3 Essential Lessons (and 3 Benefits) about Viral Blog Posts

You may have seen my latest guest post at Problogger: 30 Bloggers to Watch in 2010. I’ve been doing a bit of guest posting over the past 6 months but nothing as huge as that post.

It went viral. The post is still echoing around the blogosphere and it even sparked a group writing project on Problogger.

Now, this isn’t viral by most peoples standards. It didn’t hit the front page of a social networking site nor get a significant increase in pageviews.

I refer to it as being viral because it got over 750 retweets within a week – and they are just the ones we tracked. It also sparked a lot of comments – positive and negative – on twitter and within the comment section. Many people took the discussion back to their own blogs and it has since led to the challenge.

It was like a crash course in blogging. This post explores some of the lessons I’ve learned. It sounds daunting but at the end, I talk about all the awesome opportunities that have come as a result.

Lessons learned:

Make it very clear who the list is targeted at.

I got a lot of criticism – some of it very harsh – that my list was biased towards blogs about blogging and social media. I thought that this would have been very obvious as Problogger is the leading blog about blogging and targets those at a beginner to intermediate level.

I chose to focus on people that I was familiar with. Many lists have done the same. However, because of the authority of Problogger I should have disclosed the niche focus in the title.

Understand that you can’t please everyone.

Even if you clearly define your niche, people will still get pissed. You’ll get criticized for everything you did’t include rather than get acknowledged for all your hard work. People will be upset because their gender, country or sub niche wasn’t represented enough.

Most of the people took the post in the spirit it was intended in and added their own suggestions and lists in the comments. Darren did warn me that these lists do cause a bit of negative buzz but I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. I needed to learn how and the experience was invaluable.

Be prepared to do a lot of work

A huge amount of effort went into the post. I tried to highlight the projects that would be relevant to the core Problogger readership. I linked to the posts they had done in the archives. I spent 6 hours editing images that eventually had to be deleted due to a formatting issue.

I thought that after publication, I would just have to deal with the comments. Instead, I stayed up until midnight dealing with the post.

There was a formatting issue that didn’t appear in the draft. A number of pictures were stretched. I researched for about 45 minutes about how to fix those and quickly realized that it was something I couldn’t fix from the backend. I made the decision to delete all the images to stop the criticism. That night, Johnny B Truant commented that he had gotten a lot of twitter followers thanks to the post and would appreciate if I could send the twitter links of the other people featured. I realized that other people would be interested so stayed up until midnight adding in the twitter handles and creating a twitter list.

This work was appreciated. It has led to many new opportunities.

The fun stuff

It gives the illusion of being busy and in high demand.

I got a few comments from people regarding how busy I had been this year and how I should relax. The Problogger post was written towards the end of last year. The TwiTip post, which had gone up the day before, was written on a whim. It wasn’ much of a time investment on my behalf but I learned that strategic timing with guest posts can do a lot for your brand.

It reminds friends to touch base with you

Most people know that I’ve had a family situation that took up most of my time. Because of this, I dropped out of contact with a lot of people. On that day Robb Sutton, Ali Luke and Michael Martin all sent emails thanking me. I was able to use the opportunity to catch up. I’ll now be working on a guest post for Remarkablogger and will be featuring Ali Luke in my networking product. I talk to them on twitter more. I comment on their blogs. This was an amazing benefit of the guest post.

It allowed me to make new connections.

Despite people saying the whole post was just back slapping, I didn’t personally know everyone in the post.

It also made people think of me as someone worth knowing. I’m getting more comments and @replies, which was great as I had slowed down my twitter usage.