3 Lessons I Learned by Going Viral on Reddit

by Don Smith

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

My creation that hit the front page of Reddit.

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

Seeing something you created go viral on Reddit and get 40,000+ upvotes within 24 hours is beautiful. But upvotes, likes, and views don't translate directly into cash.

I've gotten better at selling stuff online now and earned some cash on my second and third viral hits due to the increased visibility of this site, but I earned nothing, nada, $0 when my first meme went viral because I had nothing to sell.

Raising awareness of your brand is helpful, but you still have to get people to buy stuff to make money. One viral meme won't do that if you have nothing to sell.

If you want to earn something, figure out what you're selling BEFORE you go viral, not after.

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 the post notifications, my phone buzzed every few seconds from comments as it screamed past 10k upvotes, then 12k, 15k, finally settling around 18k upvotes. It was the same with my second one, which got 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 popular site like this one while running another business and chasing five kids. I've created viral content on other platforms too, and it's a similar experience; your phone blows up until you silence the notifications, and then things ease off.

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!” 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 familiar to most of the audience yet unique.

The meme also had a lot of hidden depth 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 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

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

  1. I am checking this post out now Don and experienced the same thing with a much less modest post in terms of numbers. 40K is a serious number! I only nabbed 100,000 plus views and 1.1 K upvotes in 24 hours but the lessons seemed identical. I feel like Reddit traffic almost always stays on Reddit; tight knit community of users there who rarely wander offsite. This is why I spend far more time commenting genuinely on blogs and guest blogging these days in addition to promoting my blog.


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