Going Viral: Creating Contagious Content

Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don’t? Learn the what and how of going viral and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content

It was my niece’s first birthday and her mother threw a party, inviting the whole family to join in on the celebration. Everyone was excited to share in the festivities but the morning before the party, people began cancelling saying they weren’t feeling well.

But this was my niece’s first birthday! A big O-N-E!

With much pressure on, the family came together to save the party. Those who were feeling sort of better were encouraged to show up anyway and give my niece the party she deserved.

So they came.

And it was a lovely time. Good food, good conversations, good feelings all around.

Later that evening…

I haven’t vomited from being ill since I was a child. But vomit I did, from midnight till 8 a.m. the next morning. Who was the culprit? No real idea, since there were a few people at the party who weren’t feeling 100 per cent and we spent the day switching children, changing seats, and grabbing snacks from the same bowls.

And I learned I wasn’t the only one—most of the other non-sick party-goers spent the next day beside the toilet.

It all happened so fast. One moment we were minding our own business, living life like normal, and the next we were swept up into a wave of vomit-filled illness by no fault of our own except for attending the party and enjoying ourselves.

What happened? Our party went viral.

What does “going viral” mean?

Sans vomiting, going viral in Internet terms is seen as a good thing. It’s what happens when a piece of content (article, photo, video, etc.) is shared, copied, and otherwise spread across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

How many shares does it take before something is considered viral?

I’m sorry to say, there isn’t an exact number. Viral status is achieved when the proportion of people seeing the content and then sharing it increases over what’s usual.

I know, could it be more vague?

Think of viral sharing like a secret. If you share a secret with someone, and that person shares it with someone else and then another, and another, then pretty soon everyone knows your secret. But if the person keeps your secret, that’s where the sharing ends. It’s safe, and no one knows about it.

The simple math of virality

Viral content is relative. When you share a piece of content on social media, how many shares is normal? If you see your shares go up from normal on a couple posts, you can consider those viral. However, if your shares go up and stay up—then it’s the new normal. Not viral anymore.

The more complicated math of true viral content

Of course, a few extra shares here and there doesn’t make a big impact. We want to know about the life-changing kind of viral content like Chewbacca Mom’s laughing video or Mandy Harey’s deaf singing audition for America’s Got Talent. How do you get those?

The next level of viral content

When you level up on going viral this is where stuff happens. On day one a piece of content is shared and you receive your regular likes, shares, and website visits, plus a few extras. This (according to ShareProgress) is called “first generation.” From there, a few of these first generation people share your content on their social channels and some of their friends check it out. They’re called “second generation.” By the second generation there should be more likes, shares, and website visits. Now it’s on the second generation of visitors to share your content. If a few more than the first round do this, then the third generation of visitors should be seeing your content. If this continues then you’ll see exponential likes, shares, and website visits. This is where things get crazy.

In the simple viral example, you’ll have a bump of activity and then things will go back to normal. In the next level of going viral, the momentum grows and keeps growing and, if you’re prepared for it, sends your life in a new direction.

How do I make something go viral?

Yeah, sorry. I don’t know how. Actually, I don’t think anyone does. No matter how many terms I Google, all I come up with is “there’s no formula, there’s no secret.”

But here are a few things you can do to help your content be ready for going viral.

People are more likely to share something if…

  • they have a strong reaction to it
  • they have a positive emotional response to it
  • they feel inspired by it
  • they are surprised by it
  • they find it practical and useful
  • they think it will help someone

Where to go from here

Before you write an article don’t think about what will or won’t make it go viral, instead think about what will help and inspire your audience. Think about what they’d like to read/watch/hear and then create it. Be genuine, be real, and be positive.

Here’s how Derek Halpern says it.

Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut…even if it’s only for a few seconds.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to help someone out of their rut today.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content. Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don't? Learn the what and how of viral content and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

If you need help coming up with content ideas or don’t know who you’re audience is, that’s where I come in. Drop me a line and let’s start a conversation. I’m here to help!

The Business of Blogging

The Business of Blogging

The Business of Blogging

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to speak about blogging to a third year communications class at my local university.

How crazy!

When the prof asked I said yes before thinking. But if I had thought first I would have said yes anyway, I just would have been more afraid.

I had a few weeks to prepare, which was good because I wasn’t sure what to speak about being my first time and all. I asked some questions but really I had an open slate so I decided to read through the syllabus and the course textbook. If I knew what the students were already learning then I could find a topic everyone would be interested in (not just me).

Good writing is worth fighting for

I decided on The Business of Blogging. I wanted to come up with a practical subject with some takeaways rather than vague artsy fartsy feel-good content. But maybe I was a bit ambitious. I mean, who reads a course textbook when preparing a one-hour presentation?

Better over-prepared than under though.

The good news is I finished my presentation with enough time to pass it over to my graphic designer for beautifying. I was able to come up with something I was proud of.

And then I gave my presentation

It was scary but so fun! I love blogging and love talking about it. I was prepared, I spoke without crying, and I was able to answer most of the questions (via Twitter btw…progressive!) without stumbling too much. I call that a win.

Speaking action shot

Speaking action shot

Really my presentation was my blogging story, with a few nuggets thrown in about how blogs can get you jobs. And I realized I have a story but I haven’t really told it before. If you’ve read my blog these past um eight years then you can kind of track my blogging progression but really who can remember.

The point is I even took something away from the presentation. I have a lot to offer and I’ve maybe lacked motivation or drive or confidence to put myself out there. So I’m glad I spoke to a class and I’m glad to move into this part of my blogging journey.

Thanks for the opportunity!

Apparently I’m Normal

Sometime between this week and last I put my back out. And I feel so sorry for myself.

You don’t even understand.

Because my back isn’t just a bit sore.

It’s not something I can take medication for and it goes away in a bit.

No, I actually put my back out.

And apparently this is normal.

The pain kind of built and built until one day when my alarm went off I found I couldn’t sit up. (That’ll learn me never to try becoming a morning person again.) After a couple failed (and painful) attempts I opted to barrel role out of bed. And I did it pretty effectively too, seeing as how I got out of bed and didn’t fall.

From there it has been a downhill slide. The day was horrible and I couldn’t sit down at work. The plus side of that is my desk is high enough to stand at so it wasn’t weird.

The next day my arm went numb. Like, my entire arm.

Think of it folks. I’m a writer. Now I can’t sit and I can’t use one of my arms.

How am I supposed to do my job?

So there was that.

And also there was the confusion over why my body was rejecting me.

So I went to the walk-in clinic. I explained what was happening, the doctor felt a few places in my back and referred me to a massage therapist. He didn’t seem phased about my arm, even though I repeated myself just in case he didn’t catch it the first time around.

Then I called the therapist. After explaining my story I was informed since it was a long weekend I would have to wait five days before I could get in.

Again with the non-concern!

Eyes brimming with tears I booked the appointment and then called every other massage therapist I could get a number for. Over and over I got the “long weekend story” yadda yadda until finally three hours later I got a call back from someone who could take me if I left right away.

“How close are you to the clinic?”

Honestly? I didn’t even know who was calling. The clinic? No clue. So I clarified.

“Uh…in Abbotsford?”

“No Coquitlam.


“Well, pretty far. Like 30 minutes or more”

“Leave now.”

And you know what? I was so desperate I did. I drove 40 minutes to someone who would see me despite the “long weekend.” Someone who thought my arm going numb was cause for at least some concern.

But still, it felt a bit crazy.

Anyway, now the long weekend is over and I did survive. But it has been one of those ones I’d rather not remember. My body hates me, my arm is still tingly, and I’m so far behind in my work I’m sweating just thinking about it.

Funny thing is, apparently most of my issue isn’t my work posture but my stress level.

So I’ve had a lot to think about while stuck lying on heating pads on the floor.

Nativity Nostalgia


My latest crafty enterprise has been trying to figure out useful ways to reuse cards once they’re written on. I thought I would be able to come up with a couple ideas but in reality it was difficult. I went round and round and round…nothing really struck my fancy.

In the end I came up with four alright ideas and submitted my blog about reusing used cards over at UsedEverywhere.

And then my mom emailed me. She remembered our family nativity scene was handmade from used cards. And then she found it in the crawlspace and sent me a photo.

Wow. Now that’s a great idea!


I had enough time to plug the card-nativity into the post and I think it saved the blog.

Anyway, the more I think about and remember our old nativity I wonder if I ever knew it was made from cards…I don’t think so. If I did, I didn’t care. I liked that it was shiny, and that the windows were a bit fuzzy. Also I liked that we were allowed to play with it—within reason of course.

I like how kids don’t care about things being fancy. It’s all in the details. Texture, glitter, expressions on faces.

Seems like an important realization.

Blog Tour-Gilbert Morris

Gilbert Morris

I’ve never participated in a blog tour before, but I’m intrigued by the idea. I mean, does anyone even do the physical book signing book tour thing anymore?

Actually I know they do but I think the whole idea of a virtual book tour is fantastic. So today is my day to highlight Gilbert Morris and his new book The River Rose.

This is the tour part. For the book part, see my review of The River Rose.

Mr. Morris, you used to record your stories and then had them transcribed. Are you still using this technique?

Yes, I do dictate all my books. I take the outline and the list of characters, and put each chapter on a cassette. Then I have a lady take the tapes, type them out, and send them to me. Of course, when I get the hard copy, that’s usually when the hard work of revision rears its ugly head! My daughter Lynn, who has written some fine novels, helps me with this stage, for which I am profoundly grateful.

What fascinates you most about 1850s Mississippi?

It was a dramatic time in American history. The Civil War, the rise of modern transportation, the beginning of our industrial growth.

How did you decide to set your story on a steamer?

When I was a boy, I lived for a time in Helena, Arkansas. The river then was still thick with the sternwheelers, and I would sit for hours on the bank of the river and watch them, and riding on one was a thrill.

When you’re writing a series such as the Water Wheel series, how do you decide which characters to carry over into the sequels?

I usually make this decision before I begin the first novel in the series. Some generational sagas lend themselves to stepping from one book to another, others I like to confine to one book. I have a signed a contract to do a trilogy about San Francisco in the 1850s. That opens up the door for a family to go through (1) the gold rush of 1849, (2) the rise of rich people and how they are brought down, and (3) the earthquake and how the family survives and strengthens.

Do you have a long-term plan for your novel writing?

I am working on three series at the present time. One will deal with the men and women who serve in different branches of the service. Another is the second novel about a young woman, Jordan Lee, who serves in the military, then in the House of Representatives. The work I most enjoy is a series of mysteries featuring a man and a woman—and two cats. I’ve written three of these, and have had a blast! They are my favourite novels. The next one will be entitled Desperate Housecats. And no, I will never retire!

Ways to connect with Gilbert Morris: