously, it’s a great lesson for those of us with vertical markets.

  • Oh my goodness! Well, congratulations on your accidental discovery then =) I’m sure the haters can be brused aside. I did (still do) have a hater who was seething with anger, going below the belt and made it his personal crusade to attack me. I actually emailed him telling him to back off or he’ll get a restraining order.

    Moving on… thank heavens for Akismet on WordPress and the ability to approve a comment before it is published. Good to meet you!

  • Well maybe it wasn’t an accidental discovery, because you already know that social media is viral…

  • Mark

    @mike Thanks for the comment!

    @Jeannie — Wow scary stuff. Thanks for sharing. I don’t mind the negative comments. Shows I got ’em thinking at least : )

  • Mark, While I didn’t find you by the viral joke post I did somehow find you and I have now subscribed. I am looking forward to exploring more of your writings. Thanks for being here and being all you ARE. Peace and Blessings

  • Mark

    Thanks for your kind words, Robert.

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