If you create web content – blogs, videos, photos, whatever – you should always produce your product expecting it to go viral. There’s a 99% chance it won’t, but in the rare case it does you need to be ready because by the time you realize it and try to make up for it, people will have moved on or someone will have stolen your thunder.
Play the game like you mean it
Watching a bit of failure first hand at work today reminds me of my own brush with viral-ness. My 15-seconds of fame came when Jen actually published a post about the Miss South Carolina pageant a couple years ago. You know, the “like such as” girl. All Jen did was post the YouTube clip of the speech and then I created a funny subway map outlining her rambling. It was a quick-n-dirty image that I expected to go nowhere. Whoops.
Well, it went somewhere. It ended up on Boing Boing and DeadSpin and people were rushing to that image. Some linked to the blog post itself, but many just linked directly the image…which wouldn’t have been a problem had I put my name or domain on the image itself. I had not. (Since then now showing up)
It’s too late by the time it goes viral
So there I was seeing my little parody creation all over the place without so much as a simple credit line. Once I saw the traffic spike I quickly put the web address on the image in hopes it get some eyeballs but by that point the wave had crested. I missed the boat, to an extent.
Yes, my lowly web site got a HUGE surge in traffic over a 28-hour period (and I was impressed my little $5/month web hosting could handle it all), but it sucked and was frustrating knowing I could have – should have – done better in producing the story and image. Of course, I didn’t have ads on my site and wasn’t selling anything, so my not be able to capitalize on the event really didn’t effect me shy of me just wanting to see my name more, but when this happens on a site that is trying to make money with digital content, it’s sad to see a large organization make the same mistakes I, a humble blogger, make on a regular basis.
Treat every game like the championship
It’s easy to get sucked into the the mindset that your content is not important and not read, especially if you’re small and your stats history isn’t very impressive…but you just never know. I’m proud of the content I produce regardless how few people read it. Point is I know *some* people read it and some people really enjoy it, so just because I’m not getting 4 million readers in a day is no reason to give up and settle for less than I can do. The thing is, doing it right isn’t hard or complicated. You just have to care.
My own brush with the viral web was a wonderful learning experience in terms of my own web sites and I bring that knowledge to the web sites I work on every day…so it’s extremely frustrating watching the same mistakes happen again (and again, and again). This is a reminder to me and one I needed, so expect some changes around here.