It took six days days from the time my blog, “Hateful Sculpture in Milwaukee Needs to be Scrapped” posted until Jaume Plensa, a world-famous artist, was compelled to remove his Spillover II sculpture.
On a recent visit to Milwaukee, I had observed that there was an ethnic slur, “Cheap Jew,” in plain sight, made from letters of the sculpture. Within a few days the Internet buzzed, my article went viral and it quickly forced a meeting between the artist and the local community. After I did four TV interviews and four newspaper interviews the story was all over Milwaukee and the country. On the sixth day, a truck came to remove the sculpture and its offensive remarks.
As of this writing, the version of my blog that is posted on my personal website msweetwood.com has 67,000+ views, the version on LinkedIn Pulse has 2,000+ views and the version on the Good Men Project version has 6,000+ views. And there are thousands of Facebook shares from the various platforms.
Here are the 10 steps I took to make that happen:
1. Content Is King
My topic was controversial and, from a blogger’s perspective, that is very sexy. Think of ways or angles you can take that will make what you write about interesting, thought provoking and different. If you are writing about the adhesive property of masking tape, and you start talking Newtons of force versus temperature of glue, don’t count on a good result. If you show how masking tape can be used as handcuffs, expect a much bigger view and comment rate.
2. Pick a Catchy Title
Make sure it is concise and attention-grabbing. It also has to be specific to your article and cannot apply to just any article. The not-so-good: “Sculpture with Hateful Words Needs to Be Removed.” The better: “Hateful Sculpture in Milwaukee Needs to be Scrapped.” The second title is specific and cleverly uses the terms (a sculpture can’t hate). And I played off the “Scrapped” in the last line of my blog for an impactful conclusion. A great title makes your heart race faster.
3. Research Your Subject Thoroughly
I could have just written about what I saw. But I researched the artist and when I discovered that he was world-renowned, I was able to make the point that the ethnic slur on the sculpture was not just sloppy work of a local artist. Research also told me the area had a famous person, Golda Meir, who lived close by and who the slur was relevant to. It gave a richness, context and detail to my article.
4. Pictures – Good Ones and Use Your Own
Any blog will get significantly more (10’s) views with images. Use high-quality ones that are accurate and capture attention. I made sure to take pictures at the site. I could have used ones from Google or stock photos, but having my own of the sculpture made my reporting authentic, and I could vouch for their accuracy.
5. Be Accurate, with No Grammar or Spelling Mistakes
When your article goes viral, people who disagree with you will be looking for anything to get at you with. If you have anything even slightly untrue, unverifiable or you make silly syntax mistakes, you will be excoriated and will be spending time defending yourself – and not on what you wrote about. I had this blog proofread by a friend to double-check, knowing it was controversial. I got hundreds of comments, good and bad, but not a single negative one about mistakes.
6. Understand Who Your Audience Is
This is overlooked way too often. If your blog is for businesswomen, make sure you imagine what a businesswoman will think when she reads it. I’m not trying to be sexist, but using a race car analogy will be less effective than one with shoes. If your audience is regional, understand what interests them. Telling a NY Yankees joke to an audience in Boston is a bad idea. And similarly if your audience is ethnic or cultural, make sure not to use phrases they won’t understand and be careful not to offend – unless you mean to.
7. Use Social Media Smartly to Promote Your Blog
Don’t think, “I tweeted once and I am done.” I pinned a tweet with all the relevant hashtags and then I tweeted @ relevant people. I tweeted at news organizations in the Milwaukee area and their reporters – they are easy to find in search. I tweeted at Jewish organizations in the area as well as national defamation orgs. I also submitted stories to the local press on their websites. And make sure to respond to anyone who tweets at you.
8. Use Your Friends
I used Facebook for this. I posted my story on Facebook, and I either tagged or direct-messaged every friend I had on Facebook that I thought would help or be interested. I emailed some. I asked them all to like, comment and share my post. You want as many interactions on your post so Facebook will promote it more.
9. Post Your Blog on Other Platforms and Link Back
I posted it on my website and I waited a day and then posted it on The Good Men Project. I linked from the Good Men Project article to the version on my website and vice versa. I waited another two days and did the same on LinkedIn Pulse. This creates clicks back and forth. I actually had more pictures on my website version, so I put a link on the other platforms telling the viewer where to go for better pictures.
10. Work It, Work It, Work It
This is when you have to be relentless. Tweeting, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, whatever works for you. Keep posting, answering responses, and finding new interesting people to interact with. Also change the way you display your post. Do your own A/B/C testing. I didn’t get people really interested until I led on Facebook with a modified picture highlighting the slur. The picture of the sculpture or the lead picture of my article didn’t work as well.
If you follow these 10 steps rigorously you will give yourself the best chance of your article going big. And we’ll get to see you on national TV talking about what you wrote.