By Tanya Sylvan
Back in June I wrote “Birmingham – I Run This Town,” a post about my favorite running route in downtown Birmingham, Ala. My friends and I ran 14 miles of the Mercedes Marathon route and I took pictures of my favorite landmarks along the way.
It was something that I had wanted to do for months, but just hadn’t had the opportunity. Like all of my posts, my only goal was to share another one of my running experiences.
And then it took off. My family and friends read it first. Then a handful of bloggers. Then my running friends, who shared it with their friends. Who then shared it with their friends. The first day I had an all-time high for views. The next day those views tripled. When all was said and done, my views were 400% above average.
So what happened? Why did this post go viral? What did I do differently? After some thought and talking to others, here’s what I learned:
Strike an emotional chord. Write with an intent to drive a specific result or emotion, not numbers. If you make people laugh, get angry, feel nostalgic, they are more likely to return to your blog and share it with their network.
Make it familiar. People like things that they can relate to. It makes it more real, and in my case people recognized the places in my pictures. Runner or not, my audience was able to recall their own memories of downtown.
Tell a story. Everyone loves a story – it’s human nature to want to share our experiences with others. My post was about more than a run; it was a story about a lot of little stories. Having been able to explore Birmingham on foot has given me a bigger appreciation for all the small businesses, the revitalization of the downtown area, and the people that fight to preserve and make this city’s dreams a reality. That’s what community is all about. My goal was to let my audience experience, through my eyes, all of those things that make me proud to live in Birmingham.
Open eyes. Posts that teach readers something or bring something unknown to their attention tend to get more traffic and shares. If I find something cool, I want my network to know about it too.
Don’t force it. You can’t make something go viral; viral is not a strategy. Stay true to yourself and write about what you love, but also listen to readers and pay attention to what they like.
In the end though, it’s all relative. What’s considered viral for my blog may be your everyday statistics. Think of it this way – if the majority of your network saw and interacted with your post, you did your job. If they shared it with their network, you have something deeper there that you need to continue exploring through your writing.
Last week I wrote a similar post about running in Helena, a small town just outside of Birmingham. It did well statistically and people loved it, but it wasn’t met with anything near the amount of interest that my “I Run This Town” post had. Conversely, a post about women and their thigh gaps surprisingly surpassed my ”I Run This Town” post.
What does this tell me? You can never predict with perfect accuracy what people will respond to. Just write from the heart, and your network will take care of the rest.
Tanya Sylvan graduated from the University of Alabama with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Advertising and Public Relations. A native of Kendall Park, N.J., Tanya currently works in marketing at CRC Insurance Services, Inc. and Moosedog & Co. She is an ultra runner and can’t live without mountains, ethnic food, and her husband Zack. She blogs about running at tanyasylvan.com.