What to Do if Your Blog Goes Viral

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

One of our clients recently had a blog post go viral, with more than 2 million visitors in the matter of two days. Wanting to take advantage of this surprise event, Jennifer asked us agents what to do. Here’s what we told her.

Encourage readers to subscribe. We all know how hard it is to get people to our blogs. Once they’ve arrived, read your blog and possibly commented, they’re engaged with you. Make sure it’s easy for them to stay engaged by having a clear way for them to subscribe. Go back into your viral post and add an invitation for them to subscribe in the post itself. (In the matter of two days, more than 700 individuals had subscribed to Jennifer’s blog.)

Make it easy for readers to connect with you via social media. Jennifer added links to her Facebook and Twitter pages at the bottom of her viral blog post.

Analyze what made this post go viral. (You can read Jennifer’s blog post here.) In this American Sniper blog post,Jennifer:

  • Created an eye-catching title,
  • Wrote about a topic of the moment,
  • Offered an honest opinion without worrying about those who would disagree with her,
  • Chose a controversial subject (some billboards advertising the film are defaced with words such as “murderer”).american-sniper

Figure out how your post fits in your brand. Jennifer had no idea this post would garner such attention. When she realized it had gone viral, she needed to figure out how to keep those readers connected with her and her blog. That meant thinking about how the blog could inform her brand. Part of the reason the blog connected with people was because the subject was a hot button in our pop culture conversation.

Jennifer realized that she inherently is interested in exploring cultural topics in her novels. Why not make her blog a place to talk about cultural topics we disagree on? With her blog, she could overtly write about the issues she wanted to explore in more subtle ways through her fiction.

By pondering how the blog post fit in her brand, Jennifer ended up refining how she views her brand.

If you connect with readers in a powerful way through one blog post or one Facebook entry, think through what caused you to create that item to begin with. How can you link that motivation to your brand?

I want to stress that I’m not suggesting you change what you write about, but it might make sense for you to change how you think about what you write and to be more intentional in the choices you make.

Regularly write posts that are imbued with the same factors that made the first one go viral. I noticed that, when I went back to Jennifer’s blog a few days after the viral post, she had written a pop culture post entitled, “The American Bubble: A Follow Up to American Sniper Post.” You can read it here. Comments were way down from the American Sniper blog, but that’s to be expected. Lightning probably won’t strike in the same place twice, but then again…

How can you monetize a viral blog? You can’t. When a post goes viral, there is no warning, no time to prepare, and no way to capture all the energy such an event releases.

But what you can do is set your goals to grow your online connections, to become more of an authority who writes regularly on a topic or in a category, and to let what readers respond to inform your brand. When you see regular readership continuing to go up and when people remain engaged with you, then you can start to think about ways to monetize.

When you do look at monetizing options, be sure everything you sell is true to your brand. Don’t put music ads on your blog page if you write about being a mom, unless you are promoting lullabies or music for a mom to relax with. Be sure your readers can look at your sidebar of ads and think everything offered there makes sense. Those ads can actually add to ways you build your brand. But those decisions are a ways down the road from the day your blog turns viral.

I know that some social media experts believe that, when you experience a viral response to some contribution you’ve made to the Internet, there’s no way to capture lightning in a jar. But I believe, if you respond smartly, you can benefit long-term from that millisecond of major attention.

What examples can you think of when something went viral online? Did you participate by sharing, commenting, or taking part in some other way?

The Ice Bucket Challenge videos and photos showcase another way in which social media can create a viral sweep.


What should you do when your blog goes viral? Click to tweet.

What makes a blog go viral? Click to tweet.

43 Responses

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  1. I remember once when a blog post went viral … a mom of boys telling girls to be modest in their dress. I was all over that. It was really a good post, but she posted pics of her boys within the post without their shirts on. I have to admit, I chuckled over that. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But I didn’t comment. Kept it to myself. Now, I’m telling the world. 🙂

    She ended up changing the photos of the boys, with shirts. 🙂

  2. When I began blogging I mostly remained with inspirational topics, then I started writing about relationships. My third post, Single and Never Married, attracted several thousand hits and continues getting readers. It’s wonderful when a blog resonates with people and helps brand your area of interest. And capitalizing on its popularity is a great way of publicizing books.

    Thank you for another great article.

  3. In a weird coincidence, my blog post scheduled for tomorrow is titled “So I Married A Sniper”; it’s an attempt to explain what makes these individuals exactly what they are, and what they’re like to live with…and, perhaps, to love.

    The “sniper chic” phenomenon is a bit bizarre; the profession has been historically secretive for some very good reasons (none of which include either shame or histrionic regret).

    I felt a bit odd writing my post, because in a sense it could be seen as jumping on the bandwagon. But what tipped the odds was the hope that I could add to understanding, and dispel some of the myth.

    We’ll see if it goes viral. Doubt it, but you never know. I sort of hope it doesn’t, for reasons that will remain my own.

    The only viral phenomenon in which I’ve participated was the (successful) effort to save Beau the Dog from euthanasia at the hands of local authorities who had a hard time admitting they made a mistake in confiscating him in the first place.

    On the whole, in both the virtual and corporeal world, I prefer to stay in the shadows, observe and assess…and comment only when I feel I can really make a contribution.

    • “Tomorrow” being Feb. 2, Monday, today for most of y’all, in case anyone wants to have a look.

    • How is Beau??

    • What an army does to save the innocent doesn’t always make for super perky news.
      Here’s the thing, and we’ve discussed this…if a bad guy is shooting at my kids, I want him taken out. And by “taken out” I mean GONE.

      It’s that blunt.

      I’m looking forward to the post.

    • I loved your blog post, Andrew.

      • Thanks, Shelli. That means a lot to me.

      • Protection is a beautiful thing. “Deliver us from evil.”

      • I love what Shirlee said, Andrew … “Protection is a beautiful thing.” It is. Knowing someone with strength has my back … our country’s back … it’s beautiful. Melts my heart. It’s the hero in every possible way, scooping up the one he loves, and carrying to safety. He’ll fight for her, whatever it takes.

      • Shirlee, yes.

        Shakespeare (as usual) wrote one of the most moving descriptions of protection in “King Lear” (Act 3, Scene 7).

        The elderly Duke of Gloucester, along with several of his servants, has been caught by Cornwall, and is being tortured to reveal Lear’s location. His admitting to helping the king escape, and his determination to see the wrongs done him avenged infuriate Cornwall.

        When one of Gloucester’s eyes’s is gouged out, his first servant steps in, saying he cannot abide this, draws his sword, and attacks Cornwall.

        Cornwall is wounded, but Regan kills the servant.

        C.S. Lewis rightly pointed this out for praise; this attitude of “Not on my watch!”

        Wish I remembered it, but Clive Staples had a really elegant way of phrasing the obvious thing that comes to mind…Death Before Dishonor.

        The First Servant is one of the shortest-lived characters in any of Shakespeare’s plays, but he’s arguably possessed of the clearest nobility. Perhaps this is why he’s honored with the name FIRST Servant.

        The Bard’s work is terribly over-analyzed, and I look on digging deep into subtle meanings with something of a jaundiced eye, but I can’t help thinking that First Servant is an homage to Christ, the Ultimate Protector.

        Because He saved us from ourselves.

    • Andrew, what a great post! Thanks for sharing the humanity aspect. And for what it’s worth, every comment you share, here and elsewhere, definitely contributes to the conversation. You have a lot of wisdom, and I love your “outside-the-box” perspective. 🙂

      • Jeanne, thank you so much.

        And what you said is worth a lot; I don’t know how many here share this problem, but every day i struggle with the “is what I am doing really worth it?” question.

        Losing one’s health and one’s career, trying to build a new focus and platform for LIFE, not just one’s books…that’s been daunting and often discouraging.

        Comments like yours are worth more than you may know, and I do my best to pass on the grace, in any way I can.

        Passing on the grace is the best thing that could ever possibly go viral.

    • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

      Good post Andrew. Some of our good friends “retired” when he became a military chaplain. He mostly works on marriages with his soldiers. It can be really rough. I have a great deal of respect for military men and women. Several of our camp counselors have gone into the armed services, one to West Point. I also look at the military with some concern as I see hurting people coming home from service, including a soldier who was ordered to take experimental drugs unknowingly and lost his short term memory. Deep respect and a fair piece of fear. Perhaps mine is a common reaction. A thoughtful look at the topic Andrew, very well done. We do not have the answers this side of Heaven, but I am so very glad that someone does the hard thing so that I can live at peace.

      • Thank you so much, Kristen – the military marriage is a hard road for any couple (and the ‘contractor’ marriage is a bit tougher than that, I think).

        And I think you reaction is normal.

        There has to be a meeting, I think; for civilians to have a better understanding of the demands of service (especially that which includes combat) and for veterans to understand how they’ve changed, so they can at least see things through different eyes.

        Neither is really being addressed, except through media. And there may not be the professional counseling resources even available to facilitate a large-scale programme of this type.

  4. Excellent points, Janet! Thanks so much for adding perspective to this.

    Jennifer’s heart and emotion resonated with me long after I read her post. What I also appreciated was the grace she extended toward the commenters. She continued to show the face of Jesus, despite some of the controversy. Well done, Jennifer!

    • Thanks, Cynthia. I was praying praying praying through some of those comments. Another thing to note if a post ever goes viral? Thicken skin immediately.

      • Janet Grant says:

        Good point, Jennifer. Part of what tends to make a post go viral is that it strongly states an opinion. Those who disagree, are eager to do so and sometimes forget a PERSON wrote that blog post. A thick skin and a kind answer helps to defuse some people who tend to explode online.

  5. Thank you for the helpful advice, Janet. It definitely gave me some food for thought with my own blogging.

    Jennifer’s post was very moving. I feel her love of her fellow man came through so well.

    I’m often the last one to check out popular posts or read wildly popular books. I don’t care for the hype around them. It’s silly, but I’ve never been a follower. 🙂

  6. Janet, may add one more item to the list of why Jennifer’s post went viral?

    I think she caught the American Bubble idea perfectly. it’s where we all live, and it makes us uncomfortable. She opened her heart to the readers, and for a moment they could feel less alone, less guilty.

    And, yes, we ALL live there. Any American who thinks he or she does not is delusional, because we have a place to go back to – if only in our minds – where there is and has been rule of law, and at least a bit of institutionalized and societal compassion.

    There’s nothing in America – absolutely nothing – that is comparable to Sadr City or Musa Qaleh or much of Central and South America in the late 80s.

    If you’re stuck in one of these benighted places and facing the probability of a short and unpleasant death of a longer one that will be even worse…you’ve still got a home in your heart.

    The local, by and large, don’t have that.

    We’re tourists in Hell. They live there, and that’s the Bubble that Jennifer so deftly caught.

  7. First, I’ll say Jennifer handled that post with grace and passion. I loved reading it. And I like how she called “us” on living in our bubbles. I’m convicted by her words. And wow, the comments that post drew? It definitely raised people’s passions.

    I read a post on Ann Voskamp’s site that was a letter written by a woman who’s dying from cancer to someone who was also dying from cancer and who had publicized her upcoming assisted suicide. I was touched by the letter. It also posted on the guest poster’s site. And shut it down because of all the activity. There wasn’t a place to comment, but I did share it on social media. The letter moved me. And the comments left on the letter writer’s site voiced everything from bigotry to support of the letter and the author of it.

    • Janet Grant says:

      The woman dying of cancer wrote about a personal issue that is divisive in our society. That was brave of her to go public about something so personal. I can see how that post would go viral.

  8. I am very blessed to be part of such a wonderful agency that was willing to give me sage advice and wisdom on how to handle this situation. I don’t know that I’ll ever experience the viral effect again, but it was exciting and thrilling while it lasted, and it has certainly shifted my focus a bit! Thank you for posting this, Janet!

  9. Great job, Jennifer! So well-written and heart-felt. Thank you for a great read this morning.

    Good morning, Janet! It does seem that so many of the viral posts are on controversial topics. Definitely, a thick skin would be needed. Yet, I’ve read that writers seeking publication should avoid controversial topics because we don’t want to alienate or upset readers. Obviously, we want to approach topics with grace and encouragement, like Jennifer, and not publish a name-calling and deprecatory rant. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Meghan, I think the point is not to pick blog topics because you think they’re controversial. That just makes one a naysayer. But, if you believe strongly about an issue, I think it makes sense to write a blog about it (taking one’s brand into consideration). If we skirt controversy, it will be hard to stand out in a sea of social media. That doesn’t mean we need to set aside good taste and respect for those who see a topic differently than we do. I’d say that should be a guiding principle.

  10. I was blessed to be chatting with Jennifer when the blogpost’s numbers were climbing like a monkey in a zoo. It was tonnes of fun, and absolutely wild to share that experience with her!
    Because, hey, WHO doesn’t get a million blog hits, right? Well, most people. Or me, at least not every week…or, like, ever.

    We squealed and chatted, back and forth, and shared in the incredibley rare experience of her post going viral.

    But the most impressive part of it all?

    Jennifer Hale’s words…”Above all, I don’t want 15 minutes of fame, I want God to be glorified for a lifetime.”

    Well done, Jennifer!!

  11. I like what you said about not having any warning about a post going viral, Janet. Because it’s hard to predict what topic may strike a chord with readers, my rule of thumb is to be prepared for ANY post I publish to go viral.

    While it’s statistically unlikely for a post to go viral, I’ve discovered that several of my “evergreen” posts get good traction for years after they’ve been published. One article I published in 2011 continues to get several thousand page views per month — that stat has remained consistent for four years now.

    One of the best things a blogger can do to retain first-time visitors who stop by to read the viral post is to list/link to several of your most popular posts in your blog’s sidebar. People systematically go through the list and read them all. I’ve done this for years and it works like a charm.

  12. Thank you for discussing this subject, Janet, and thanks, too, for your suggestion, Laura! I will be setting up a new blog soon, and I welcome tips that will enhance it. Going viral seems like a dream at this point, but why not dream big?