Some Things I Learned About Creating Viral Content

This week, my post Delta’s New Airplane Seating Chart went viral, reaching almost 100,000 views and almost 12,000 shares. Here’s how it happened and what I learned about creating viral content, or making content go viral.

I created and posted the article (which is really just an image) to The Cooper Review on Thursday, December 18th. But I didn’t share it. I never share things right after posting them, because I almost always look at them the next day and want to change something.

So, Friday I looked at it again, changed a few things, then decided to share it.

I shared it first on The Cooper Review’s Facebook page, and on my Twitter:

As you can see, the results were less than spectacular. On Facebook, I ran a $5 campaign which yielded 2,000 views and 4 shares. On Twitter, it got 14 retweets and 13 favorites. I also shared it on my personal Facebook page and got a few likes, but again, nothing amazing.

At this point, I decided to give up. But the following Tuesday, I decided not to give up. I tweeted it again. Now, I hate tweeting things multiple times. I assume everyone will see repeated content and go, “Ugh I’ve already seen this! Unfollow!” But I did it anyway and boy am I glad I did:

This tweet took off.

It was retweeted by several travel industry folks, and eventually by Frommer’s.

Now, here’s what I learned:

1. Put attribution on your images

If you make an image, always put your name on it. It will get stolen, and used without attribution. But most people don’t have time to Photoshop off your name, so this will help.

2. Target the right audience

Getting your content seen by the right people is more important than getting it seen by lots of the wrong people. My paid Facebook campaign failed because I didn’t target people in the travel industry (I think). That didn’t mean it was bad content – as I’m always quick to assume – it means it’s not being seen by the people who’ll appreciate it and like it and share it.

3. Tuesdays are good for posting

Tuesday afternoon might be the best time to tweet something.

4. People like breaking news

Putting the words “BREAKING:” at the beginning of your tweet might help. It’s worked for me a few times now:

5. Facebook is a traffic beast

Twitter is where the content was discovered, but Facebook by far drove the most traffic to the page. Perhaps tagging on Twitter helped the right people discover it, which is great, but Twitter doesn’t have the power that Facebook has for driving traffic.

From Tuesday to Friday, Facebook drove 70% of traffic (about 50K views) while Twitter drove just about 2% (1.7K views). 

6. Desktop is dead

Over 80% of my traffic this week was on mobile or tablet. The Cooper Review is beautiful on desktop, but it doesn’t matter.

7. Converting viral traffic isn’t easy

My bounce rate was over 90% for most of the week. I was able to get it to about 88% by Friday, with lots of tweaking, including: increasing the number of related posts under the content, making sure the best content was being recommended, adding browsable tags to posts, and moving comments below recommendations.

8. Stats are distracting

When your traffic blows up, you stop creating content.

I spent too many hours staring at stats when my traffic was going up. It was very exciting. The thing I’m most proud of: more than doubling my email subscribers, with the help of the Popup Maker WordPress plugin and their exit intent add on ($16).

But then I lost a week of creating anything :-/

9. I love my WordPress theme

And speaking of WordPress, this site uses The Voice Theme by Meks, which is an amazing, highly responsive theme. I was able to quickly tweak things like excerpt length, ad placements, colors, category pages, and everything else. I recommend it very much. (I’ll do a longer post about everything that goes into making this site soon).

So that’s what I learned! It was a great week, and now I’m even more inspired to write, and create videos and images for you. I love traffic. Let me know what you think or if you have anything to add in the comments below.

About the author

Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper is a writer and comedian whose work has appeared on Huffington Post and Business Insider. She is an expert in career and relationship advice for people who like to laugh.

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