Have you ever wondered how some people "make things go viral"?
Don't you hate it when bloggers or influencers play it off like it somehow just happened?
If you're like me, deep down you secretly hate them because you want that to happen to you.
Well, good news. You don't have to hope.
Although I don't have the exact formula for "virality," I do have a secret weapon that has helped me produce more viral articles than ever before in my career. This strategy will not only increase your chances of virality but also ensure that you never run out of topics to talk about.
Here's some proof.
Over that past few years my advice has been regularly featured to millions of people all over the world in places like TIME, Fortune, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, Fox News, Business Insider and of course, Inc.
I'm not just listing those links to show you how much of a big shot I am (although my mom thinks so).
I mention them because after writing for so many big outlets, I've learned how to craft pieces that spread.
Let me take a step back a minute and explain.
The reason I've been able to get my work into so many different online platforms is because I know how to write about juicy, on-trend topics with content that resonates deeply and headlines that convert like crazy.
Having done this for a few years now, I have a library of tested content that I know performs across a bunch of different markets. It's the sort of mastery you acquire after doing anything for a long enough time period.
But I also have a secret weapon...
My Instagram following just hit 180,000 and I've been using this social media platform as a testing ground to figure out the juiciest headlines and most engaging content to write about.
I've already written about how I grew my number of followers in super short time, so I'm not going to focus on that right now. (Besides, numbers aren't important. The same principles apply whether you have 500 followers or 5 million.)
Instagram is a laboratory that gives instant results.
This is a big mental shift. You have to stop thinking of Instagram as a purely social platform. Stop using it as a mindless tool for distracting yourself for hours looking at what The Rich Kids of Instagram are up to. (Believe me, I've been there!)
Instead, start thinking of it as an asset for your business.
With Instagram, you can:
If you're a writer/blogger/copywriter, this mental shift is HUGE. Now you can use posts to test headlines and topics you're thinking about writing. If you're a podcaster or YouTuber or any type of content producer, the same rules apply!
Let me show you an example.
Recently, I tested this quote on my Instagram page and got over 1,680 likes and 70 comments in one hour. Here's a screen grab from my Instagram account.
I immediately knew it was a hot topic, so I adapted the headline, took some of the content from the caption I'd written in the post and turned it into an article for Entrepreneur.
That article went on to get over 5,000 shares.
And guess what? I wasn't even surprised because I KNEW it would perform since I already tested it!
You can do this too.
The best place to start? Headlines.
Good headlines take a long time to develop (I spend at least five hours on any one article, and sometimes two hours alone on the headline!).
David Oglivy said it best: "On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy."
(Considering Oglivy is the patriarch of modern copy-writing, he probably knows what he's talking about.)
Here's the sad truth: The great majority of people who read your headline won't continue reading the article itself. Which sucks. Think of all the time and effort you put into that piece and they're just going to click away! ARGH!!!
We can cry about it. OR we can do something about it.
Neil Patel does a great job breaking down the fundamentals. To write attention-grabbing headlines that SPREAD, you should focus on hitting the 4 U's:
Once you have any sort following on Instagram, milk it for all it's worth. That means consistently engaging and testing. The power is entirely in your hands.
Don't be shy.
A lot of businesses are starting to use Instagram. That's great, but then what? To be effective you need to TELL people what to do. You need to provide a "Call to Action" (CTA).
A CTA is an instruction to the audience to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as "Leave a comment in the comment section," or "Share with your friends!"
In this testing phase, if you don't actually tell people to DO something then guess what ...they won't!
Test, Test, Test
As you can see in my example above, I regularly test portions of long-form articles in the caption section of the Instagram post.
In the crowded zoo that is the internet, potential readers are only drawn to your work by a kick-ass headline. That means the only chance the first sentence of your copy gets a look is if the headline does its job.
So your headline matters ... A LOT.
Here are a few that have performed extremely well for me in the past.
Bear in mind that these are indicative of the type of content I typically write (which is a nice blend of actionable info + down-to-earth philosophy):
...These six headlines alone have generated over 2 million reads.
That's no joke.
A great headline convinces more people to read your copy while a poor one sends potential fans (and future customers) searching somewhere else.
If you write consistently, Instagram is the hidden secret to your success that no one's talking about.