Making Content Go Viral

Yesterday I had a phone call from a client who said: “Mark, Self improvement seems really popular, can you do a self improvement article for my site and make it a global viral and buzz success?”

Sure, I thought, I will walk on water while I am it.

But I like a challenge, so I agreed.

It is now approx 18 hours later, and the buzz article has been created.

What I am going to do today is not only show you my thinking behind creating this article, but also, I will show you in real time, the progress of the article, and whether it becomes a viral success or yet another blog post for the Internet scrap heap.

My Self Improvement Article

Let’s start by showing you the buzz, self improvement article I created: self improvement advice from the heavens above

I will explain my thoughts behind the concept and the buzz angle in a moment. But first I want to show the article in action, live, as we speak: Digg Article – 100 Diggs thus far

Before I show you some of the stats and where it has started spreading to, I would like to talk a little behind my thinking for the article itself.

The Concept

There were two things that struck me when I was given this assignment:

1) There are zillions of self improvement articles already clogging the net

2) They are pretty much all the same

So I wanted to use these two factors to create some buzz, and to help give me article an angle.

So I did this by starting my article with the following introduction:

“The Internet is full of self improvement advice. You can’t browse a blog these days without someone telling you how you should be living your life.

Well it is about time we shook things up a little…

Allow me to introduce to you: Self Improvement Advice from the Heavens Above”

In these few short lines I have already made the reader angry about the fact that there are so many crappy self help tips on the net. If the reader agrees, then we have invoked emotion, and that emotion is anger (possibly the most powerful viral emotion).

So now I have got an emotion with the intro, I can lead to the content itself.

The Content

There are already thousands of 10+ page articles on self improvement. We don’t need another, and I don’t fancy spending all afternoon writing one. It is better to work smart and not hard, so I went through my notes for the past two years and found a section that I call “Inspirational Stuff”. Essentially this is a few pages of quotes that inspire or amuse me.

I gathered all the quotes that were different from the norm, and I made a few tweaks and bang, 6 minutes later I had my content.

Easy hey?!?

Content Formatting

Content formatting is basically the way you display your content. We all know that huge chunks of text all crammed together look awful, and will basically lose the attention of the reader. So sites use a decent sized font, a lot of white spacing and colorful images to help the content formatting.

Personally, I also like to do shorter paragraphs than the norm, this helps make the content more skimable.

Anyway, unfortunately for me, I know from first hand experience the theme at Retired at 94 is a bit of a bitch! It doesn’t align images very well, the font is not great, and it all looks a bit of a mess.

So all I could do was add one small image to the content. Luckily I found a good image that matched the theme of the blog, and was amusing/unique enough to stand out.

The article was submitted to Digg a few hours later. The added bonus was that it was submitted by “SuperNova17″, who is one of the top 5 users of Digg.

As we speak it is now 19 hours since it was submitted, and the article has 101 digg votes.

Digg Traffic

The vast majority of Digg traffic comes from getting on the main page, but my stats show that I am getting an average of 31 Digg referrals per hour (from the past 19 hours).

Also, the article is currently in the “Offtopic – Hot News” section. So that helps give it a boost.

Sowing the Seed Crappy Analogy

With viral marketing you are essentially sowing a seed. You want to make that seed as unique and strong as possible, and then you have to hope that some wind comes and spreads your seed.

Luckily my seed has been blown to numerous sites already.

Stumbleupon Success – as you can see, it has been a huge hit at Stumbleupon.

Mixx Success – It also has started to do well at Mixx.

In fact, it even got onto the main buzz page at Stumbleupon at one point.

Statistics Thus Far

Personally I doubt it will hit the Digg main page. But I don’t want you to think that it is a case of all or nothing, here are the stats for today since midnight:

What I want you to focus on here are two sets of numbers:

Average per day = 179 (not a huge amount, but it is still a small blog)

Today = 11,184 (That was from one hour ago)


The purpose of this LIVE case study was to show you the effects as they happen. So many people wait until something is successful and then edit out the rubbish parts, I want to show you all of it, warts and all. I don’t know if it is brave, or stupid, but it is certainly different, and that is the message I always try and portray: there are millions of blogs and sites on the net, you have to find an angle to give your content the buzz factor.

I will let you all know if anything big happens with this article. I hope you have enjoyed this insight into a live viral experiment.