Is there a formula for viral content?

By Srinivas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Every now and then I will write a post that meets the following formula:

  • It has a clickable headline (i.e 7 ways to increase traffic, 5 ways to get more followers, etc)
  • It’s something I think will get shared plenty
  • It’s a safe topic that has probably been repeated 1,000 times before

Mark (being the smart guy that he is) never accepts the post and tells me it won’t cut it. That’s why the content at {grow} brings a unique perspective that you won’t find on many other blogs. The writers are held to a different standard, especially if there’s a formula involved!

You Can’t Manufacture Authenticity

And yet, we’re all looking for that magic viral “formula” right?  In the past when I’ve had a blog post go viral, I’ve tried to make an effort to write something that will catch fire again and can rarely reproduce that effect.

A conversation with Danielle Laporte made me realize why. When you approach producing content this way, it’s not authentic. It’s manufactured. It loses the personal touch that makes people read your blog.  To quote Scott Stratten, “what people spread is emotion.”  When you write a post in the hopes of getting tweets, traffic, and likes, you filter your voice through that lens.  It’s  a bit like adding artificial sweetener to your dessert and wondering why it doesn’t taste as good as real sugar.

Stop Trying to Fit In

People who fit in rarely make history. They get lost in the echo chamber. What makes you human is that there is no other person on this planet like you. Infuse that into every blog post you write.  As Mark once said, social media amplifies your competitive advantage, so make sure you leverage it.

Take a Stand

If you’re afraid to offend people or fear people disagreeing with you, get over it. If you want to write something that makes an impact, it’s unlikely it will appeal to everybody.  If you lose some people because of what you write, they may not be the right members for your tribe. As you’ve probably heard before, if you try to appeal to everybody you’ll appeal to nobody.

Create Art, not Marketing Material

One of the things that holds most business blogs back is that  most of their blog posts read like PR puff pieces that promote their products. But we’ve entered an age in which everybody is in the publishing business. Everybody is a creative business owner. So you have to create art, not marketing material. Entertain and inspire.

Ditch the Scripts and Formulas

Scripts, formulas and best practices will only get you so far. You might even be the most popular person in the echo chamber. But if you ever want to get out of the echo chamber you have to ditch the script.  I’d recommend taking a week off from reading any other blogs so you can reconnect with your own voice.

Writing anything formulaic with the intention of inflating vanity metrics is a recipe for mediocrity. Forget the traffic, tweets, likes and comments for a while.  For some reason when you stop keeping score it goes up on its own. Write as if you’ve got nothing to prove and you’ll resonate with your audience in a way you never have before.

Srinivas Rao writes about the things you should have learned in school, but never did and his the host-co founder of BlogcastFM.  You can follow him on twitter @skooloflife

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