In the past six months I've written three wildly viral social media posts. Three posts that have changed not only the size of my platform, but the way I define successful writing.
If you've followed me long, you probably know each day around 6:30pm P.S.T. I post a personal lesson to Instagram and Facebook. Posts that consist of tips, wisdom, advice, and my personal perspective on the topics of life, family, leadership, and business. Each post also includes a photo, typically a portrait or a picture of our family.
While I have posted hundreds of these tiny lessons ranging in popularity, I've had two hit the heart of the world. The first (seen below) discussing my perspective on vacations. This post was read by 4.5 million people across every country on the planet.
The third (seen below) was my most viral of them all. Read by over 9 million people the post focuses on the perspective men must have on their long term relationship with their wives.
But before I share what I've learned from these posts, I want to tell you why this matters to us as entrepreneurs, thought leaders, authors, and bloggers. At the time of this article, I have just over 100,000 fans on Facebook. But get this... 65,000 of those fans, came from these two posts!
The takeaway is this: Viral social media posts are huge platform builders. They are opportunities to skyrocket your influence and grow your audience at zero cost.
While there is no science to the perfect post, I have found similarities between my highest performing lessons. It's my belief if you can remain authentic to your mission while continuing to implement my points below, you'll find an increased power in your social media influence.
DISCLAIMER: I never write a lesson for the sole reason of virality. Each lesson comes from a genuine and organic thought from my day. I believe if our hearts stay focused on adding value to our readers, we will always earn their loyalty.
1. Put Words to People's Emotions.
I remember sitting in my living room a few years ago with another writer. She said to me, "You know Dale... You're writing isn't all that good, it's your ideas that are brilliant." Although her words seemed to be a backhanded compliment, they were true. My writing isn't all that good. There are typos in both of my viral posts. Ha!
The point is: How you write has less to do with influence than what you write.
At the center of influential social media posts is an idea. An idea that hits the nucleus of emotions that already exist in the hearts of millions of people. For example, we're seeing this with Donald Trump and his campaign "Make America Great Again." Whether you like him or hate him, he's putting words to people's emotions. He's giving people clarity on how they feel. He's yelling outwardly what everyone is thinking inwardly.
The key to a powerful social media post is to amplify the emotions of your audience that already exist. By letting them use your post as way to communicate something they are afraid to talk about (leadership, ethics, money, morals, culture, etc.).
The Lesson Is This: Writing words that few can relate with will give you influence few will associate with. Your job as a writer is to enhance the life of your readers. By stepping into the shoes of your audience and supplying them words which can bring definition to their emotions you will be rewarded with their shares, their referrals, and their loyalties.
2. If It Matters, It Produces Controversy
Winston Churchill once said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood for something, sometime in your life." Often times the fear of public controversy forces us to write in the middle. To write where it's safe and where nobody will disagree.
Content that can't start conversation will always remain weak.
But let's not be extremists either. The beauty of healthy controversy is found in a firm, humble stance. People can sniff out a writer hoping to either offend somebody or please everybody. By taking a stand on a particular issue, while honoring those who do not share your view, you will gain the loyalty you're looking for and the civility you desire.
The Lesson Is This: Influence comes at a cost. There's no escaping the hate. (I've even written a post on how to deal with it here) People are looking to follow leaders with conviction, authority, and character. Stop letting fear prevent you from sharing your opinions on the main stage. Controversy can be difficult to write on, but if handled with maturity, your voice is often better than no voice.
3. Kill Your Agenda. Now Is Not The Time.
For me, social media posts fall into three distinct buckets. The first is for products you're trying to sell, the second is for content you're hoping people will read/watch, and the third is for link-free images or text that drive high engagement (likes, comments, etc).
But I often see people attempting to blend all three. They post a beautiful quote image and include a link to their store or write an incredibly engaging text post that's tied to a product they're hoping to sell. This doesn't work. The trick is to keep them separate. If you're selling a product, then sell a product. If you're looking to drive huge engagement, then don't add a link.
High powered social media posts must be centered around generosity. The idea that you're offering value with no cost, no agenda, and no expectation. When we can write posts driven from a heart to improve the lives of our readers, we will reap the reward of high connection and high engagement.
The lesson is this: There's a time and a place to sell your products and push your content, but it's not when you're looking to drive engagement. Keep your posts separate and search for ways to add value and you'll always increase your social impact.
In the end, virality can't be manufactured. It will always be similar to the famous words of Babe Ruth, "If you swing the bat enough, you'll eventually hit one out of the park." So the key to writing powerful social media posts is not just luck, it's a magical blend of consistency, speaking to existing emotions, pushing into controversy, and posting with a heart of generosity.
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Was this article helpful to you? Have you seen anything else that helps drive social media engagement? Let me know in the comments below.