Ten Things To Do Before You Go Viral

By Lori Culwell

I have touched on this on many occasions, but then I got an interesting
email the other day from a literary agent (who shall remain nameless), asking
me to rank, in order of ROI (that’s “return on investment,” for you
non-business types) each of the the following:
websites,  Facebook Fan Page,
social media, GoodReads, Amazon Author Central.   Of course, the person in this example is a
writer,  so the examples are
writer-specific, but if you’re a musician, “GoodReads” might be equivalent to
“LastFM” or “MySpace” or whatever your favorite musical/ social profile thing
is at the moment.   I am assuming the
literary agent was asking me this because writers, for the most part, tend to
be lazy and entitled and want you to pick “one magic bullet” that’s going to
solve all of their marketing problems and sell a million books for them, and if
you know anything about the internet and internet marketing, you know there is
no such thing.

The bottom line?  I
don’t just think you need to be one place.  I think you need to be everywhere.  I think when someone Googles you, there
should be a way to get to you and your awesome stuff in all ten slots of Page
One.

Now, don’t get me wrong.
I actually don’t mean that you should be out there gladhanding the
entire world on Twitter and pushing out your links in an artificial way every
day.  I don’t think that works, and I
don’t recommend people spread out their energy and waste their time on things
they don’t like, because that is pretty much a guarantee that you’re not going
to get anywhere with it.

But (and this is a pretty big but)—it’s not an “all or
nothing” situation.   I do think creative
types need to responsible business people, and that means creating profiles (with
links) in every place that is relevant to you, so that your interested audience
may follow those links back to you and your awesome stuff.  Yes, this means you’re going to have to put a
little time into making a website, and a Twitter profile, and a Facebook Fan
Page, and even a profile on LinkedIn, just to establish your brand equity so if
something you do goes viral, this doesn’t happen, or this.     For
me, this kind of “set up and maintenance” is less about that outward, pushy
kind of marketing, and more just about being professional and setting up shop so
the world can find out about you.

You’d probably be really surprised if I told you how many
writers/ creative types get really upset when I tell them this, or sigh, or
cry, or yell about how they “DON’T HAVE TIME TO DO THEIR ART,” and I think this
is a big fat copout.   Not being
responsible with your digital life, not having a website, not having a proper
Facebook Fan Page—it’s all part of the same thing, the “Artist’s Mindset,”
which used to manifest itself in saying you were a “starving artist” or that
you “didn’t want to sell out,” but now seems to be an excuse for neglecting
your digital life.    This is
mostly the reason why I am not taking author clients for consulting
anymore, because I simply got tired of being wanting me to do their work for them,
then yelling at me when I told them what it would cost.

In the spirit of “I am giving you good information so you
can work on your own behalf,” here is a handy list of “Ten Things To Do Before
You Go Viral,” for your reference.    This list was created for creative types, but it also absolutely applies to you, even if you sell soap.  What if Brad Pitt suddenly loves your soap, and everyone is talking about your soap?    Are you organized and together, and can you handle the traffic and all the soap orders that are going to come in?  If not, refer to the list.

  1. Get your website in order.
    By “your website,” I mean yourfirstnamelastname.com.  I do not mean a Blogger blog, or your Tumblr,
    or anything else that you don’t actually own.
    I mean your domain, on hosting you paid for, nothing less.

2.  Make sure said website has at least a “Contact Us” button,
preferably a Contact Us form (to filter spam), and make sure that you’ve
actually tried to send an email to yourself using that button or form.  You would be sad if I told you how many
people don’t do this.

3.  Put your stuff up.  Do you have books/ albums/ anything for sale?  Make sure they are on your site, readily
clickable for people to buy.   I don’t
think I can make that any more clear.

4.  Make sure you’re google-able.
When I Google you, does your website show up as # 1?  If not, you should get on that.

5.  Make sure all roads lead back to you.  Is there a link in your Twitter profile that
goes back to your website?   What about
your Facebook Fan Page?  Take a look at
the guy who does this awesome video series, Minute Physics.  Is he some kind of website genius?  No, but he is extremely organized.  If you want to find him, you can—imagine
that!

6.  Get prepared to handle traffic.
Is your website going to crash if a million people go to it in one
day?  Maybe call your hosting company and
find out.

7.   Secure points of access.
Right now, go through your website, FB fan page, twitter, and any other
“open loops” out there that represent you (like LinkedIn or Tumblr, or a random
Wordpress blog).  Look at the entire
network as if you were a stranger who happened upon your work.   Are there any “dead ends” that you don’t
check, or where people could get stuck?
If so, fix them now.

8.  Clean up garbage.  If you
know there is something awful out there about you (like you’ve done something
you’re not proud of), now is the time to face it.  You might not be able to get it “removed,”
per se, but you CAN be proactive about getting your website and social media in
order, write some articles for other blogs or publications, or start some more
profiles (like at squidoo, about.me, or the zillion other social media sites
out there to push the bad results down to Page Two or beyond.

9.  Include a photo, preferable the same one.   If/ when your stuff goes viral, people are
going to want to write stories about you, and they are going to ask for
photos.   Another reason for this is
simple:  people want to associate your
work with an actual person, and it’s better if you don’t make potential fans
tax their brains by having a picture of your dog as your Twitter profile
picture.  Get it together with some
consistent branding!

10. Stop
acting weird.  Hey, guess what?  The internet is  like a big recorder that remembers everything.  If you showed your boobs on
Facebook or talked some weird political crap on Twitter, maybe go back and clean that
up, because the minute you go viral, reporters are going to dig around for this kind of thing and write about it.  This is good advice for you even if
you’re not going to go viral with something, because potential employers are
Googling you to see if they want to hire you, and no one is hiring “Boobs on
the Internet” girl.  I promise you, this applies to you if you own a small business.  I recently did not buy something from someone because I happened upon her business’ Twitter, and realized that she was using it to espouse some very radical beliefs.    I don’t think that your personal beliefs have anyplace in your business, unless there is somehow something wrong with the money from people who don’t share your beliefs.  Think about it.

That’s it!

Share