Image from viral art series “Thanksgiving Special: How Famous Artists Would Plate Thanksgiving Meals”. See the complete series here.

4 Secrets to Going Viral

I’m going to start this post with a heartily obnoxious statement: Late last year, I went viral. Twice. That info is inherently ego-scratching, I know, but I’m not saying it to brag. I’m telling you to prove that going viral isn’t all unicorns and luck.

Sure, there’s the occasionally kitty picture or #fail footage that gets instant, inexplicable attention, but most highly shareable content takes effort and thought. To help your work get picked up profusely, there are a few strategic steps you can take. Naturally, these pointers aren’t surefire — nothing is — but follow this format, and your chances of going viral will rise like a rocket.

Make Time to Think

If there’s one thing the world is good at, it’s occupying our brains. At work, we’re given tasks to tackle and told which projects to mull over. In our free time, our minds are stuffed with media consumption and social events. And throughout it all, our phones and computer feed us with floods of tasty information. We’ve become accustomed to having the tracks for our train of thought already laid out for us.

“In order to hit upon big ideas, you need to make space for them . . . give yourself time to think.”

In order to hit upon big ideas, you need to make space for them. Turn off your technology, grab a notebook, and give yourself time to think. Take the topic you want to work on and sit with it. Focus. Be bored. Think. Write down all the oddities that come to mind. Refine later. You can also brainstorm digitally, just make sure you give yourself a hefty chunk of distraction-free time.

Be Relevant

Usually, being a broken record is a bad idea. But when it comes to analyzing your ideas, embrace it. Over and over, ask the following question about your ideas: “Why should people care?”

“Creating content people care about is an exercise in empathy. “

Creating content people care about is an exercise in empathy. You need to snuggle into others’ shoes and think about whether your idea will appeal to an audience.

Being relevant can be as simple as making sure the bottom line of your idea is topical. If it relates to an upcoming holiday, current event, or presently popular topic (like feminism), people will be more apt to care and more likely to share. If you can’t come up with a good answer as to why others will be interested in your idea, go back to brainstorming.

Master Meticulousness

So you’ve made time to think. You have a good, objective answer as to why people will want to see your idea in action. Now, it’s time to execute.

“ If the attention put into your project isn’t immediately apparent, your hard work will be passed by in favor of something more eye-catching.”

As craft your content, whether a photography series, painting project, video, or other idea vehicle, be obsessive about quality down to stray hairs and flecks of dust. The amount of content being shared on the internet every day is mindblowingly big. If the attention put into your project isn’t immediately apparent, your hard work will be passed by in favor of something more eye-catching. Think like a curator and create your content accordingly so your work stands out.

Every Day Get Hustlin’ Hustlin’

Just as plants can’t water themselves, creative content can’t reach its full potential without your help. Once you’ve your finished project, you need to get your hustle on. In other words, put on your PR hat and start pitching.

Start by reaching out to your personal network and ask if anyone has media contacts who write about fields that fit your work. Ask if your friend can introduce you or if you can use their name in an email to their contact. Basically, name drop it like it’s hot.

“No one has time to read novel-length pitches.”

After maxing out your seven degrees of separation, do your research. If your content is related to skateboarding, find outlets or journalists who specialize in skate news. Read through their related articles, and email or tweet at the journalists or outlets. Briefly let the contact know you’re familiar with their work (especially the work that’s related to your project) and give a quick run-down on your project. But above all, keep it short. We’re talking 3–4 sentences short. No one has time to read novel-length pitches.

Go Forth and Create

In the wild world of the web, power increasingly lies in shareability. Sharing leads to more traffic. More traffic leads to greater revenue, either through selling a product, gaining notoriety, or raking in advertising dollars. The future will be owned by those who create good content and do the work it takes to get noticed. So go forth, create mindfully, shout your work from the rooftops — and be ready for the adventure that unfolds.

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Connect with me on social media:

Instagram: ahha_hannah


Twitter: @ahha_hannah

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