6 Lessons Learned from Going (Slightly) Viral

A recent entry of mine – an infographic from October 8 detailing certain, ahem, similarities between ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Torchwood from the BBC – suddenly started receiving a lot of hits two months later. (I say a lot. I mean a lot for me, a humble writer lazing away in the wilds of New Hampshire with blog technology from last century. So a lot, relatively.)

Site Stats

Scale omitted to preserve dignity.

Apparently it was shared by someone mildly influential on Facebook. My own site visits, however, were dwarfed by the amount of activity the graphic itself attracted on Tumblr. Over the course of two days, a single post was liked or reblogged nearly 4,000 times. Sometimes both by the same person, so we’ll say 3,000 people actively engaged with it. (Yes, that’s big for me. We’ll also say a billion jillion people saw it and guffawed without clicking anything for my ego’s sake.)

From the response, I’ve gleaned some valuable wisdom. As I share, feel free to re-share.

1. A little influence goes a long way.

I have no idea what Facebook post set off this mini world tour. Maybe someone saw the post when it was first published and remembered it in a later online conversation. Maybe someone stumbled upon it in completely unrelated search. I do know that one person with a strong network can create a ton more views than your average introverted blogger. Just like multi-level marketing schemes, a viral hit depends upon more people sharing at every subsequent fork.

2. It helps to be visual.

It’s unlikely an essay detailing the same parallels between two TV shows would have spread so far. Summing up an idea with easily digestible images gives viewers the chance to quickly get your message without talking them to death. As a writer by trade with what I often refer to as only rudimentary graphic design skills, this is yucky medicine, but it’s the whole concept behind sites like Visual.ly and GraphJam.

Cynically adorable cat

Not to mention random cat pictures.

3. You don’t have to be first.

There were plenty of people drawing parallels betwen Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Torchwood long before my little infographic. Long before Agents even aired, in fact. But a spin that readers haven’t quite encountered before can tickle their fancy enough to share it with the world.

4. Include attribution.

I really must thank the Tumblr user who included a link to my original blog entry when she posted the infographic on its own. Without a few people clicking on the source link, I might never have known that the content was making its way around. When I made a previous infographic for Star Trek‘s 47th anniversary, I had the presence of mind to include a shortened URL leading to the original entry in the image itself. It’s not perfectly trackable, or even impossible to edit out, but it’s much more likely to lead to an actual site visit than an image without any attribution at all.

5. Be very sure of your facts.

I could try to parlay it into a conversation about “what is race anyway?” or a justify it as shrewd commentary on “passing” or just admit that I didn’t really think to research Chloe Bennett’s ancestry. That kind of thing can make you look a little stupid.

Chloe Bennett is half Chinese

Excerpting all these responses took way longer than a visit to IMDb would have.

6. Don’t expect a sustained bump.

The Internets, they are fickle. Frankly, there’s so much good content out there, it’s amazing any non-aggregator sites still have followings at all. See the sharp decline after the spike in the traffic graph above? Yeah. Don’t worry, if you read this blog, you’re still totally underground.

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