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3 Lessons I Learned by Going Viral on Reddit

by Don Smith

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Getting something you created up-voted to the front page of Reddit sounds fantastic, but what really happens when you go viral on Reddit? I've had several memes hit the front page of Reddit now. Here are three lessons I took away from my experiences.

Going viral on Reddit - Viral Reddit meme - The most dangerous phrase is, "We've always done it this way!" by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
My first quote that made it to the front page of Reddit.

1. Going Viral on Reddit Doesn't = $$$

It is a wonderful feeling to see something you created go viral on Reddit and get 40,000+ upvotes within 24 hours. But lots of upvotes, likes, and views don't translate directly into cash.

Raising awareness of your brand is helpful, but you still have to get people to purchase your products or services to make money. One viral meme isn't going to do that, especially if you don't have anything to sell.

On the other hand…

Anything that raises awareness about your business can lead to new customers. Articles like this one have encouraged people to write and promote their own articles on this site, which leads to advertising revenue for us and traffic for them. I've also sold many of our workbooks and people have hired me to help them market their business as a result of the increased traffic.

But if I hadn't created things to sell, those viral memes would have generated zero revenue.

2. Viral Content on Reddit Can Be Short-Lived

My phone blew up when my slightly modified quote, “The most dangerous phrase is ‘We've always done it this way,'” from Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper went viral on Reddit. Until I turned off notifications for the post, my phone was buzzing every few seconds from comments as it screamed past 10k upvotes, then 12k, then 15k, finally settling around 18k upvotes. It was the same thing with my second one which screamed up to around 40k upvotes.

A few days later? The rest of the world forgot about my meme's 24 hours of fame, and life went back to normal, or at least as normal as it gets when you run a site like this with tens of thousands of followers while running another business and chasing five kids. There are often ways to turn your viral content into evergreen content that continually brings in customers, but that takes some work.

Speaking of being short-lived, two of the posts I made that hit the front page on Reddit got taken down by moderators. Both were in the top 25 of r/All at the time, so I couldn't understand why they took it down other than maybe the comments were too much for them to moderate. That's why it's so important if you're a business to own your own website (I recommend SiteGround) and don't rely on public sites like Reddit. If you get any traction you run the risk of being taken down.

3. The Secret to Going Viral on Reddit Is in the Details

The original quote from Hopper was, “The most damaging phrase in the language is “We’ve always done it this way!” according to quote investigator. Someone else had already tweaked the quote to say dangerous instead of damaging. I tweaked it a little more and added her picture. It was something familiar to most of the audience, yet a little unique.

The meme also had a lot of hidden depth behind it for people who knew Hopper's story. Some people even snickered a little with her title of rear admiral and the idea of doing things differently…that little twist wasn't intentional but did probably tack on a few more votes.

Success is always in the details; if you want to go viral, pay attention to them!

3 Lessons I Learned by Going Viral on Reddit

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About the Author 

Don Smith

The Personal Growth Channel founder, Don Smith also runs a technology company, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and enjoys seeing people achieve their goals. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois.

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