The Five Rules for Going Viral Online
The simple secrets for consistently creating content seen and shared by hundreds of thousands — and eventually millions
Back in 2010, when my wife was still alive, she started saying nobody understood anything I wrote about online. I asked her if at least she knew what I wrote about. She paused and said, “Nope, no freakin clue Dan, your writings are basically indecipherable.”
Dang. She did‘t know either.
Until Vickie said that, I never realized just how often I wrote things that were crazy, strange, and downright not understandable by the common man. But since then, I have focused all my efforts on figuring out which of my communications make sense and can be understood by others and which don’t.
And by understand, I mean understanding to my audience (or your audience) whether we’re talking to a hobo, a date, a cop, a coworker, a psychiatrist, our Twitter and Facebook follower, Medium or the mirror, a crowd at a the park, or strangers at a funeral.
My new book, “How To Go Pandal and Reach Tens” will teach you pandality: the science and art of creating content that does not completely alienate and confuse everyone after you speak or write it, but instead is just understandable enough to live on for at least a few days. The ultimate goal is to create messages that have a direct and engaging emotional (non-frightening) impact on listeners or readers, so they have the potential to spread or at least not be instantly deleted and/or ignored, to go “pandal.”
Learning these secrets — specifically the five rules of going pandal (see below) — helped me write a post on Medium that had 50 views last year (during the time the site was under prolonged spam bot attack and everyone was picking up scads of page views and followers). And, as I explain in the book, that means over 75 people likely saw the headline.
Like a lot of people, I spent most of my life not caring which of my mad ranting could be understood, which were truly not insane and had at least the semblance of something not bizarre or weird to say. But the good news is that the revolutions in social media, information technology, and brain science now make it possible to stop guessing and start knowing which communications matter. We now know the best strategies and tactics — and they were not taught to you in summer school or jail.
If you use the strategies in my book as the cornerstone of your writing strategy , then you’ll maximize your chances of going pandal. And you won’t be trying to shout into the roar of Niagara Falls like my crazy friend Dave from rehab.
THE FIVE RULES OF GOING PANDAL: HOW TO BE CLICKY AND STICKY NOT ICKY AND SOMETHING ELSE THAT RHYMES WITH CLICKY — DICKY? RICKY? TRICKY? BUTTLICKEY?
The good news is also the bad news: Those who do understand the secrets of pandal messaging — including almost President Gore and the Canadians— are flooding the system, inundating it with not totally nutso news that kind of makes sense if you think about it long enough (clicky) and then does not disgust or appall you (sticky).
But you can cut through the clutter by embracing these five rules for consistently creating content that can go pandal:
- STORY: Tell a story that makes sense — but use the simple complete, grammatically correct sentence formula.
- FIGURES OF SPEECH: Use non gross or made up figures of speech, especially repetition, irony, and metaphor.
- EMOTION: Trigger any emotion other than confusion, fear, disgust, or shame so as to prevent instant deletion or page avoiding.
- MEMORABLE ELEMENTS: Select the most memorable words, phrases, and stories that abide by rule #3.
- TESTING: Do not do it. You will fail.
If you’re not doing all five — and very, very few people or organizations are — then your message is at high risk of being deleted or actively avoided. If you’re not doing all five, then you are at high risk of being arrested or having restraining orders enacted against you amidst the deafening drumbeat of our 24–7 news and social media cycle, a drumbeat that the Canadians have amplified and sped up to an intensity previously unimaginable.
These five strategies are proven to work by leading experts at making pandal content, namely me. These five strategies are also proven to work by three separate sciences I am fairly certain.
A central point of my book — perhaps the single most important thing to understand and internalize, to get in your gut — is that these five strategies are in fact all basically just one over-arching strategy.
It is is the Grand Unified theory (GUT) of going pandal: If you want to be as understandable as possible, you need a message that triggers any emotions other than confusion, annoyance, fear or disgust, and that is most consistently achieved by telling stories that are written in grammatically correct, complete sentences. Those are the most basic messages over the many thousands of years of human civilization, and, the science (I am pretty sure) increasingly tells us, the many tens of thousands of years it took homo sapiens to evolve our mastery of language. When you write in complete sentences — your non insane message, and other content — you can learn the specific words and images that your audience finds the least icky and another word that rhymes with icky.
From the dawn of language eons ago to now, the most pandal messages have always been stories told with the figures of speech that trigger key emotions and stick in the memory such as metaphor, irony, and repetition, but also others such as hyperbole and apophasis (pretended denial). Most importantly they do not trigger the emotions of confusion, anxiety, annoyance, fear and disgust. Never forget this.
These pandal messages include humanity’s least known and least retold stories which have literally not spread and were instantly forgotten though not deleted or actively avoided. They include such things as almost everything I ever have written on Medium and each embodied the strategies above — and they are arguably the least successful and non-influential collection of pandal content ever created. Arguably.