Why This Blog Post Went Viral

content that moves

By Cas McCullough, {grow} Community Member
At the Content Marketing World Conference I attended in Sydney last month, Mark Schaefer emphasized that one way to get your content to “move” (ie. be seen, heard and shared widely), is to be more human.

Well, last week Mark’s theory proved true when a blog post I wrote on the LinkedIn publishing platform, Pulse, went viral, a breakthrough for me at last! And it only took me 20 minutes to write the post.

Here’s the story and I want to share it with you as an example of how to write content that moves, so you can put this theory to the test as well.

Late one night, I wrote a heart-felt blog post about my frustrations with networking events. I was honest, flawed, and raw, and guess what?

This is What Happened After I Clicked “Publish”

The post (you can read it here) was shared no less than 270 times on social media (the screen shot above was taken two days ago). It was viewed by more than 2120 people at last count, attracted several comments and incited hot debate both on LinkedIn and on Facebook where the post also attracted increased engagement and comments.

Why This Blog Post Attracted High Engagement

I’ve been writing posts for a long time now, and some fare better than others in terms of engagement, but usually I spend hours carefully crafting each post. This one? 20 minutes!

Another speaker at Content Marketing World, Tim Washer, said that we should be brave as content writers, and go with our instincts rather than take our content to a committee. (Sometimes we can be a committee of one, thwarting our best attempts to write well, right?)

While I didn’t deliberately set out to be controversial, but I did take a deep breath when I hit publish, because I realized I had exposed something about myself and that was risky. People might judge me harshly… and a couple of people did.

You know what though? Many, many more people wrote to me, both on and off social media, to say how much the post resonated with them.

So what made this blog post move?

  • It was human. I showed my take on an issue, warts and all. The reason I wrote the post was because of a genuine frustration with networking events. I don’t enjoy being accosted by people at events, and it’s happened multiple times. People sell first and ask questions later. I wanted to show why it should be the other way around.
  • I told a story. People love and relate to stories. Use them often. When you tell a story you paint a picture for your readers.
  • I didn’t water it down. I ignored that little voice in my head that said: “You can’t publish that!” I simply said what a lot of other people were thinking.
  • I tapped into the power of my existing community to add fuel to the fire. I am lucky to have a loyal subscriber base, a loyal following on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn. When my people saw that I was given heat for my article, to my great surprise, they jumped in and commented as a show of support. For this I am entirely grateful. I love my community!

The Bottom Line in Creating Content That Moves

People are tired of reading boring posts. They want drama, action, stories and a good dose of humanity.

How can you create content that moves? Be brave, don’t shy away from controversy and be prepared to answer your critics…they will come.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to read more about the Content Marketing World Conference, I have uploaded my report on the conference on Slideshare. Please follow the link and download with my compliments.

Cas McCulloughCas McCullough is the founder of Content Marketing Cardiology, a content marketing strategist, author and entrepreneur with a heart for working with solo and small business owners who want to make a difference.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Michael Gil.

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  • I love this Cas!! I recently did a session with Mark and he gave me similar advice. I’m seeing as I put myself out there more, I’m getting more traction.

    I loved your post by the way – I saw it shared by several others before getting to the original post by you!

  • Agree with you there Cas. What’s more, writing instinctively is so much more fun. Wouldn’t life be boring if we had to toe the line all the time?

  • One more… the post bucked a “traditional” approach to networking.

    You won’t take my business card? <– this is the question most people think immediately after reading the title… so they MUST find out why.

    Excellent post Cas.

  • First off, congrats Cas!
    Secondly…the reason why it went viral is spot on and so true. When I do keynotes on my sales process my #1 Most Important Thing is to…drumroll…oh wait it’s just BE YOURSELF!
    Your post shows everything wonderful and the capabilities of the online world.

  • Thank you Mike! Yes, I wish more people would just relax and be themselves at networking events. We need to get rid of the need to impress and instead focus on listening. I think people who listen well make more of an impression (saying this as a natural talker, for the record), wouldn’t you agree?

  • Thanks for your comment Joseph! Yes, I knew the title was provocative. It’s funny how our internal committee tries to avoid being too provocative. It’s a fine line between teasing people with a title and being a complete tool. The funny thing is, since then people have been saying, “well I’m not giving you my business card because you’ll just bin it.” … joking of course. To show that I’m not anti-business card (just anti having one thrust in my face), if anyone sends me their business card in the mail, I’ll put it up on a wall of fame in my office and take a photo of it to share on social media.

  • Hi John, oh yes! I don’t believe in towing the line very often, which is probably why I run my own business 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  • Thanks Mandy! Fantastic news and that’s exciting you saw it doing the rounds (exciting for me anyway). Do connect with me on Twitter so I can check out your blog too!

  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    Good post, Cas. It’s difficult to determine what will be popular, but “humanness” certainly helps. Well done.

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  • Absolutely, couldn’t agree more! Just smile, have some fun, and listen to some wonderful stories from new people :)!

  • Thank you! Absolutely, it’s difficult, and sometimes there is no formula hey! I guess that’s the thing. You can craft something with intent to make it go viral and it might not just because people smell it when you’re fake or when you’re trying to manipulate people’s emotions, or you can just tell it like it is, as you see it and hope for the best. I think I’d always prefer the latter.

  • Guest

    Hi Mike, thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad it resonated for you!

  • Definitely!!!

  • Hi Cas,

    Thank you for sharing! In advertising we found that the more off the cuff, honest, opinionated messages were more successful. Creative by committee would water everything down in an attempt to not offense anyone, but simply ended up with something that at best didn’t appeal to anyone and at worst was just ignored. I applaud you for having the guts to say something with an edge,


  • Congrats. Those are good numbers and thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Thanks Keith. Yes, it’s not fun when you’re ignored. It can be really scary speaking up about something you believe in but it’s great when you see how many people resonate with your way of thinking. Thanks for your comment.

  • Thank you for your comment!

  • Is there like a definition of what viral is? What is considered viral? How do you know when it’s gone “viral”?

  • Herb Silverman

    Good advice, Cas. Looking beyond the surface and exploring their purpose and goals were the right approach in the 21st century. Your article going viral is a plus!

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  • There is a definition Blake (and I’m sorry for taking so long to respond. Just noticed your comment.) A viral post is one that is shared by your audience and then shared by their audiences and so on. If you post is shared by people who are part of your audience’s audience, you can say safely say it has gone viral. Therefore, the key to your reach really lies in the reach of those who loyally follow you.

  • Hi Herb, thanks for your comment and apologies for my belated reply. I’m a big believer in 21st century marketing! 🙂

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