(I wrote this several months ago for a blog my sister and I have, where
we post family related pieces for a very small audience. Sometimes
I cross post and occasionally, like yesterday, I post something on Open
Salon that's meant for the sisters' blog. (Sorry about those grandson
pictures.) I didn't cross post this piece because I'm a little embarrassed
that my "25 Things.." post keeps showing up. But last week, when
Lezlie did the Open Call about our most viewed posts, fernsy
mentioned that she'd like to hear what it feels like to have a post go
viral. Since then, I've gotten a few PM's asking me the same thing. So
I decided to share. Because I didn't make any changes, you need to
pretend you're on the Sathre Sisters' blog when reading.)
Besides the posts I put up here, I write posts on Open Salon, a site for
open blogging with a built in audience. Some are just re-posts of
what's here and some are new posts, with no real rhyme or reason
for what goes where. The difference is in readership.
At Sathre Sisters, Ellen and I have eight followers. Seven are
immediate family members and one is a friend who we guilted into
signing up and who probably hasn't been back since. Not a single one
of our eight followers read or comment on a regular basis. And
although we didn't start the blog to get readers, we've found that it can
get a little lonely without them. Which is probably why our posts
seem to have longer and longer lag times.
In contrast, Open Salon has thousands of members and non-members
who write and read and post and visit every day. People who have
been blogging there for a long time get lots of comments and hundreds
of views and are clearly part of a community who have gotten to know
each other from what they write. Some who live in bigger cities even
meet up on a fairly regular basis, and others have met up while
traveling. It's a pretty liberal place with some truly talented writers and
artists who are generally kind to each other, as well as to newbies who
sneak in, like me.
I've only been there for a couple of months and am still navigating and
discovering my way around. But I'm also slowly building up what
might be called a readership--people who stop by, leave a comment
and maybe even a rating (a sort of online high five). I'm thrilled when
anyone views what I wrote and feel like I'm wearing a gold medal
when I get a handful of comments or ratings.
Last month, while sitting in the bookstore waiting for people to come
in, having already finished the crosswords and sudokus from two
newspapers, I started writing a list of things I've learned from opening
a bookstore. It was kind of funny and kind of cute, but it was off the
top of my head and it certainly wasn't Hemingway--or even Erma
Bombeck, who would have been funnier.
I hadn't posted anything on Open Salon for a while, so I gave my
scribblings the creative title of "25 Things I Learned From Opening a
Bookstore," hit "post," and sent my list out into that unknown world of
the internet. A couple hours later I checked my Open Salon blog and
saw that I already had 92 views, pretty much a record for me. I
checked again that evening and my number had risen to 989, which
certainly would have been a record if I hadn't been sure that it was
really just a mistake.
It was only when I checked the next morning and saw that I had
thousands of views that I knew something had happened. I just wasn't
sure what. I played around with Google and saw that my post was
coming up on some Tweet site called Tweet Buzz and something else
called Topsy, as well as a bunch of other places--none of which I
knew anything about or had anything to do with--but all of which
seemed to be spreading my post to parts and people completely
unknown to me.
It's been spreading ever since and only recently seems to be slowing
down. Last time I looked, I had 418,266 views, which is roughly
equivalent to every person in every town I've ever lived in, as long as
you only count the actual City of St. Louis and not the whole
metropolitan area. And it's at least 417,000 more views than Ellen and
I have gotten during our entire maiden year on Sathre Sisters.
Now to put this in some sort of perspective, the song, "It's Friday,"
that went viral fairly recently had more than 47 million hits. Charlie
Sheen went from zero to one million twitter followers in two days.
And Gaga has surpassed ten million followers on twitter. So, really,
my claim of going viral is relative. I'm still a very small fish in the
online sea. And, unlike Gaga, my numbers won't sustain. I'm more of
Still, It's been fun. It hasn't made me any money, and hasn't brought
me any fame, but it did bring me two long lost college friends who
tracked me down despite the fact that I don't use my full name on
More importantly, it's allowed me to brag to my internet savvy
daughters that I've gone viral. I'm pretty sure they're proud. They didn't
think I even knew the word.
Postscript. Since writing this, the number of views have continued to
climb at random speeds and intervals, and I've learned the post has
been referenced on numerous library and/or book sites and has 3.3k
Facebook likes. As of this morning, it had 545,021 views. My goal is to
surpass Charlie Sheen's twitter followers, but I don't think I'll make it.