This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Theme for 2022 was My Vinyl Record Collection. For the 2023 Challenge I'll be doing something similar with my home book collection. Lots of book stuff from A to Z

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Can Happen If a Blog Post Goes Viral?.... ...... .. ... ... a few words from someone who's been there

How Do I Define a Viral Blog Post?

      Some of you may be thinking that I've really gotten off on a far off tangent with my series of posts about blogger respect and blog statistics.  This series started with the premise that we as bloggers rarely get much attention or respect from those outside our blogging communities.  In order to reach a broader audience and expand our brand recognition we should think about content that will appeal to those readers who do not blog or are not within the limited scope of our usual blogging community.

      One suggestion of how this can be achieved is by having a blog post go viral.  By viral I mean a post which is boosted by media acknowledgement--television, radio, and print media.  This is additionally supplemented by attention from news web sites and other blogs.  In other words the blog post is the water cooler topic that people all over are talking about and the post becomes a springboard for other conversations on the same topic.  The source material gets exposure to a very large audience and the blogger gains some degree of fame and name recognition. 

A Voice of Experience

       Thousands of comments?  Millions of hits?  Media buzz?   Would you want it to happen to you?  Would it make a difference to you as a blogger, an author, or purveyor of a product or whatever you are trying to market?   Today we have someone who experienced the viral blog post. 

        Liza Long, whom I mentioned on my Are You Respected as a Blogger? post, came into the public spotlight last December in the aftermath of the tragic Newtown school shooting after she published her blog post Thinking the Unthinkable (I Am Adam Lanza's Mom).  I first heard about the post on the radio, then they were talking about it on television and writing about it in the print media.  The story was plastered all over the web.  Liza Long had attained a sort of celebrity status as a result of her blog post.

Image: Liza Long
NBC News
Liza Long, the Idaho mom who wrote a compelling essay about her concerns regarding her mentally ill son in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, has signed a book deal to write about raising her son and navigating the mental health-care system

         If you do a web search for Liza Long you'll find a lot of information about the blog post and the ensuing buzz that followed.  You'll also find several mentions of things she's had going on over the course of 2013--interviews, events, and her upcoming book.   Book?   Yes, a book.

According to the Today Books website:

Liza Long, who wrote the essay “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” is writing a book titled, “I Am Michael’s Mother,’’ a spokesperson for publisher Hudson Street Press confirmed to  The book will be about the poor state of the mental health-care system and Long’s struggles with it while raising a bright but mentally ill child as a single mother.
 Let's Meet Liza Long 

       After I started my series about blog numbers and viral blog posts, I decided to contact Ms. Long to see if she could tell us about her experience with a viral post and how that post affected her.  She graciously offered to answer a few questions and I think you may find her answers enlightening.

What positive things have happened as a result of your “viral essay”?

1. I feel that I was partly responsible for starting a vital national conversation about mental illness, and that this conversation can benefit millions of families and children. After my TedX San Antonio speech about stigma last weekend, one person commented, "I could actually feel the world shift as you spoke."

2. A medical expert contacted me and correctly diagnosed my son. We have had no violent episodes at all since he started a new treatment regimen last May.

3. My son and I jointly accepted a Federation of Families award for family advocacy--we're pretty proud of it!

What were the biggest negatives?

My family learned about stigma firsthand, in a terrible way. What happened to us was so bad that I actually don't talk about it, for fear of discouraging other families from sharing their stories and getting help.

I'm also saddened by the ongoing Mommy Wars that my essay reignited. Several journalists, all female, contacted me with threats to expose me as a phony. My story is incredibly fact-checkable (and has been checked by all major news outlets). But I overcame the initial desire to defend myself in the blogosphere and just focused on my message: stop stigma. It really wasn't easy. But in hindsight, I know it was the right thing to do. The message is what matters.

 Did you see any notable sales uptick in your already published books after the appearance of your "viral post"?

 I'm embarrassed to admit this but I have no idea. Little White Dress was done through Mill Park Publishing--interesting story there because it started with an Anarchist Soccer Mom blog post in 2011 about thrift store wedding dresses. Elaine Ambrose (Mill Park owner) and I put together a Here Comes the Book Event (basically, a Tupperware party for book writing). We invited 25 authors to participate and produced the content in three hours. I drew the cover on my iPad and did the book design myself (I have some graphic design experience). We donated a portion of the proceeds to Dress for Success, an organization that helps women prepare for the workforce. Elaine and I have plans to follow up with Little Black Dress when we have time. (We had previously collaborated on a fun little book of naughty, flirty poems called Daily Erotica: 366 Poems of Passion in 2009).

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

My other book, Business Professionalism, was essentially a ghostwriting project for Bruce Strom, my former faculty advisor. Bruce was so pleased with the book that he gave me cover author credit.

Do you plan to continue posting at Anarchist Soccer Mom?

Of course. But I'm a lazy blogger, and I miss the anonymity. Thinking of starting a new anonymous blog and calling it "The Conformist Football Dad."

When will your book “I am Michael’s Mother” be released?

Book title is The Price of Silence: How the Stigma of Mental Illness Steals our Children's Futures (though I assume they will change it). Hudson Street Press [part of the Penguin Group], September 2014. Note: it is NOT a memoir. I'm not that interesting :). The book enabled me to use my skills as a medical writer and my strong background in education to explore the challenges parents face in navigating institutions that are unfriendly at best and antagonistic at worst toward children with mental disorders. 

I will tell you that the popular wisdom (that your blog is an audition for book publishers) is entirely true. My advice to bloggers would be to focus on writing meaningful content and to write it well.

Do you feel that your viral essay helped or hindered you as a writer?   Did the event create more respect for you as writer/blogger from the media and the public?

Hmm. Here's the thing. I'm very confident in my writing, because I have worked hard at it my entire life. I just wrote an 80,000 word book for Penguin in eight weeks. I've published two books previously and write for local magazines. So my viral essay had no effect on "me as a writer." I still write. A lot. The viral essay had a lot more effect on me as a nascent advocate. I honestly cannot believe the extent to which I have found my voice!

As for the second part of your question, I blogged anonymously, and my audience was not the world, or the media, or the public. My audience was me. I started the blog in 2008 because I'm a single mother of four children whose options for "fun" were fairly limited. I was not looking for respect from the media and the public. I did not expect what happened to happen. I guess people have said I'm a good writer, and that's nice, but again, it's not why I write. People have also said I was brave, but I wasn't. I was helpless and vulnerable, and I shared that vulnerability with the world. I've had to learn to be brave since.

I cannot tell you how to make your blog go viral. But I can tell you this: Tell your truth. Tell it well. And accept the consequences.

     Thank you Liza Long for this helpful information.  We wish you great success with The Price of Silence.  

      Be sure to visit Liza at her blog The Anarchist Soccer Mom for more information about the topic discussed in the above interview.  Liza will be discussing a bit more about viral blogging and in what other ways her viral blog post had an affect on her.  She also provides tips on dealing with the media. You can also find out more information about the other books mentioned in this interview that Liza has previously been involved in publishing by going to her entry at Goodreads where you can find the purchase links.

To read my "Respect" series start with Do You Feel Respected as a Blogger? and then continue with the successive posts.  Your comments are still appreciated on any of those posts.

Please be sure to share today's post with others!

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  1. Very interesting...and a bit sobering, too. It was a remarkable post and obviously touched a chord in a lot of readers. I enjoyed hearing the good things that came out of it, since when I think "viral," I tend to worry about all the ugliness that comes out in people when you start reaching beyond the safety zone in terms of numbers. Glad this had a good ending and will be interested in the book when it's released. Thanks for interviewing Liza, Lee.

  2. So she already had the book deal when she published that post? No idea if it affected sales of her other books? I imagine it will help sales of the one come out though, since it relates to the topic.
    If her son was correctly diagnosed as a result, then that trumps any sales anyway.
    Tell the truth and accept the consequences. Of the things I could blog about with her kind of passion, I'm not sure I'd want those consequences.

  3. Brilliant post, like Richard I'm extremely grateful and glad that I read it myself.

  4. Very interesting post. I am so glad that Liza's son was finally diagnosed correctly. That is a definite positive out of all of this. Best wishes with her upcoming book.

  5. Great interview! Thanks Lee and Liza. Like Alex I like the last line, Tell your truth. Tell it well. And accept the consequences.

  6. Too bad she has no idea if it affected sales. That would've been really interesting. Did it affect her blog with more followers or traffic?

  7. What a fascinating interview, I read every word. Thank you Arlee and Liza.

  8. Wow, illuminating interview, Lee. Good job!

  9. I've been following your 'Respect' series and have not commented due to Internet problems (Lucky you!). When you emailed and asked for my stats, it took me quite some time to figure out where to find them - an indication of how important they are to me, eh? I had mentally prepared a long comment on 'Respecting yourself as a blogger' but Liza Long said it best. 'Tell your truth. Tell it well. Accept the consequences." Amen.

    I don't believe you can MAKE a blog post go viral. It's either what the public is looking for or it isn't. If it's all about boosting your sales, garnering a book deal, or something else for profit; you're probably not going to be able to touch the heart of the mater or the heart and wallet of others.

  10. Excellent interview Lee! I remember reading Liza's "Thinking The Unthinkable" story when it first came out. I agree with Alex that the best part of her success was finally getting her son diagnosed correctly. Thanks Lee and Liza!


  11. Elizabeth -- Anyone in the public eyes will get good and bad. Like life it's best to use the bad when it entails improving and ignore the haters best you can. The good is the real payoff here.

    Alex -- The book deal came from the viral post. Liza's previous book involvement is something mostly separate from what's happening now. Negative consequences are just sometimes part of getting known. Kind of like a few bad book reviews now and then.

    Richard, Yeamie, Shelly -- Thanks!

    Susanne -- When a problem gets known someone usually steps forward to help.

    KM - I like that part as well. When we don't accept consequences we are not looking at reality.

    L.Diane -- Until today her blog was "anonymous" with no connection to her name so the books and the blogger would have taken some research to root out. Most people don't go to that extent.

    Karen & Cathy-- Thanks!

    Faraway -- I appreciated the data you supplied. Sorry for your internet problems. I think Liza's interview today was the best way to wrap up what I've been discussing on my previous posts.

    Julie --The practical life solutions are good ones.


  12. Great interview. 80,000 words book in eight weeks. That's super.

  13. I certainly do not expect to ever have a blog bit go viral. If I get 500 hits on a post, that's "viral" for 'Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends'. My one post with over 11,000 hits is simply off-my-charts successful - even though it did not generate many comments and no new 'Followers'.

    This was indeed a fine way to wrap up your 'Blogger Respect' series, LEE. And as others have said, I think the fact that Liza Long's viral post resulted in the improvement of her son's condition and state of mind is FANTASTIC, and really it's the pot of gold at the end of this viral rainbow.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  14. Rachna --I agree about the 80,000 words. I think it's especially notable for a non-fiction book.

    StMc-- As I've told you previously, among all the bloggers that I have a direct relationship with, your blog is the most apt to have a post that will go viral. Why? Because your content is usually not directed toward a community, but it provides solid information and analytical insight. If some of your posts got captured by the right media rep I think you'd be out there. It would not surprise me to see it happen one day.


  15. I enjoyed the thoughtful and open answers in the post. I don't think I could ever expose myself to the world as she did as a mother. I'm glad it helped her son and perhaps she helped others.

  16. Loved this interview. I think she is right about *everything.* You cannot anticipate a post going viral. All you can do is write quality content to the best of your ability. Isn't it interesting that people who write for themselves, from the heart, find the success that other people are actively seeking? Just be you. Great advice.

  17. >>... ...your blog is the most apt to have a post that will go viral. [...] It would not surprise me to see it happen one day.

    Well, if it does, BOIDMAN, I promise I'll not forget you and all "the little people".

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  18. Wow. What a powerful post. Thanks for sharing this Arlee. Really glad I didn't miss it. She really hits the nail with that last comment. And truly, it's our willingness to open up and share our vulnerabilities that connect us with others.

  19. It's an important message Lisa has and vital to all of us. Obviously from all the horrible things that happen and could probably be prevented if we had better brain care health services.

  20. Susan GK-- Yeah, it could be a tough thing to do, but if it helps others maybe it's worth putting your own story out there.

    Robin -- So right! Just up to us to write and let the stories fall where they may.

    StMc-- I've got faith in your abilities.

    PK -- Truly I think most people want to hear what they can identify with. Liza's story fit that mold.

    Matthew -- I guess anything worth saying is worth saying twice.
    Sorry--I was going to delete the duplicate comment and then couldn't resist the wisecrack. Thanks for stopping by.

    Mary -- I hope Liza is successful in bringing her important messages to more people for whom it will help and to those who can help do more to create change.


  21. This definitely goes in the "Ya just never know" file.

    I'm so happy that her son was finally correctly diagnosed and that he's doing so much better. :)

  22. Interesting insight from a parent, highlighting the major problem with the increasing practice of closing mental hospitals.

    The more the public speaks out about issues concerning mental health, the better idea we may have of how pervasive a problem it is.


  23. I love how she ends with "accepting the consequences". We never truly know, at the end of the day, what the reaction will be to something we say or do. The truth is the only thing that can keep you safe in the storm of reaction.

    Really good interview.

  24. I'm so glad things turned around for her and her son! That is so awesome!

    Good post Lee!

  25. Great interview on a fascinating subject! Her situation is terrifying, and how wonderfully she shared that. You asked her great questions and her answers were interesting and informative. I've heard of other bloggers who experienced the same over-the-top response to a regular blog post - amazing stuff! Thanks so much for sharing.

  26. Great post, Lee. Informative on several topics.

  27. I'm happy things turned around for Liza and her son. It's amazing and a bit frightening how things can suddenly explode and take a life of their own. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

  28. I've really enjoyed your series, Lee, lots of thought-provoking posts. This interview was excellent and it was fascinating to read Liza's story. Best of all to read that her son now has a correct diagnosis. I wish Liza and her family all the best. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Nicki -- Yeah, you just never know when lightening will strike, right?

    DG-- It's a problem that may be getting worse in modern society.

    Jennifer -- Truth is important. Credibility is at stake when truth isn't the foundation.

    Yolanda -- Liza gave some great answers.

    Elaine --I guess many of us wonder what would happen if we were in a certain situation and it helps to hear from others who can help enlighten us.

    Jan-- I agree.

    Christine -- Liza still has a challenge but at least now she has more help with it.

    Julie -- Glad so many of you hung in there with me on this series.


  30. There is a lot of it that is waiting to get struck by lightning; however, writing well and covering content that's interesting is like, I think, erecting a lightning rod. The more you work, the higher that rod gets. At least, I hope that's what it's like.

    She has no way to follow her blog.

  31. agred with everyone, happy for her son, kinda scary how negative it must have gotten for her...

  32. Terrific interview Lee and thanks Liza for sharing your story! With this blogger respect series, are you trying to systematically go viral? Do you have an end game? You seem to have a new fire about you. More power to you and ride the rush!

  33. It seems something positive that can be helpful for other parents of mentally ill children came from such a tragic event like the school shooting. I am a bit disturbed at the fact that it takes something like what happened at Newton for people to get interested in the struggles that families are facing in the mental healthcare system. It's a classic case of people not wanting to be bothered by an important issue until it hits close to home or until something happens that grabs their attention.

    Hopefully, Liza Long's bravery in voicing her experiences will help make it so that it doesn't take a tragedy for the rest of the world to want to take notice or for the media to want to bring attention to these things....and that goes for mental illness, general healthcare, the justice system and many other topics that we as readers/audiences/listeners, as well as the media, neglect in favor of learning how Kanye West proposed to Kim Kardashian or how many hours it took Rihanna to get her latest tattoo, on the evening news. The fact that the latter really has no effect on the state of improvement nor regression in our everyday lives would be best served as a wake-up call for what we direct our attention to in terms of "viral" content.

    Liza Long's closing remarks in this interview are a great takeaway for blogging and living life in general: Tell your truth. Tell it well and be able to accept the consequences.

    I find the latter half of that most important, especially for people who want to remain anonymous to some extent -- on their blog or otherwise; If one is not prepared to accept the consequences of telling his or her truth, chances are that it's best for this person to take a different approach to expressing himself or herself, in a manner that does not create the level of vulnerabilities that telling one's truth would bring.

    ~Nicole @ The Madlab Post

  34. Andrew -- Content is king--or whatever the saying is. I think bloggers should be very aware of what they are putting out to the public whether it goes viral or not.

    Mark -- People can be mean sometimes and often rude. Fortunately that doesn't happen much within a close community.

    Buck -- I think I'm just getting back into the topics that make me think more after my summer vacation travels. Viral post would be nice, but like Liza points out it's really usually something that just happens. I'm always interested in the processes of blog science.

    Nicole -- If we aren't ready to say what we need to say then we might need to be careful about speaking out, but then again we may be missing an opportunity to make a difference. The sad thing about the public arena is that relevant news is often only of interest when something extreme happens and then people soon forget again. Those with a voice need to keep driving their messages to keep those messages remembered.


  35. Interesting interview. I am glad her son got proper treatment. Going viral would horrify me I think. I never know how Alex copes and his blog doesn't exactly go viral.

  36. Great strong post... that everyone of us needed to read, I felt this to be a strong important post. I would love to get hit by some lightening, just once... we all succeed in making posts that help others. If we make laugh, cry or cringe... we got voices, hear us.

  37. Hi Arlee,
    I missed this, now I am here via Jeremy's post about this post at A to Z April Challenge under the title "Only On A Sunday and a Message for My Blog Friends!" Viral blogging! Indeed a new thing to me LOL I think
    I need to reach this level i need to travel miles and miles. LOL Now I am on my way to Lisa's place :-)
    Thanks for the wonderful links too> Keep inform.

  38. After what happened with the recent "What's Your Excuse?" poster, I'm beginning to think the key to going viral is to get moms all stirred up. I was reading recently about a furor over the Junie B. Jones book series for kids--I love those books but apparently they were controversial with moms because the child wasn't perfect. I don't have a powerful story like this woman's...and I don't think I want to be controversial deliberately to go in the other direction and become viral, so I'll just stick with my small audience!

  39. I really don't want one of my posts to go viral at all. I don't want the fame/attention that the Bloggess gets (although I grew weary of her daily snarkiness) or Hyperbole & a Half. I did get a ton of hits on a post I did about a Process Server I knew in Tacoma who was murdered in cold blood. He was very well known so I assume my post came up if and when people googled his name.

    That said, I still only have 151 followers although I suspect people read but don't comment on them.

  40. Jo -- Dealing with a lot of comments can be intimidating primarily from the standpoint of finding the time to adequately deal with them.

    Jeremy -- That lightning strike can affect us in so many ways and can be especially be meaningful if we can use gained influence as an opportunity to effect positive change.

    PV -- I hope you will pass the link on to others.

    Stephanie - Mommy bloggers have gained a powerful voice. When you do have something you want to say that is important for others to hear, a blog is a good platform from which to launch.

    JoJo -- I think it is possible for a blog post to go quietly viral in a sense if the message has a far range and is not a current news event. There are different levels I believe.


  41. In my mind, and in support of what Ms. Long said, you definitely can't go wrong if you provide helpful content that's well written.

    The down side of going viral makes me think that sometimes it's not such a good thing. Still, if we speak our truth well, we can roll with any punches that come.

  42. Hi Lee,

    Liza's words are profound. And part of what she notes, an echo on my life. Personally, I try to live with, rather than suffer from my mental illness. And being a single dad, I have been finely tuned to the symptoms also being reflected in my son.

    I have been featured on BBC radio in regards to the unfair stigma that still surround mental health issues. My site has never gone viral and none of my posts has ever gone viral. What really matters is that Liza and advocates of increasing the awareness, have a vital role to play. In fact mental health issues affects all of us.

    Lee, this is going to be a lengthy comment. As somebody who has not only promoted your site and many others, with little fanfare, I am happy with the respect I get.

    And on a note to end this long comment, here's this. Perhaps somebody might read this who want help from me in my own way.

    I have received a number of emails from people who are struggling. Who seek, comfort, advice and encouragement. And thus, my friend, if you are struggling, do not suffer in silence. We can, through verbalisation and seeking out positive resources and distractions, get that one step closer to that quality of life we so richly deserve.

    There are those amongst us who have never experienced mental illness and would all to easily dismiss us as being weak. 'Get a grip', they tell us. Yet, what they do not understand is that mental illness can happen to anyone. And if it ever happens to them, then they would know and would understand, it's more than just 'getting a grip'. So very much more.

    Mental illness can stem from being overwhelmed by a negative environment. This is what we call "nurture". Mental illness can be of the genetic variety or "nature". And some have a combination of both nurture and nature.

    What has to be learned is that nobody has the right to devalue your humanity. If you are experiencing mental health concerns, rest assured, through reaching out and finding motivation, you will be inspired and in turn, inspire others to have a more positive life. We become motivated by the need to achieve a positive outcome.

    Thank you, Lee and thank you, Liza.


  43. Interesting post, Lee. Much appreciated. Lots to think about here. Best advice ever - Tell the truth and write it well! This simply can't be overstated!

  44. JL -- I've felt kind of guilty when I post a piece with subpar content, but ironically those are some the posts that get the best response. Go figure. Whenever you step into the arena of public scrutiny no matter what it is, you run the risk of facing criticism. It something that comes with crawling out of ones shell and into the daylight.

    Gary -- You are welcome to leave your long comments whenever you want. Why, you can come and do a guest post if you want to. You have a heart for the cause of healing and you have often conveyed that message on your own blog. Thanks for you continued support whether it be in fun or totally serious. You are always appreciated.

    MJ -- The statement makes a good mantra for any blogger.


  45. I remember reading Liza's original blog post after Newtown. I remember her pain and her truth and it would never have occurred to me that her piece was anything more than a from the heart commentary on a tragic topic that hit her, close to home. Now reading her answers to your questions, I feel the same way. Last December, she wrote with heart wrenching emotion about a topic that seems, thanks to the dictates of insurance companies, to be at the bottom of a barrel as it pertains to receiving help and support. If going viral had a positive impact on her son, then that's all that matters, really.

  46. @Arlee,
    Thanks for the response, Oh, sure I will pass the links to my friends as well I will share it in my social networks like G+. twitter,scoop, and many others. I am re-sharing this in my page,with due credit is that OK? :-)
    Keep inform
    Best Regards

  47. Hi Arlee, As I just said in my previous comment, I just posted a blog in this regard,
    Here is the link. Philipscom

  48. Wow, very intriguing interview. I'm unsure how I would feel if one of my posts ever went viral...seems a bit stressful. But the fact that her son was diagnosed correctly and hasn't had any violent episodes since makes it all worthwhile. What an unexpected blessing. So I suppose the results of the viral post have a major influence on one's feelings towards it.

  49. Liza-- Also if her book helps increase some awareness of the issue it will be another positive offshoot from the original post.

    PV-- You did a fine job with your post. I hope it sends more readers this way. Thank you!

    Clarissa -- I think anyone who is doing something that they want to get out to a wide audience needs to be ready to take the stage so to speak. It's stepping out of the comfort zone for many but I see it as another form of personal growth as well as a way let the world know what you deep down inside would like them to know.


  50. Thanks for this blog post. It is always fascinating to hear how writers got their big break. Not only did Liza help herself and her son but countless others who live with the effects of inferior mental health care.

    I think viral blogging is especially possible with non-fiction writing. As a comedy writer, this does not deter me from blogging at all. The world is big enough for all types of blogs and writing styles. Wishing her and you all the best,

  51. I've always considered myself a talk show junkie (the respectable ones) and a lover of biographies. Throw a good interview in with it, which is what you've done here. Thanks!

    Now I'm curious about her and will click over to her link.


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