Rule #1: Huge outcome, minimal cost All viral-worthy ideas sit at the intersection of A LOT for "a little." For example, what's the subtitle of Atomic Habits, one of the best-selling nonfiction books of this past decade? "Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results."
Everyone wants a lot for a little: • How to get more done in less time • How to make more money without working harder • Tiny gestures that keep your relationship exciting for decades Etc.
Rule #2: Big question, specific problem. The size of the question dictates the size of the audience. • "How to make more money as a nurse" = niche • "How to make more money" = general The secret to virality is to write for General audiences with a "specific" problem.
For example: "7 ways to make more money as a nurse" = niche "7 ways to make more money" = general "7 ways to pay less taxes and make more money" = viral Still broad/general audience, but with a hyper-specific problem that resonates with "everyone."
Rule #3: Do a Language Kickflip One of the easiest ways for ideas to *stick* is to do what I call a Language Kickflip. This means you take conventional wisdom and flip it. An iconic example: "Don't ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
There's something poetically satisfying about reading words that, when flipped, present radically different meanings. If you notice, most well-known writers do this: • "Don't avoid the obstacle. The obstacle is the way." • "If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
Rule #4: Avoid complicated language Faulkner wouldn't have done well in the digital age. Content that reaches the masses has to be SIMPLE. (According to an extensive study, only the minority of Americans can read at a reading level of 9th grade or above.)
This means swapping out complicated vernacular: • "Crazed" > "frenetic" • "Unnecessary" > "superfluous" • "Rant" > "Diatribe" Your writing should be easily understood by an 8th grader.
Rule #5: It has to be skimmable. My goal, whenever I am trying to write something that "goes viral," is for the reader to extract: • What it's about (topic) • Who it's for (audience) • And the value prop ("Why should I read this?") ...all in the first 5 seconds.
The reader should be able to skim the headline and "get it." And then skim the subheads of the piece and "get it." And then skim the first sentence of any given section and "get it." Your content could be amazing, but if you skimp on the formatting, nobody is going to read it.
Bonus Rule #6: Don't over-invest in any 1 idea. I've gone viral hundreds of times. But I've also "swung the bat" thousands of times. The truth is: you have no idea what's going to go viral. Ideas you think will, won't. And ideas you think won't, will.
Instead, focus on swinging the bat. Just keep building your library. For every 100 things you write, 1 will catch fire. And over time, you'll seem like a genius. (When really, you're just swinging the bat more than everyone else.)
Rules for going viral & accumulating 250 million+ views: Rule #1: Huge outcome, minimal cost Rule #2: Big question, specific problem. Rule #3: Do a Language Kickflip Rule #4: Avoid complicated language Rule #5: It has to be skimmable. *Rule #6: Don't over-invest in any 1 idea.
Want to learn how to write things millions of people read? Start here: startwritingonline.com