Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral

I’ve been blogging since March of 2006. I blog because I have a quirky love for it and the discipline of writing is good for me on many different levels. I’ve never blogged to get big stats. I admit that I have pipe dreams (like most bloggers) of having a lot of followers and making my mark in the blogosphere. I find it interesting to look at my meager stats. Nevertheless, I find myself six years and a couple thousand posts in plodding along with about 50 followers and and average of 20 or so views on any given day (thanks mom and dad!).

My School I.D.s from 7th through 12th Grade

Until this week, my biggest blogging day was back in August 2010 when WordPress, my blogging platform, decided to place my post on their “Freshly Pressed” page. I had posted a picture of my middle school and high school ids and they thought it was unique. I had just over 2,000 people stop by and take a gander at my adolescent evolution. I then quickly dropped back down to my 20 or so views a day with the occasional jump up to 40 or 50.

So, I was surprised on Thursday night this past week when I noticed that I had a couple hundred views on a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago called “10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success.” I thought it was pretty cool as some comments started getting posted to it. I wondered if I might hit 1,000 views. It was only half the views of my famed school i.d. post, but still pretty respectable without help from the blogging powers in the hallowed halls of WordPress.

Friday morning I was in my home office early, as usual, to tap out my regular morning post. I clicked on my stats. It was then I knew something was going on. While I’d stopped just short of 1,000 views on Thursday, I’d already had 1,000 views early Friday morning. More comments poured in and I spent a good part of Friday afternoon and evening responding to comments and tweets. By Friday night I was wondering if I might hit 20,000 views for the day (I fell just short at 19,226).

Yesterday, the post continued to be viewed at a crazy rate. Saturday morning I received a comment that told me that the post was making the rounds of the Chicago theatre community. Saturday afternoon a different comment said that it was getting passed around Broadway. Another comment from Hollywood. An interview request came in from the Netherlands. More comments from Austria and Australia. Just over 30,000 views on Saturday. More than 50,000 views of the post in two days.

My first blogging coach told me to simply keep writing because you never know what will strike a chord, and you’ll probably be surprised when it happens. I’ve written so many great posts that I felt were well crafted, full of wisdom and should be wildly popular – but they all died on the blogging vine. I hastily jotted “10 Ways” on my iPad on the plane returning from a business trip because I was bored. Who knew it would be the post that went viral.

Obviously, it struck a chord. Doing a little self analysis of the hundreds of comments and tweets I’ve received the past few days I’ve determined that the post resonated with four, make that five, groups of people:

  • People like me who were theatre majors or were active in theatre and who have realized how invaluable the education and experience has been in our eventual careers in business, military, education, parenting, etc., etc., etc.
  • Educators who have long known the truth of what I’ve written, and who’ve tried to ceaselessly tell students and their parents. They seemed grateful to get a witness to what they’ve been preaching all along.
  • Current students or recent graduates who have questioned whether they’d made the right choice, usually based on the snarky comments or questions they’ve received from others. They seem to have been encouraged to know that a fellow theatre major experienced a little success in life and connected the dots back to being a major.
  • Parents whose kids are currently theatre majors or are thinking about being theatre majors. They generally appreciated hearing me give testimony that it wasn’t a waste, and actually set me up for success outside of the business.
  • Finally, there are those courageous members of the “business” who not only studied it, but stayed the course and are making it (or still striving to make it) on stage, in film, or in other areas of the industry. They seemed to appreciate and confirm the truth of the post, even as they are walking in faith on a daily basis.

As of this writing “10 Ways” has received almost 60,000 views in the past three days. I’ve given permission for it to be passed out to classes, to be reprinted in other publications, and Southeast Theatre Conference (SETC) mentioned they’d be passing it out to those who participate in their professional auditions.

Wendy and I have enjoyed sitting here on our couch in Pella reading the comments and watching it happen. In a day or two I’ll be back to typing out my few hundred words each morning for my usual 20-30 views a day. I’m blown away, however, by the power of the blogosphere. A random little post hastily written and posted in the middle of Iowa can “get legs” and end up striking a chord with so many people in so many places.

I guess what I had been told is true. Keep writing. You never know what will strike a chord, and when it does you’ll be surprised by what it was.

Blog on.

21 thoughts on “Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral”

  1. Tom, I’m in the “just like you” category of people who were moved, inspired, reinforced and invigorated by your post. I was a drama major (that’s what they called it at University of Texas Austin “back in the day” – don’t want to say how far back.)

    I pursued an acting career in New York and L.A. for about a dozen years after college and got my share of roles and had a blast even though I never made much money at it. When you’re young, that doesn’t matter, particularly if you’re doing what you love. But then my first child was born and I had to finally “grow up” and find a way to make a living. Today, 25 years later, I own a successful healthcare marketing company and i find that I put to use every day most or all of the “10 ways” that you described so eloquently in your post. I always knew that my acting career (such as it was) helped me immensely with confidence and presentation skills but until I read your post, I really had not fully examined all of the other ways that my background in theatre has influenced by business career and my life.

    Today, I live a truly blessed life with a wonderful, loving, beautiful, gifted and immensely supportive wife (we met in New York 35 years ago when she was also pursuing an acting career and came to see an Off-Broadway production of Joe Orton’s “What The Butler Saw” that some of her friends and I were in) and an amazing son and daughter (ages 27 and 21) who are top quality human beings. I get the juice of creativity every day in building and growing a successful company in a tough economy and I am grateful every day for all of the blessings in my life. Your beautiful post was another validation of what I instinctively understood and appreciated by never expressed in such clear and inspirational prose. (You could easily have added #11 in terms of writing skills!)

    P.S. i found your blog post through a Facebook post on a group Facebook page of UT Austin Theatre Department alumni so you are truly viral and you deserve everything positive you get from your newfound fame!

  2. I loved your post, and even more so that you’re writing from the middle of Iowa. Though currently I’m a Chicago theatre actor/marketer, I got my theatre degree in the middle of Iowa at Drake University! And i wouldn’t trade it for the world! I’ll be following…

  3. I loved reading this, Found it from a friend of a theatre friend and yes, I am a theatre mom. My daughter attends a high school of performing arts. You have great information. Thank you!

  4. That’s so cool how your post resonated with so many people! I stumbled across it only because Chip posted it to his fb page. I can’t claim to have known you well, but I DID know that you were one of the kindest most genuine people I had ever met. Nice to know you haven’t changed a bit.

  5. Tom, I say it’s about time – but I love it that its surprising. I am inspired and very happy for you today! Keep writing, wayfarer!!

  6. Hi Tom, I’m under the category…parent of theater production student…plus…my husband and I are both artists and have an “Art Factory” in southwest Germany. We’re Believers and would love to invite you and your family to be our guests here…if you’re ever over in Europe! We host a monthly event for Creatives called “Dinner and Dialogue”….it would be fun to have you facilitate the time! Anyway, thanks to Ginny (our youngest daughter of 4) for introducing us to you. She’s at Belhaven Univ. in Jackson, MS. Here’s our website: http://www.theartfactory.co
    Mary Beth

    1. Wow. Thanks for the gracious invitation, Mary Beth. Two of my wife’s brothers are stationed in Germany right now and we’re hoping to make a trip over to see them in the coming year or two, so we might just have to take you up on that 🙂

      1. We’re serious! Come on over! We’re 2.5 hours from the Alps (can see them on a clear day) and 20 minute’s drive to Switzerland and France. Would be great to get to know you both.

  7. What a great follow up to your 10 ways post. I knew there was a reason I continue to post my blog everyday. And I like those little spikes in views as well. As a fellow theatre major, congrats on both pieces!

  8. Great post. It just shows what a crazy world we live in that things can escalate to those highs so quickly. I’d have choked on my bran flakes if I saw numbers that high 🙂

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