Planning For And Handling Sudden Blog Notoriety

If you are relatively new to being a public blogger one of your goals is probably to attract a larger readership. But are you ready for the day one of your posts suddenly goes viral?

It happened to me last week – I wrote an article giving my point of view on a topic about Amanda Palmer. She referenced the link in her subsequent social media communications and suddenly I had 4000 page views in 48 hours! Here’s how I prepared for this (in general – you can’t tell what post may go viral) and what I did to manage the resulting visibility:

 Before you become highly visible 

Think about what you would want a new blog visitor to see/read on your site besides the specific article that drew them:

  • do you have an up-to-date “About Me” page whose link appears in the site’s header?
  • Do you have a visible input form to make it easy for them to subscribe?
  • If your site’s purpose is to generate new clients for your business is there a link that clearly points out you are for hire?

Is the “Comments” function enabled for your posts? I recommend it… but that you set it to “moderated”. This means comments will not be published until you approve them, which safeguards your comment thread from inappropriate trolling and spam. Yes, it does require more interaction from you – but if you have a smartphone there is quite likely to be an app for managing your blog (e.g., I use the WordPress app on my iPhone), or your blog site can be set to email you when a comment is pending along with a link to approve it via your web browser.

Enable the spam filter for your blog if available. In WordPress I use the free Akismet service – this holds suspected spam comments until I can review them to approve or delete.

Enable and learn to use site statistics. In WordPress the Jetpack add-on has a “Site Stats” plugin that tells me daily view counts, from where each visitor found my site (e.g., other sites, Google, etc), what pages on my site were viewed, which links in my blog they followed to another site, etc. I’ll go into how this information is useful below.

If necessary, enable/add a plugin that provides a button on your posts enabling visitors to share the post via other social media (e.g., “like” on Facebook, +1 on Google+, share to Tumblr, etc).

Write each article as if it will become famous

While I had some idea/hope that my Amanda Palmer post might gain a wider audience because the topic was blowing up in both social and print media, you won’t always know when your post will suddenly become relevant/visible. Here are some general blog-writing tips to keep in mind for any post:

  • When referencing a word/person/organization that may not be familiar to an audience outside of your immediate circle of friends, use URL links as necessary (though not excessively) to provide better context. However, choose the option to have these links “open a new window” – this lets your visitor follow the link without leaving your blog page since they are still reading it (you hope!)
  • Spell-check!!!
  • Read the article out loud before posting. This will help you catch any awkward phrases, or use of the same word too many times in the same paragraph.
  • Write about topics you care about, not just to get views. I wrote about the AP issue because I had a point of view I thought was important for the conversation – and actually hesitated before publicly stepping into the kerfuffle.

Managing your notoriety

First, set up your social media notifications so that you will be aware if people are suddenly referencing your post! FYI, this was the way my post developed:

  1. I posted it about 12:30pm last Thursday. My WP blog auto-posts new articles to my related Facebook page.
  2. About 1pm I manually tweeted the blog link and included Amanda Palmer’s Twitter handle @amandapalmer, since I was writing about her issue.
  3. My friend Edrie @armyoftoys retweeted it at 1:06pm with a compliment, which was nice because she has many more Twitter followers than I do. I became aware of this because I have Twitter on my iPhone set to ping me when someone retweets me.
  4. Two of Edrie’s followers are Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman (who is AP’s husband). AP retweeted Edrie’s retweet at 1:16pm, and NG retweeted at 3:56pm. I saw this because I was keeping an eye on my Twitter feed via Tweetdeck pop-ups while working on my PC. At least 20 others retweeted that specific tweet, and many more tweeted the blog link without the hashtag I was following.
  5. After seeing the AP retweet I started monitoring the stats page on my blog, and as I suspected the page view floodgates opened!
  6. That evening AP posted her take in her own blog, and linked my post in a P.S., saying “it’s a good read” – views continued at nearly 100/hour averaged for the next 24 hours.

That all was great! But I also did other things to expand and manage the opportunity:

– The proximate cause of the issue blowing up in public (and what caused me to write my post) was a New York Times blog. Commenting was still open (and moderated, thus not overtly abusive), so I submitted a comment including my blog link. It was published, and is among the top 5 referrers to my site. I didn’t end up commenting at other news sites because their comment threads were so long and rude that I didn’t feel it worth jumping into that muck.

– Using my site stats page I was able to see who, like the NYT, was referring to my site. This allowed me to find who was referencing me, in what way. Some were people on other blogs suggesting their friends read me. One was a Classical blogger being snarky about my “laying out the rules for when to play for pay or not” and calling me a “friend” of AP. I got the latter changed to “acquaintance” and a comment posted about this being my POV, not directions to others.

– I monitored comments left on my blog, and selectively responded. I so far have approved all of them, as no one was being abusively out of line towards me if they disagreed.

So How Did This Benefit Me?

…aside from the thrill of seeing my views go up about 2000%, not a whole lot so far >;-0

– I’ve enjoyed the positive feedback on my writing skills.

– Perhaps the next time Edrie retweets me more people will think to come read the new post because they remember they thought the AP post was good.

– Edrie actually has had the most short-term benefit!  Because I linked to her band’s project when I mentioned it in the post all the people who followed that link (I can see the count in the stats) bought downloads and other merchandise from them :-)

– Perhaps if AP’s string wrangler has not yet locked in all the violins/viola needed for her Boston show this might make me more visible in the cattle-call list (and yes, I did email him a followup to my application pointing out my blog and AP’s response!)

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