How to Go Viral with your Content | Podcast S3E4

I’ve had blog posts receive hundreds of thousands of views. I’ve had some receive mere dozens. The question is always how do you create viral content?

Well, It entirely depends on your definition of the word viral and the platform your content is being put on – but there are still some fundamental concepts we can unpack in terms of virality. What has the data shown is more likely to go viral? What can you start doing in your content to give it that viral quality?

Moreover, why do you want your content to go viral and what will you do when it does? This is what we will dig into in today’s episode of Permission to Leap.

Specifically, in this show, we will talk about: 

  • The three rings of audience depth and how the algorithm on most social media keeps you in the first (and tightest) circle
  • The tie between the psychology of Storytelling and the science of virality and what it really means to go viral in this day and age
  • What to do BEFORE your content goes viral and how to optimize on the increased visibility (why having a content flow plan will work to your advantage if and when this happens)

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Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript is auto generated and is nowhere near perfect. There will be typos and weird words in the transcription. It will however, serve as a guide to the contents of the episode.


You had a great time. At last week’s workshop. And if you haven’t yet, Check that three part workshop series out. I’m going to give you full permission to pause. This episode of permission to leave and go back a few episodes and dig in.

But if you’re riding high, You’re ready to keep going. Then today, what I want to talk about. Is going viral. And listen, I’ve had blog posts receive. Hundreds. Of thousands of page views. But I’ve also had some receive. Like dozens. So the question is how do you create viral content? That’s what we’re going to dig into in today’s episode.

And the truth of the matter is that it does entirely depend. On your definition of viral. It also depends on the platform your content is being put on. But suffice to say there are some fundamental concepts that we can really unpack today in terms of vitality. But what’s more important and really what’s at the core of this. How do I go? Viral question is what do I do? Or what do you do? When it happens. How do you optimize for vitality? So that is what I want to talk about today. I hope that you are. Very excited to dig into this podcast episode. Because. I am. By the way, welcome to permission to leap. I’m your host, Erin Trafford in this show. Is for creative entrepreneurs and business owners who are ready to understand content strategy. Learn from a pro and unlock the power of story to fuel their growth. And I know that if you are listening, this is you. I know that if you are listening, this is you. And how do I know that?

Because listen, I know my listeners, I know the kind of person who chooses to engage with me with this podcast. I know the kind of person who chooses to engage with me over on Instagram. I know my people and here’s the thing. That is one of the keys to VIRALITY and I know, you know, you’ll see, in other groups, you’ll see some people say things like going viral is luck of the draw or better yet. They’ll say it’s luck of the algorithm. And in certain cases, that may be true. But there are some subtle nuances here that I want to unpack when it comes to talking about going viral. That not a lot of strategists really highlight very often. We, we say, you know, just, just be consistent and post every day and eventually something will go viral. And, but when you really, really look at it, that’s not really what’s happening.

Yes. We’re being consistent. Yes, we’re posting every single day. But if we look at the combination of all of the posts that go quote unquote viral, There are some commonalities there. There are some commonalities there. So let’s, let’s look at this. And why did I start today’s episode by saying, I know who listens to my podcast. I know who engages with me on Instagram. I have a very clear understanding of who my people are over on LinkedIn and boy oh Boy, do I know who the people are, who engage with my newsletter list every single week, by the way, if you are not yet on the newsletter list, get your butt over on the newsletter list.

We send them out. Out every single Thursday. And it’s usually, you know, some form of. I would want to say provocative, but it’s more food for thought it’s food for thought. And it’s also where you’re going to get first dibs on anything that I drop in terms of an offer or a way to work with me or a new program, basically the podcast and the newsletter is like, You are inside the club. So if you are on the combination of the podcast subscription, and you are also on my newsletter list, you’re getting all of the juiciest juice, juice, juice into your life.

Speaking of juice. Uh, I’ve got an announcement coming up at the end of this show that I so excited to tell you about. Okay. So let’s talk about this vitality thing though. Okay. So. Why did I start talking about audience? Because I want you to picture. Right now, I want you to picture kind of like a bullseye, right? Like if I don’t play darts, I don’t play darts. And I also don’t shoot bow and arrow. But I want you to picture.

I want you to picture a big bulls-eye. Okay. So like a small circle in the middle, a medium sized circle around it, and then a larger circle around that. Okay. And I want you to pretend that you are right in the middle. Okay. You’re right in the middle. And now we’re specifically talking about things like social media. Okay. So the big guys, like Facebook, Instagram, To a certain extent. I’m going to say tick talk, um, to a certain extent, I’ll say LinkedIn, but like basically like any kind of platform that operates on. Sharing. Content. So I’m going to leave aside the longer form, like SEO content, like blogging, or even to, you know, as we’re talking like podcasting and certain things like that, because those function very differently and we’ll get to why. So, so right now we’re talking about going viral on social media.

Okay. So I want you to think about this. Bulls-eye okay. And you are in the middle. All right. And who is with you in that? Smaller circle in the middle. Well, who’s with you in there are the people who frequently. I touch you. Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean touch you, engage with you, watch your stuff. Stop scrolling. When your content comes up on their screen. Those are the people who are in that inner circle with you.

Now, hands up, not if you’re driving hands up or a mental note. If you have taken, I don’t know. Maybe you’ve taken a couple Instagram masterclasses. Certainly I have like over the years, Um, and in fact, like I talk with my social media strategist, Lindsay, all the time about this. Um, but you have heard. In terms of Instagram, that if you get early engagement on one of your posts, like you put something out, you get early engagement that post will do better. Versus if you put something out on Instagram, And it takes like more than, I dunno, whatever it is, 12 minutes to get any likes or to get any sort of action on that post comments or whatnot, that, that post is most likely going to be suppressed in the algorithm. Right? Like you have heard that early engagement counts in order to get your posts seen, but why?

Right. Y, you know, that I am all about the how, but also the why we want to understand why that early engagement actually helps your post to get seen. Okay. We don’t just want to be like sheep out there believing and doing without fully having intentionality behind why we are taking that action. This is why it’s so crucial.

When I work with my clients that we. You know, understand from an objective standpoint, why our content strategy looks the way it does. And we make sure we align that why with our personal business values and the values of our client. Well, okay. Rent over. Let’s back up. Why is it that that post is going to do better in the algorithm? If it gets early engagement? Why? Because the people who are more likely to see that post within the first, let’s just say 15 minutes. I know on some platforms, it’s less time than that. But for sake of what we’re talking about, let’s say the people who see that post within the first 15 minutes are the people who see almost all of your shit.

Okay. They are the people who engage with you. You the most often, so it might be your mom. It might be your sister. It’s probably your best friend. It’s likely the people who live in your geographic area, maybe. Right? Think about the people who engage with your posts. Most often, they are the ones who are going to see your posts.

First. From an algorithmic standpoint. Okay. That is not going viral. If the post stays within that little circle of people, your post will not go viral. So the first thing we want to think about is who is around us, who is already around us. They are in our bulls-eye. Now, what we want to have happen is that content to Pierce the barrier or the boundary of that inner circle, we want it to go to the medium circle, right? We want our content to expand and grow and get seen by more people. So. To understand how that’s going to happen. We need to understand who is in that next circle. All right. So who’s in that next circle are the other. Nine to 12% of people who follow you on those social media platforms.

So what we know from the algorithm and from talking with social media strategist, and even some of the platforms themselves they’ve acknowledged, this is that. Within the first five minutes, only about 1% of your followers are seeing your posts. And guess what? They’re the people who are closest to you. They’re not necessarily your ideal audience. Right? My mom never engages with my content. She sees every freaking thing I do. She never engages with my content when she sends me a direct message.

It’s usually like a cat video. Okay. My mom is not engaging with my content, but she’s, she is in my bulls-eye. Okay. So we need to break out of the bulls-eye into that middle circle. Who is in that middle circle are the other people who have actively chosen to follow along with us to subscribe to our content, to like our page, whatever. Okay. Who are not seeing our post because the algorithm is basing how quickly it sends our content out to feeds based on how. Uh, how much engagement our middle bulls-eye people are giving it. Okay.

So if are true people, people, people, people are not engaging with our content. The likelihood of it getting even to the middle ring is very low. Okay. So what we’re trying to do here is paint a picture of what happens when something goes viral. So here we’re sitting saying, okay, how do we get from that middle or from the, from the bullseye into the middle ring? Well, this is where it comes back to what your content says. Not only what it says, but what it evokes. And here’s what we know about viral content. Whether it’s a three second video, a 15 second, tick-tock a one minute Instagram video, a photo caption, whatever.

What actually helps to elevate your content from the middle of the bullseye, where hardly anyone can see it. To beyond is emotion. Posts that evoke emotion. Are more likely to be shared with engaged, with understood. Uh, empathized with, we talk about empathy so much in my programs. Okay. So this is where we see this very clear distinction between. Storytelling and vitality. Virality is not luck.

Virality is. Evoking the right emotion in the right audience at a given time. That is what will cause by reality. Think of all of the posts that you have seen that have gone out over the internet, that everybody has been sharing that show up on multiple platforms. Sure there may be information in them. They may be somewhat educational, but at the end of the day, they tug on some level of emotion. Emotion is what gets us to buy things.

Emotion is what also gets us to share things. So, frankly, I’m so sick of like other marketers, coaches, gurus, all these people saying, like, just create content so that it goes viral. Just create useful content and it will go viral. It’s. That’s two. It’s too simplistic to say that, okay, your content can be useful and never go viral. I happen to put out a lot of useful content on my Instagram. Uh, feed that’s part of our strategy right now, but it rarely goes viral and we know that it’s not part of our strategy right now on Instagram.

Um, podcasts stuff that we do, blog post stuff that we do my linked in stuff that we do, my newsletter stuff that we do. We have a very different approach. There’s always an emotional intent there. So. When you want to think about beating the algorithm. Right. Like I often think about like beating the algorithm over the head with a baseball bat. The way to beat the algorithm is actually. By circumventing it through a motion. Okay. So that’s how you get into that next sphere. Now, remember, those are people who have. Or just are still following you, right? Your content has not technically gone viral. Until it’s reaching people who didn’t know you existed to begin with. Okay. So here in lies the question of what is going on when something truly, truly does take off like wildfire. And I’ll give you an example. I wrote a blog post back in.

Goodness, me, I can’t remember when I think it was, um, maybe may or June of 20, 21. And I wrote it in about an hour. And I put it out on the internet. And a way it went like stink. It took off like wildfire. I was getting direct messages from people. I did not know I was getting messages across platforms. It wa it went like wildfire and I was pretty proud of it because it was a piece that really spoke to who I am and the kind of person I want to attract into my business.

And. It, it really, really did. And when I looked at that post, it had the perfect viral storm combination. It was speaking to exactly my core people. So the people in my bulls-eye. It was very authentic to who I am and my values as a person and as a business owner. And if you want to tap into that, go back and take workshop. Number one, it’s back, a few posts or a few podcasts in the feed. We talk about aligning your personal values, your business values and the values of your ideal client.

Okay. So that’s what this post did. It also appealed to a broader emotional, like a core emotion that was existing within my audience at the time. So when I hit that middle of my bulls-eye, the people who were there started to share it. Out side of my bulls-eye into their networks and then it was viral. Then it took off. Then I lost control of the content. The content had a life of its own. So when you’re thinking about how do I go viral? It is not necessarily a matter of volume. It’s not a matter of showing up with value. Stop, stop, stop. Like if. If I see one more content, strategist or coach, they just give value in. Everything will work out fine.

It’s not about value. It’s about emotion. If you are not connected to that emotion, you are not going to get people to share your shit. It’s just not going to happen. So, so that is how all of a sudden, regardless of platform, this is platform agnostic. Your content will go further. Okay. Now. Before we end this, this episode, there’s something really important strategically that I want to talk about because. Here’s what often happens is via virality happens by accident.

Why? Because our emotions come out of us in very natural, authentic ways. We can’t always plan to be emotional. Some days, we just are. Some days we just show up and we’re super brave and proud and courageous. I mean, I’m like that some days I’m just way more courageous than others. And those tend to be the days. When I act from that, just core of authenticity that my content really resonates. And, and you know, when you create a content flow and you’re not stuck in a plan, it allows for those sparks of inspiration to happen. But, but when they do.

Here’s what I want. I want you to be prepared. I want you to expect for emotional inspiration to hit you in your content. I want you to expect that there is a part of you that every once in a while is going to show up in just true frickin emotional authenticity. With respect to whatever it is that you’re trying to put into the world and expect that that content is going to reach beyond your known network. AKA go viral. And if you are sitting in that level of expectation, then what I also want you to do is prepare for it. Prepare for that to happen. So not just expect it, but prepare. And part of preparing is making sure that you at least have one way of optimizing for that. So what do I mean by that? I mean, have a way to respond to all of the direct messages that you get in a way that will allow you make, to make an invitation, to have a call with you. Um, Get on your email list, listened to your podcast. Read another blog post.

Um, maybe even, you know, hop onto a zoom call and chat about a joint venture partnership, because sometimes when you have posts that go super viral, what happens is you attract bigger super opportunities. That’s certainly what happened for me. I got a great contact for a private podcasting client. Because of that viral blog post that I put out there and it’s worked out for me. I was not looking for that. The blog posts had nothing to do with that, but we hopped on a zoom call and lo and behold, now they want to work with me as their executive producer because there was a values alignment. So I want you to think about this viral bulls-eye, who is in my inner circle.

If I’m not writing in an emotional way, they’re going to like my stuff, but that’s not going to break the computer’s brain and we want to break. The computer’s brain with emotion. When we do that, it’s going to show our posts to more people that middle of the bullseye. Okay. And sometimes when we really nail it, The emotional impact of what we’ve created, whether it’s educational, whether it’s instructional, whether it’s a, step-by-step so long as there is some emotion there, we have the potential to have that content shared beyond the people who follow us and subscribe to us and into their networks, which is what truly creates vitality.

But it all comes back to creating that impact. Okay. It’s not just about value. It’s the emotional impact. And then lastly, the most important thing is that you plan for that you expect that to happen and you have systems in place within your content strategy to optimize for when that happens. Because the worst thing that can happen is that you create something viral. And you’re not prepared for it. Right. I mean, that’s happened to me.

That happened to me at the beginning of my blogging career and I was not prepared for it. And I don’t want that to happen to you. So, how do you go viral or with your content? You get really clear on your values. You sink into your authenticity, you understand the bulls-eye concept and how to break those barriers. We don’t break the barriers with the tactics. We break the barriers. With our values, we break the barriers with our voices. We break the barriers by really remembering that our audience. Is part of this equation and that they’re smart.

That there are people who have emotions. And we want to feel something. When we feel something we are put into an activated state. An activated state of positive choice. And in that situation, the choice is, do I share this or do I not? Do I engage with this or do I not in a sales situation? It’s do I buy this or do I not? Do I like this person or do I not? But the key. Is that activated state of emotion.

See what I mean? That’s what I want for you. I want you to be. In that activated state of emotion. When you’re creating your content. Cause I know that you can, and I know that you deserve it. You deserve to go viral in the best possible way.

All right. Thanks for listening to this episode of permission to leap. And please, if you like this show, consider subscribing to the feed on your favorite podcast platform. And if you’re on apple podcasts, leave us a positive five-star review. It goes. Such a long way to helping people discover the show. Also, I love when you take a screenshot of you listening to the program. And share that with your social media networks. Don’t forget to tag me at it’s dot Erin Trafford over on Instagram. And. If you’d like to know more, check out the show notes. That’s where you’ll find the latest free downloads resources from Erin Trafford story and strategy. Plus. Any links to open programs where you can submit an application to work with me, either in my mentorship, or as I mentioned as a private consulting client. Show notes also where we put all the information to any upcoming free master classes, events, programs, guest experts, all those things that you might want to participate in. And finally, if you have specific feedback for the show or there’s something you want me to tackle.

Make sure you reach out to us team@erintrafford.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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