Most of us who have ever started something, written something, given a talk, recorded a song or shot a video have hoped that what we produce will impact people.
And most of us who produce content sometimes wonder whether this is the piece that will give us or our cause the big break.
I’m even hearing people increasingly say that want to write a post, preach a message, design a series or produce a video that goes viral.
But can you do that? Can you make content go viral? Can you plan your big breakthough?
To some extent, yes.
For example, it’s fairly likely that the 2013 version of People Are Awesome is going to get tens of millions of hits. That video has a history. There are other ‘predictable successes.” And I agree that you can write in a way that gets more clicks, for sure (thank you CopyBlogger). Every trade has it’s ‘tricks’.
But mostly, no.
In the end, I’m not sure you can really create a ‘viral’ piece. At least not predictably.
Here’s what I believe is true about a breakthrough if and when it comes:
Your breakthrough will probably happen when you least expect it.
It may happen with content you were least expecting (or even hoping) would be big.
You already know this. For example:
There are thousands of bands trying to breakthrough. Walk Off the Earth is one of them. I don’t know the band, but my guess is that when they produced a really intriguing version of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know, they had absolutely no idea that it would garner 145,000,000 views on YouTube. It just happened.
Carlos Whitaker is an artist/worship leader/blogger whose brush with national attention came from a video shot on a family car trip, when Carlos told his three year old son he couldn’t sing Single Ladies because he wasn’t a lady. It got him and his family interviews on national TV and the video has over 6 million views on YouTube. But the last thing he was trying to do on that car trip was produce a viral video.
You never know when your ‘moment’ might come.
And you are highly unlikely to ever predict it.
I’ve experienced this recently when I released my latest book, Leading Change Without Losing It. Amazon Kindle has a neat feature that allows you to see what people actually highlighted when they read your book. A bit nerve wracking for an author.
And a bit surprising for me.
The line that has been highlighted the most is the line that I actually liked the least when the book shipped.
I was up against a deadline and had an 11th hour moment when I realized that I needed a better thesis sentence for the entire book. I had 24 hours to think it through. As I wrote it, I knew I already didn’t like it. It’s the most highlighted phrase in the book. (Go ahead, you can look…I’m too disappointed to repeat it).
It ticked me off because I had poured hours (days actually) into crafting specific phrases that I hoped would be memorable (such as “you will be most likely to quit moments before your critical breakthrough” or “help people see you are for them even you are not for their ideas”. I’m sure someone highlighted them somewhere, but something I liked the least got the most traction. Dang.
But isn’t that how it goes?
Tell me if you haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced:
When I give a talk or message, I’ll spend hours crafting phrases and lines. And sometimes they get tweeted. But often the phrases that get tweeted are the ones that I thought of in the moment and said off the cuff.
The blog posts I write that I think are going to get traffic sometimes don’t. And the ones I was barely ready to hit ‘publish’ on sometimes get the best readership.
So what does this mean for those of us who produce content?
A few things. Because you never know when any moment might be a big moment, treat each moment as though it could be your big moment.
1. Write like every day could be the big day. (I love this thought, which my friend Casey Graham has so eloquently stated.) You never know when something you say or do might get traction. So do your best every day.
2. Never say ‘privately’ what you wouldn’t say publicly. This relates to a rule I’ve had for years. I try not to send direct messages or emails that I’d be embarrassed about if they were published. I try hard to align my private walk with my public talk. But the same is true in writing. A random tweet, status update or blog line said in frustration could end up getting traction. But instead of fame or influence, you might simply end up with notoriety. So always make sure that whatever you post would be something you’d be fine with if it ‘went big’.
3. Stay focused on producing quality content. You get better at things you do repeatedly. Write every line like it mattered. Don’t be discouraged if your work isn’t getting much traction. Keep focused on quality. The number one way to gain traction over time is to produce quality, helpful content that people find useful. Stay focused on that. There is a power in focus most people miss. I wrote about that here.
What are you learning about producing content that gets traction? And what are you learning about breakthroughs?