Why Does a Post Go Viral? The Power of Social Media

Alex From Target: The Internet’s Newest Celebrity

Over the weekend, Buzzfeed posted an article about teenagers of the Internet making a picture go viral, causing Target worker Alex to become a trending topic on Twitter and other social media platforms. As of today, nearly 5pm in California, #alexfromtarget is still a top trending topic on Twitter. In fact, this kid’s Twitter account blew up overnight, and he now has 235K followers. People have even begun an Alex From Target fandom, writing fictional stories and making memes. Alex’s girlfriend gained masses of followers, not to mention death threats. Like, woah.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 17.10.04Image via Twitter.

How did it all start? With a tweeted picture of Alex from Target, taken by a teenage girl. Alex was apparently unaware of the photo being taken, and found out via social media that he had become an overnight sensation. According to Huffington Post, Target is thrilled about their employee’s new found fame, perhaps hoping that this will bring some good and much-needed exposure for the brand and store.

The Comment That Got Me Marriage Proposals

In August, I made a comment on one of my favorite Facebook fan page’s photos: Humans of New York. I not only happened to be one of the very first commenters (a lucky feat, since the page has over 10 million fans), but one of the top commenters as well. I made a comment about moving to Spain for the summer (the topic was related to the photo shared by HONY) and my Facebook account started blowing up.

The comment itself received hundreds of likes, nearly 100 comments, and just as many replies to comments. I received over 45 friend requests from around the world, and even more private messages than that. In fact, I got 3 or 4 marriage proposals, lots of guys telling me I was hot or had a nice smile, and others asking if we could be Internet friends. 

I did not accept any friend requests or reply to any private messages. Needless to say, I was floored by the response. My comment didn’t go viral like Alex from Target’s tweeted picture, but I certainly experienced my 5 minutes of Internet fame and wondered what it would be like to go viral.

How To Go Viral

SingleGrain.com has a great infographic that explains how you can create posts that will go viral. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee that following such methods will automatically make you go viral, but it definitely has some sound structure: 

Going Viral by SingleGrain

Going Viral by SingleGrain

This infographic is from just two years ago. And though its explanation of going viral is still very valid, 2014 has brought a wave of unexpected subjects going viral. (I would personally add Twitter to the mix of top sites to help your post go viral.) It’s all in the power of sharing. All it takes is a share here, and a share there, and if you believe in the 6 degrees of separation theory, then that’s how it goes viral. I mean, this whole Alex from Target thing is trending over voting, and that’s saying something. 

Why Things Go Viral

Why do we get excited over these trivial subjects versus important issues? Personally, I believe that we are constantly in search of escape. We are human beings, we are frail, we are shallow at times, and we want to be entertained. We want to make someone else the spectacle so that our lives can have a moment of taking the focus off ourselves and our problems. This is not the case or blanket answer/cause for everything and everyone, but it definitely plays a major role.

It’s like that saying: Any publicity is good publicity. Before, that mentality used to apply to only select individuals. But nowadays, in the social media world, it could possibly apply to YOU.

7K0A9984

As an author, I would love to go viral. To have that one blog post that transcends the ages and solves world hunger, homelessness, poverty, and bigotry. I’d love for people to buy my books and tell me I’m the sh*t. I want my Twitter following to blowup over night. I mean, I am nearing 7k, and that’s from like 2 years of hard work, building my following organically. But the chances of all that happening just with one book, or one tweet, or one pin on Pinterest are slim to none.

Or are they?

15 Minutes Of Fame

Let’s think for a moment: Alex from Target is going to have his spot in the limelight, just like I had my HONY comment celebrity moment for a day. Yes, it’s possible that Alex may have some amazing hidden talent and he’ll find an agent and continue his fame. But honestly, I think this Twitter debut, once it’s died down, may be the only time in his life where he’ll be Internet famous. It’ll be some cool story he can tell his grandkids one day. And by that time, they’ll probably be asking: What the hell is Twitter?

The Chances Of Becoming Famous

If you study the greats–be they musicians, artists, writers, professional athletes, whatever–their common thread is that the whole overnight success thing took years. It’s very, very rare to become famous in an instant. In fact, you can watch this fun video from BuzzFeed that shares some stats on the chances of becoming famous:

Is Overnight Fame Lasting?

Thanks to social media, some people’s chances of becoming famous, even for a moment, have gone way up. But overall, to achieve lasting fame–or better yet–to have a lasting, positive impact on society, it’s going to take some time. Those who put in the time, those who are consistent, are those who will be successful in their endeavors. In reality, the true overnight success thing is the result of years of hard work and consistency. 

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.”
Anthony Robbins

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”
Jim Rohn

“Perfection of effort is not required, by the way. It is the consistency of attempting to work these tools that brings the progress. It’s like anything else. If I want to tone muscle, lifting a ten-pound weight a few times every day will move me toward my goal much quicker than hoisting a fifty-pound barbell once a week. Yes, it really is true: ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ Just try a little, every day. You’ll see.”
Holly Mosier

“Success is an outcome of conscious choices pursued consistently and tirelessly.”
Vishwas Chavan

Now What?

Well… the best conclusion I have come to regarding all this is more realistic than ignorantly optimistic. If your aim is to have a career in which you become well-known through your work, etc., then consistency and commitment are the answers for you. That’s it; that’s the “magical formula” and it’s one of the hardest things one could ever do.

However, if that is not your aim, then just take a page from the handbook of Alex from Target: be reasonably attractive, work at Target, get some chick to take your picture and tweet it, then you can start trending on the Internet.

What do you think? Are you the next Alex from Target or are you thinking more long term? Leave a comment!

It Takes a Village to Raise a Book

(NOTE: Revised on 7/22/14. I forgot to add the part about connecting with my designer!)

I’ve been writing consistently for over five years now. I am just about to release my second book and am currently writing two more books, hoping to release them this year or early next year. And now, with my writing/editing/publishing business, I’ve been publishing clients for almost a year now—which, by publishing, I mean that I provide self-editing services similar to how my own books are published. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a team of people, but it’s fun and I’m passionate about what I do for a living.

Many people, who are interested in the process of bringing a book to life (and to the shelves), have asked me about the process of “raising a book.” To me, my books are like my children, and as the saying goes: “It takes a village.”

Because I get asked about the process so often, I thought it’d be prudent to write a post about it. This doesn’t mean that this is the end all or the “right” way to get a book out there, but it’s what works for me—and for some of my other writer friends. So, if you want to know how it works, pay close attention and take notes if you must. 🙂

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Step 1: Write the story.

This is the “duh” part. Obviously, you need to write a story first to make anything happen. However, the “how” part in this step is different for everyone.

I outline every book I write, but I don’t stick to it religiously. Sometimes, I’m very organic about the flow of my story, and sometimes I need to free write in my journal to help shape the next parts of the story. I’ve read about other writers who LOVE their outline, and about others who are more free-spirited with their writing—like me.

My first book, second edition.

My first book, second edition.

Step 2: Blog some teasers.

The more you grow your readership, the more important it is to keep up with fans and share some previews/snippets of your work. I admit that I’m not always the best at this, especially because I run a business AND have to figure out how to squeeze in my stuff every day. But, I have been sharing more teasers for my soon-to-be-released book, compared to my first book.

Posting teasers, etc., starts building up the hype for your book and (hopefully) gets people excited about the new “baby” you are creating.

Step 3: Design a great cover.

Let’s be real: visuals are everything, especially nowadays. Luckily, I have a great group of designers who help me with my projects–personal and business. For my second book’s cover, I hired an amazing designer, Andrew Beach, who made my ideas come to life. Though I’m an artist and can draw, I could not tell you the first thing about digital graphic design. So, even while the story is still developing, I have my designer begin to build the cover. You can see book two’s cover at the end of this post.

Step 4: Self-edit, revise, rewrite.

When I wrote my first book, it took me longer to write than my second. This is often true of most writers, but for various reasons. Part of what kept adding to my delay was self-editing ALL the time.

After five years, I’ve learned to stop being so meticulous as I’m writing the book, and to save self-editing for AFTER the book is finished. But, again, I want to reiterate that this might not work for everyone. It works for me, and if you’re still figuring out the best methods for yourself, try the editing and rewriting after the fact.

Step 5: Send to MY editor upon completion.

Yes, I’m an editor, and YES—I most definitely need an editor for my books. An editor who is NOT moi. Why? Because we are all biased when it comes to our babies. It is imperative to have another pair of eyes and an objective opinion for your stuff.

Fortunately, I have an incredible editor who does an amazing job with my books. I send her either a full print out of my book OR a Word file (I write everything in Word) so she can make edits.

Notes from my editor for my first book.

Notes from my editor for my first book.

Step 6: Print a “preview” proof.

I use CreateSpace as my printer/distributer. Yes, my books are published through a small publishing firm, but we all function as indie authors, and are hands on in the entire process. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve learned so much and am happy with the arrangement between my publisher and I.

For my new book, my publisher suggested I print a preview proof copy—which means that I printed a paperback version of my book while it was being edited by my editor. I was able to make even more notes/edits and catch things that were hard to see in the Word document. Then, when I finished going through the entire book, I added my changes and revisions while waiting to receive the Word document back from my editor.

MY edits in my book proof.

MY edits in my book proof.

Step 7: Go through editor’s edits.

This is another “duh” step, but it’s the next step in the process. Personally, I have found that a stellar editor will not only catch grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, but will also help you develop the store (as needed) and show you where plot holes or big questions exist. My editor does all of the above AND she leaves me encouraging/funny notes as well. It makes the editing process less painful. J

Step 8: Send edited book to publisher.

My publisher also goes through my book—several times, actually. Again, having another set of eyes on my book is crucial. It’s also crucial to have a highly polished manuscript since I represent the publishing firm with my work. I go through my publisher’s notes before printing a second proof.

Step 9: Print second proof.

This is an important step. Even if you think you have caught every mistake in the manuscript, it’s vital to go through another physical proof. Why? Because we’re all human, and we all make mistakes—especially when we think things are perfect.

My book proof (book 2).

My book proof (book 2).

Step 10: Team proof.

After I receive the second proof, I hand out copies to my editor, publisher, and other English language savvy peeps. I then share a Google doc between us and we use it to track other errors in the book—including formatting issues. It can be a tedious process, but if you have a wonderful editor like I do, it’s less painful.

During this process, I may also send an electronic ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) to my beta readers and I take their notes/reactions into consideration.

Step 11: Last things before publishing.

If needed, I order another physical proof (you can order up to five proofs at a time through CreateSpace). Otherwise, I review the final electronic proof, provided by CreateSpace. During this time, I add my book and information to Goodreads and other book platforms. I also post about the “coming attraction” on my blog, etc. When everything looks as perfect as can be…

Step 12: Publish!

When you hit the “publish” button, it’s really exciting for a good five minutes, and then you get back to work. The process is never ending when you’re a writer, and that’s the plain truth.

After the paperback is ready, I start on the ebook conversion process. This has taken me a while to learn, and someday, I’ll post THAT process. When the ebook is converted, I check the proof for that as well, and then publish to KDP when it’s ready.

Step 13: Create samples.

When the big things are finished, I then create samples of my work. For example, you can upload a preview of your book to Goodreads and your website, etc. I usually include the first five chapters of my book and convert it to a PDF file. (Click for a sample PDF of Feast Island> Feast Island 2nd Edition SAMPLE) I also make a PDF review copy and put text in the beginning, indicating that it’s a review copy, not to be distributed illegally, etc.

I also make sure I revamp my website a bit at this point, in order to reflect the new release.

Step 14: Copyright.

You can secure a copyright from the United States Copyright Office to protect your work. It’s a fairly “easy” process, and you can probably expect to get your official certificate in 4-6 months.

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That’s as easy as I can break things down. I promise to elaborate more on this process later, with future blog posts. And, like I said: it never ends! You are always working when you’re a creative. Always thinking of something new. But the most important thing is that it truly does take a team to make your book happen. Without my trusted editors, readers, and fans, there’d be nothing.

The best thing you can do after you write a book is to find your trusted team members to make your dreams a reality. Be very picky about whom you choose, and if it doesn’t work out with someone, protect your “baby” by finding someone else who is better suited for you and your vision. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something needs to change, but be open to new ideas. As time goes on, you’ll find what does and doesn’t work for you.

If you haven’t seen the cover of my upcoming release, The Wrong Fairy Tale, here it is in all of it’s glory. I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s on the market and available for purchase. Almost there!

WFT final cover onlyjpeg