I’ve been blogging for three years now. Most blogs get a few dozen views. The good ones get over a hundred. A select few make it past a thousand. And then one Monday morning back in March I wrote 10 Things the Church Puts Ahead of Reaching People. I’ll be completely honest. It was a filler post. I literally copied and pasted the list from my sermon notes I had preached from the day before. I had no idea it was going to go viral. Over 100,000 views in the first week and 250,000 in the first three months. Along the way, here are 10 things I learned from writing a blog post that went viral:
1. You can’t write a viral blog post. You can only write a blog post. Making it viral is out of your control. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle.
2. There are lots of people that feel something is missing from the church. Why did 250,000 click on the blog link? I think part of it was curiosity, part of it was their past experience. Something inside them knew there was some truth to the statement.
3. You can’t deny the power of social media. This post was shared almost exclusively through Facebook, with over 48,000 shares. People I’ve never met used their online influence to spread the word about this post.
4. Everyone seems to have an opinion. I’m still getting comments on this post, some of them with good thoughts, some of them merely using the opportunity to air grievances. I now understand why some popular blogs have shut down the comments section altogether. It’s a bit of a pandora’s box. The online world is an inferior place to have a tough conversation or debate.
5. It’s hard to hear stories of heartache without being able to do anything about it. There are a lot of hurting people out there, many of whom have shared some painful church experiences on my blog. While I’m fully aware that I’m only getting half of the story and there may only be partial truth there, it’s truth to them. And they’ve been hurt. My heart hurts for them.
6. Describing the problem is easy. Buying into a solution is hard. By the end of the week, once I finally realized how big this post was blowing up, I wrote several posts about the solution to the problems described in the viral blog post. I didn’t want to just complain about a problem. I wanted to chart a path forward. Those posts got no traction. It’s much easier to describe a problem than it is to get people to buy into a solution.
7. Fame is intoxicating and ultimately unfulfilling. I’m ashamed to say there was a 48 hour window when I thought of nothing else but the blog post. It was getting tens of thousands of views a day, sometimes over a thousand an hour. I kept hitting refresh on my stats page to see how high it was getting. Thankfully I got over that. My kids didn’t care how much my blog post was taking off, they wanted me to be present with them. Chasing fame was intoxicating for a moment but ultimately unfulfilling.
8. There is a deep hunger out there for true biblical community. The one overarching sense I got from that blog post was that there is a deep hunger out there for biblical community. Even the people who said they’ve dropped out of church said they still search for community, they’re just scared (or scarred) to jump back in. But the hunger is always there.
9. There is value to making small deposits over time. One day it will pay off. The reason I blog everyday is because I don’t know which blogs will make traction and which ones won’t. So I blog everyday. Working hard over time will almost always pay off, even in ways that you might not expect.
10. It was a fun ride, but at the end of the day my greatest influence is with my family and my local church. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having that post take off, but I’m over it now. Internet influence is pseudo-influence. My real influence has been and will always be greatest with my family and with my local church. That’s the world God has called me to change. At the end of the day, it’s just a blog.