Viral High, Viral Hangover

A guest post by {grow} community member Adam Toporek

A few weeks ago, a blog post of mine went viral on Twitter. Since I am not very technically oriented, I thought an interview with my server could shed some light on this unique Twitter event.

I met My Server at a swanky Silicon Valley server farm. He was sitting at the maintenance rack sipping a wire full of alternating current when I arrived. Apportioned in a minimalist black casing, he embodied the latest in Dell retro chic.

After an awkward introduction (how do you shake hands with a server?), he cleared his cache and began to describe the events of that fateful evening.

MY SERVER: So Adam, it began when Gail Gardner of GrowMap tweeted a quote from your post entitled Google + and The Illusion of Privacy. Turns out, one of her followers is Tony Robbins — yeah, the Tony Robbins — and he retweeted it out to his almost 2 million Twitter followers.

ME: 2 million!

MY SERVER: What can I say? The dude’s got Larry King on speed dial. Anyway, it was a Sunday night, and I was enjoying some routine maintenance when the tweet hit.

ME: How did you know what had happened?

MY SERVER: Seriously Adam? I could process your normal traffic with an abacus. When you got over 1,300 page views in a few minutes,  I figured either a post had gone viral or you had blackmailed Matt Cutts.

ME: It was the first one. What happened next?

MY SERVER: Well, I was planning to watch a re-run of CSI but thanks to you my Sunday night was simply ruined. Then Monday hit, and you had another 1,000 page views right away. I was almost ready to quit when the next day the traffic strarted to settle back down to a more normal level.

ME: Wow, thanks for being there for me man.

MY SERVER: Yeah, they don’t call me a server for nothing.  Adam, you’re going to have to excuse me. I think I ate a bad update last night; I’ve got a terrible case of the windows.

While I waited on My Server to return, I noticed another server blinking her LED’s at me from across the room. I walked over to see if I could get an eyewitness account to add color to the story. It was not to be …

GINI DIETRICH’S SERVER: I just want to tell you that your server’s gotten an incredible ego since that Tony Robbins tweet. He rolls around here like his RAM don’t stink.

ME: I’m sorry. It’s a heady time for him.

GINI DIETRICH’S SERVER: Well, tell Mr. Inflated CPU that I do 1,300 page views a day just in Clive, Iowa – so maybe he should tone it down a notch or ten.

ME: Uh yeah… okay… Looks like he’s back.

MY SERVER: So, where were we?

ME: Well, were there any other effects of the big tweet?

MY SERVER: Ah yes. So, I ran into Twitter and Klout in the cafeteria the next day, and if you can believe it, they both acted like nothing had happened. Losers. Google, on the other hand, was all over me. Of course, he is a StarStalker, so he only wanted to talk about the Google+ post, but at least he finally knew my name.

ME: What about Alexa?

MY SERVER: Oh, you know her type. Beee-atch.  She just sits at the corner table with the tech types; I don’t think she noticed at all. We’re not in her league, even with your big tweet.

ME: Going viral just is not what it is cracked up to be.

MY SERVER: Well maybe this is a sign of things to come. You know, it’s not easy being your server, Adam. Seriously, the other servers call me lazy. Especially Gini Dietrich’s server, she is insufferable!

Afterword

The Tony Robbins tweet brings both the power and limitations of Twitter into sharp relief. It was a heady feeling to know that within a few hours, thousands of people had read my work. Other than a spike in the PageRank for the post, there really was no long-term effect of “going viral.”

As Mark Schaefer noted in one of my favorite {grow} posts, the ability of Twitter to inspire action is extremely limited.  There was no real impact on my blog, Twitter account or Klout score.  Everybody dreams of going viral but it was no big deal. A viral high, a viral hang-over.

In the end, the Tony Robbins tweet was an exciting experience, but more than that, it was another demonstration that Twitter’s true power is as a one-to-one communication medium. For despite its ability to amplify voice and spread information, Twitter is at its most relevant as a relationship tool.

And if that is the case, perhaps we should all take a page from Tony Robbins’ book and tweet with passion!

PS. Gini Dietrich is a true gem and is nothing like her server.

Adam Toporek is a franchise developer and small business owner who blogs about the customer service experience.

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  • Adam, this is such an entertaining, creative, spot-on post! Such a great way to convey the fact that, although it’s good for the ego to get a gazillion hits and attention, unless those hits translate into something “real” and tangible in terms of results, it’s kinda’ like cotton candy and caramel corn at a state fair. They’ll give you a quick and powerful rush, but as for lasting effects…

    Thanks, Mark and Adam! Cheers! Kaarina

  • My darn server is as insufferable as me! I had no idea. I’m going to have to have a talk with it.

    I’m with Kaarina. Super entertaining with some great lessons included. 

  • Erica Allison

    Love this post, Adam. Get ready, you might go viral once more! 😉 Your message is as Kaarina said, ‘spot-on’…hmmm, like the sound of that, don’t you?

    Good to see you here and good on ya, Mark for having him!

  • You didn’t bring any of that virus to Polk County when we shot skeet did you? I have been feeling a little bit under the weather lately…….

    Very creative, entertaining and enjoyable my friend. But you do touch on a good point; yes it went viral, but so what? In the big scheme of things what did it actually mean? Are you famous now, rich, better looking? Just like fame or a big win, it can be so fleeting and so damn fickle. If this is what you are always chasing in social, you will never be satisfied and you will certainly never ‘win’.

    I couldn’t agree more about the one-on-one communication medium because at the end of the day it is still about relationships which has to start one person at a time. You still have to find out what is sustainable for you; what works.

    Good to see you at Mark’s; you certainly took this one out of the yard. As they say in baseball, touch ’em all baby because this one is gone…….

  • HA! Great post. Honestly, I never really think about the back-end stuff when it comes to what a viral post can do. Good insight. Oh– and I want to hang out with Gini Dietrich’s server. She sounds awesome.

  •  You always have the great analogies Kaarina! In many ways, it was a lot like a sugar rush — good in the short term but not much resonance.

  •  Let’s just say when I think of insufferable… 🙂

    Appreciate the comment Gini, and thanks for being a good sport! You’re a rock star in my book — no matter what your server says about you.

  • Stupid server. What does it know?

  • What?? NO! I’m just about to have a talk with her about her attitude.

  • Thanks Jen! Gini’s server is quite fun to be around, unless she gets into the Red Bull and Vodka.

  • I appreciate it Bill! Actually, I am famous now, but only because I’ve had my picture taken with you.

    You know, I’ve written about it before, but one of the biggest revelations I had in my first year was how potent Twitter can be. I had a “Facebook first” strategy when I first got involved with SM, and within a month Twitter had become my primary platform. It is one of those things that defies explanation in some ways — you just have to get in there and do it to understand how it works (and I still consider myself a beginner). In the end, what I discovered is that relationship building part of it, and that has made it very powerful.

  • My server was upgraded recently — so I’m ready!  🙂  Appreciate it Erica — and yeah, that Kaarina is always very quotable!

  • Based on the stories she was telling me… she seems to know a lot. I’d watch your back; she seems a bit temperamental.

  • Hi Adam, 

    Very entertaining read. There ARE long term benefits but since they are not automatically obvious and generate gradual results many bloggers will totally miss what they are. I’ll do my best to make time to write a response post that explains the benefits of that quote and the viral tweets. 

    Think of it like planting seeds in gardening – each tweet may turn into a new reader, a new commenter, incoming links, etc – and those seeds mature over time.

    What viral traffic shows us is that we must have ways to connect with and develop relationships with visitors. That is true whether you have an ecommerce store, a service business, or a blog. 

    CONSISTENCY is required to really see results. One viral tweet does not fame make. In fact, I would argue that you notice viral spikes in traffic because of their size, but you will get more results from traffic that trickles in over time that grows into relationships that eventually lead to conversions that will NEVER be attributed back to the original source. 

    I write about how to create that consistency and have an example that includes YOUR QUOTE – the same one that went viral. I will write about it when I can. In the meantime, I have two links – one where your quote has been headlined since this viral event and one that explains why that particular page will continue to plant seeds for us both. If you’d like the links now just let me know and I’ll share them here. 

  •  Hi Gail,

    First, though I’ve said it before, thanks for the tweet that A. Robbins picked up!

    I agree that there are some benefits, and as I mentioned, there would have been more had my site (design and content) been better situated. I just believe that the scale of a viral event is greatly disproportional to the benefits received. To wit, chasing viral as a blogging/marketing strategy is a bit like pursuing lottery tickets as a business strategy — it’s hard to calculate a potential ROI when the return is almost wholly linked to luck and to my point above the return is not that great (in most cases).

    You nailed it with this phrase: “CONSISTENCY is required to really see results. One viral tweet does not fame make.” Couldn’t agree more.

    I think it would be great if you shared your thoughts on the benefits here or in a response post. While I tend to think they are minimal, minimal does not mean nonexistent. And while chasing viral is not wise, if it happens we should definitely make the most out of it. 

    Thanks for taking up the other side of the discussion!

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  • Careful Bill, one of them funny looking granola types from PETA is going to write a letter to you and Adam about your mistreatment of skeet. 

    They have a whole manifesto called the “The Insufferable Slaughter of The Skeet” in which they lay out their grievances.

    I’d hate for you and Adam to get caught up in that.

    First you get that damn letter than you wind up on the news trying to explain what you meant about going viral and that bounce rates are a legitimate social media term.

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  • Jack, I told Bill not to let anyone film the skeet slaughter. He insisted.

  • Thanks for letting me hang out at your place today Mark. Enjoyed it! Great pic, btw.

  • Dr Rhia

    So you mean it could be my server’s attitude that’s keeping me down? Perhaps I should give it a vocabulary lesson?? Incidentally, I’d LOVE a viral hangover…and I don’t say that to many people. Rhia 
    http://dr-rhia.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-do-american-idol-and-hitler-have.html

  • It’s still allowable in Polk County; we’s people think PETA means People Eating Tasty Animals……….doh………

  • I thought it would go viral; that is why I was wearing a ski mask….

  • Adam, your writing has become such a joy to read! Bravo!! 

    I love Twitter’s ability to make connections with people who might otherwise overlook us. I remember having one of those “gone viral” posts in my earlier days, but nothing like a Tony Robbins push! Wow!!

    I’d attended a free live webinar with Laura Roeder that was so transparent and amazing, and taught me so much, I just had to write about everything I’d learned from her, and how inspiring her own Twitter success story was. Then I tweeted her about it. Laura loved the post and started sharing it, and her community picked up the pace. She even used an excerpt in her online marketing! A heady feeling, indeed, and it lasted for a couple of weeks. 

    That blog is long gone, but I remember realizing at that moment how powerful a medium Twitter was.

    Seriously: the server a website/blog is hosted on had better be able to handle mega traffic when and if it comes your way. How awful it would’ve been if you’d missed that opportunity because your website crashed in the middle of your celebrity moment!

    By the way — Rackspace is THE BEST, if anyone’s wondering. 😉

  • Thanks so much Michelle, I really appreciate that!

    Glad you got to have your own viral event (that sounds weird!). And you’re right, you definitely need a web host that can handle the extra load. Mine never crashed that I saw, but it was definitely dragging for a bit!

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