The Viralizer

Here are ten easy ways you can write an article that goes viral, just like this one. I mean, you’re reading it, aren’t you?

1)      Give it a zingy headline, like, say, “The Viralizer.” You must have a numbered list of instructions, promise that following them will yield desirable results, and indicate that the process is not arduous. Not arduous is crucial. The ideal number of items is ten; if you can’t think of a tenth, just leave it blank—people never read to the end, anyway. They’re too busy viralizing the list.

2)      Target the 55-to-70-year-old mom demographic with articles they will send to their friends or, better yet, children. Nobody forwards articles like 55-to-70-year-old moms do to their kids, in part because nobody else actually uses a site’s clunky proprietary emailing system as opposed to simply copying-and-pasting a link. My own mom has already painstakingly sent this to one hundred and twelve people, as well as to me. Some topics:

  • Exercise tips (or the commonplace activity you’re currently engaging in that is highly deleterious to your health, like reading on a computer screen)
  • The nation’s wayward youth
  • Gluten
  • This

3)      Reinforce some banal piece of conventional wisdom with an argument cloaked in somewhat clever language, so as to make it seem brilliantly, Gladwellianly counterintuitive, such as: “Only by paying attention to the world around us, instead of our smartphones, can we actually become smarter.” Hammer this point home repeatedly throughout the article with slightly different phrasing.  Remember: People love conventional wisdom—but only if it is presented under the guise of unconventional wisdom. 

4)      Secure pithy quotes from celebrities on quotidian matters. If you are unable to contact them, make up their quotes, as they are too busy being famous to notice. In the end, “all’s fair in viral articles,” said Michelle Obama in a phone interview.

5)      Adopt a wry tone, facilitated by a liberal sprinkling of exclamation points. You can say something darkly disturbing and it still comes off as lighthearted and humorous! Such as: “Our country is on the brink of financial collapse yet we’re still watching reality shows about singing!”  “We will all eventually die, some of us unexpectedly soon due to drinking from plastic bottles!” “Within a month you will be laid off—yes, you, Britney Morris of Galveston, Texas!”

6)      Capture the zeitgeist by mixing and matching ingredients from this list: college loans; social media’s latest privacy snafu; exorbitant rents; sexting; a rich, attractive, and/or famous person who says heinous things around a reporter; speculation on the newest smartphone; organic quinoa; Ph.D.s who are unemployed; adjusting your office chair to reduce back pain; how to actually use the newest smartphone; Michelle Obama; what you’re doing wrong for sleep; job-interview etiquette; gluten-free wayward youth who don’t exercise enough.

7)      Declare something generation-defining about the Millennials and careers, or Millennials and relationships, or Millennials and anything at all, such as Millenials and the Viralizer.

 Seriously—anything, even a made-up fact completely out of context but ripe for someone to Tweet just that sentence, like: “The Millennials have already depleted the earth’s resources more than the Baby Boomers have.” Just watch what happens.

8)      Publish the article in some prestigious online venue so that angry Internet commenters will try to take it down a notch by posting insults like, “Seriously? Is this what your publication has come to?”; a tersely judgmental “Not funny”; or a devastatingly cutting “Meh.”

9)      Solidify what we already know, but employ enough acrobatic and allusive turns of phrase, in the manner of a verbal Cirque du Soleil aerialist soaring under an azure sky, weightless and swift-like, so that it seems as if it’s something we don’t know. See 3).

Teddy Wayne is the author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil.