So I thought about naming this post “How To Make Your Tweet Go Viral”, after my (in)famous pool float/women’s menstrual pad tweet hit over 8 million impressions. But then I realized that I had ZERO idea what the hell happened and could speak with zero authority as to how to reproduce these results.
Instead, we're going to do a postmortem on the insanity generated from this one itty bitty, flippant, off-the-cuff tweet.
First of all, let’s provide some background for those of you who don’t know me. I try to navigate the fine line between promotion as a developing author, but also avoid totally outing my physician self. Why the secrecy? Because most physicians are now employed, and their respective Big Brother (BB) employers are increasingly becoming too involved in their non-physician lives. Case in point, an ER doctor colleague who finally “came out” with her real name on Twitter. Turns out she was writing thoughtful, patient-care focused, and status-quo challenging blog posts. No HIPPA violations, no snark, nothing inappropriate to any objective observer…except her employer. Dismissed without due process or recourse. Just because they didn’t like the hint of being challenged, and rather than deal with patient care issues raised, they preferred to fire the physician instead.
I don’t say all of that to feel pitiful or anything. Not at all. The stable salary and ability to take time off that my particular BB employer provides is nice. But BB is nosy and wants to be involved in far too much of its physicians’ business. While nothing I say is seditionist or radical and my posts are sanitized when it comes to specific patient care, it’s one of those “but for the grace of God go I” kind of situations. So I keep my head down and try to keep that writing life and doctoring life separate. Like, only 3 “real world” people know that I write, and one of them isn’t my mom. Capisce?
Enter THE TWEET.
So early on a Monday morning. I had logged into the Tweeterverse over breakfast, per morning routine. Over on my personal Facebook, a friend had put a picture taken in what looked like a Big Box Store with a pool float that looked suspiciously…sanitary. In a flash of insight, I could see exactly where the designers went wrong – the company lacked any woman giving so much as a glance at this product. Because if they had utilized a woman’s perspective, she would have been like, “Dude, it looks like a period pad. How about at least change the color so it doesn’t look like an Always commercial with the blue liquid that >in no way< symbolizes a period.” Something like that. Even dudes who have like, ever dated a woman or knew someone who had dated a woman, can figure this one out. So, dum-de-dum, as one does, I cut the picture from FB, posted it into Twitter with my snarky commentary added. Then I went to work where I do not look at my personal computer stuff. (No Twitter on the cell phone. Too distracting. Need to focus on the work stuff.)
Here’s the post:
From there, Things Happened.
A few notifications popped up with some friends liking/retweeting this little post. Nothing exciting or unusual. Then I was orienting a trainee for two hours. I glanced at my phone an hour later. 50 emails? That’s super weird and a big number I don’t normally see. But I don’t check email at work, either, so I ignored emails until lunch break.
If memory serves, by lunchtime when I could step out of the office and check my personal computer, I had well over a hundred emails, and the post had something like 500K impressions and maybe 5K retweets. WHAT? Like, when you look at the post stats, it was updating every 5 seconds IN REAL TIME with 100-200 new impressions every few SECONDS. Never seen anything like it. So I’m like, that’s cool. Look at that little viral post that some people like. How cute.
Next thought: trolls. When will the trolls arrive – because they’re omnipresent. Thankfully, I got very few mean comments. Most people just thought the post was funny, which of course was the intent. One or two rude personal comments out of the thousands I could see, but given just how big this doggone tweet became, that wasn't bad. (Yes, I know that I’m not a “10”, thank you for pointing that out to me, random dude who is at best a 3.5. Please enjoy Saturday night alone with your pet tarantula and/or snake.)
Meanwhile, my Twitter email alerts had given up the ghost after a few hundred notifications. Apparently, you can piss off Twitter to the point where Twitter just stops telling you when people like or RT posts. Guess it doesn’t like to work super hard and kind of quits. I did not know this.
So I was in an information vacuum at work until I got home that evening. Now we’re at 1.5 MILLION impressions and increasing quickly. That’s when the cold sweat started. At some point, the law of probability mandates that enough people see the darn thing and maybe glance at the picture, and be like, “Hey, that looks like Goober from med school” or “Hey, that’s my coworker/daughter/cousin/niece.” And then clickity-click, OH LOOK what else she’s been doing with that writing-about-sexytimes gig. I'm not ashamed of writing romance (kind of really enjoy it and think I do a pretty decent job of creating cool fictional universes) – but I still want to keep writing life separate from BB’s prying eyes. Remember?
I didn’t know what to do. Do I delete the post? Am I rude if I don’t try and respond to everyone who commented on it? (I tried for a while, but that activity became futile after a very short time.) What are the rules? Am I supposed to try and capitalize on brief notoriety? Do I quickly try to post something cool to follow it up? How about a quick blog? Anything?
Nada. Instead, I went into the fetal position and literally pulled the blankets over my head. Next morning: >3 million posts and still climbing. Then I really started sweating. When does it stop? Shouldn’t it run out of steam? My entire notifications page had blown up with this thing. How big can it get?
Then the weirdness started. I began to get emails from “news” organizations wanting my information and a quote and to put my Tweet into their articles, etc.. Is there a user’s manual for this occurrence? Because I had no idea what I was supposed to do. So I emailed the nice people back and politely asked them not to put me in any article, because in good faith I couldn’t claim the original picture as it was a friend of a friend post from FB. I didn’t even know the original source and couldn’t take credit for any of it, other than my sense of humor spin on the image.
Welp. That didn’t stop “news” organizations from creating Articles Out of Thin Air about me, my photography skills in the Big Box Store (which I never went into), and my inner thoughts about aforementioned picture. They had insights about me that I didn’t even know I had. Impressive. Creepy. And a little invasive, as it became obvious that my sole purpose at that moment in time was to increase those sites’ readership and pass-through advertising monies. Yuck. (If you want to find some of these articles, just Google “Jillian David pad” and that’ll get you to the good stuff.)
Over the next few weeks, that doggone post kept chugging along. As of right now, here’s the picture of where it stands.
Huh. I wish I knew what the secret sauce was on this post versus any number of more thoughtful comments that have been made at other times. Was it the picture? Shock value? The comment that highlighted a completely different problem? What made people so interested in THIS TWEET? Still not certain, but I have gained a bunch of very pleasant followers that I’ve been able to virtually get to know. So that’s pretty fun.
Best of all, after the excitement has died down? >knock wood< Mom’s still out of the loop. BB isn’t storming into my office. While I will not say the “q” word, things are looking okay, at least as of this moment. Stuff can change, of course.
For now? I’ll keep editing my current WIP’s and continue to spit out those off-the-cuff Tweets about anything that strikes me as funny. And keep plugging away at that day job. So far, it seems like the Twitterverse or karma or luck or whatever is going on … is okay with me doing just that....
Over a week’s vacation from Day Job recently, I had one of my hardest running weeks, probably ever, as I’m training for a trail marathon. In case you didn’t know, trail marathons are just like regular road marathons except muddier, buggier, longer, and nastier than their refined road-based counterparts (which are also no cake walk). During that same week off, I had one of my toughest writing/editing weeks in a very long time. Given that one of the training runs was over four hours long, I had time to think. A lot of time. Too much time.
Seems that marathon training and writing aren’t that much different, after all.
Before I leap into the analogy, I need to make myself crystal clear on both topics. Full disclosure. I am in no way a great athlete. This chunky bod is getting dragged 26.2 miles (hopefully) because, well, the challenge is there. I’ve wanted to do a trail marathon for >15 years. Now is my chance, and you bet your left bunion, I’m downing the biggest bag of Cheetos + a Blizzard after I finish/collapse/die as I cross the finish line in dead last place. Also, I will not be setting any land-speed records. In many respects, that’s like my writing career. I’m not a bestselling anything. The writing happens because I need to/want to/enjoy it and I want to always improve. You can bet that writing consumes a huge amount of time and it’s exhausting. Also, Cheetos.
(FYI, this is not me. I don’t look this fresh at mile 0.1, much less mile 20+. This is Rory Bosio, and she is one of the badass-est trail runners around.)
But on mile #18 of last weekend’s long run, as my feet and cankles were aching and I would have gladly given my right arm for a bag of hot, steamy, salted tater tots and a blizzard treat, I had an epiphany. And no, the epiphany wasn’t to stop running, although no question that concept was tempting.
The epiphany was to keep going, no matter what. Sure, it hurt. Sure, I’m never going to win any prize at running. But there’s something to be said for doing an activity that most folks can’t. There’s also something to be said for mentally envisioning the finish line which takes months to work up to the point where it can be reached…and finally reach it.
So, yes, a lot like writing. You see, during the same week where I had that very tough training schedule, I also (barely) met my writing goals for that time period: #1) Complete a draft of the third book in a brand new project I started and #2) Re-edit (read: “gut”) two entire books in another project I’m working on. To say I returned to work Monday as a way to recover from my week “off” would be a gross understatement.
(Also not me. This woman looks way more alert than I do after writing all week long.)
But that’s writing for the average person, isn’t it? I’m not talking the bestselling authors who are full-time writers, and, god bless them, can focus their lives wholly on that career. That’s awesome, and many writers only dream of getting to that point. No. I’m talking about those of us who carve out the writing time from taking care of family/kids, jobs/work, life changes, moving, illness, and everything else that goes on in our lives. I’m talking about the folks who get up two hours before the rest of the family so they can write. The folks who stay up two hours late to write, or fit editing in while kiddo is at cheerleading or soccer practice or whatnot.
Why do we continue the middle-of-the-pack slog? (Back-of-the-pack in the case of yours truly.) I think it’s for a few key reasons that relate to both writing and distance running. Indulge me if you will as I relate the two:
#1) We keep writing day in and day out because we have to. Anything less and our noggins will explode. I’ve hit the point where I need to run most days. Need to. (Mostly to burn off the tater tots, TBH.)
#2) We keep writing because it’s exciting to work for so long to create an entire world and then share it for others to enjoy. It’s exciting to complete this seven month running odyssey.
#3) We keep writing because not everyone can write a book, and not everyone can write a book while maintaining a normal life. Not everyone can run a marathon on narrow trails, either.
#4) We keep writing/running because maybe, just maybe, we’ll break out of middle-of-the-pack and have one great book/race one day. You never know.
#5) We write because of the challenge. Same with running.
#6) We write because of the community of supportive people who also write. Same with the trail running community. (Supporters will equally high five the first place and last place runners.)
So, will I complete the 26.2 miles later this month? Remains to be seen, but in my mind, of course I’ll finish it. Might not run the whole thing, might have to rest and snack a few times, might not be pretty, but you bet I’ll get the job done.
What about those writing projects? Sure, they’ll get completed. Might take time, but this writer will slog through, word by word, just like all of my author colleagues in the trenches who put one word down after another, one foot down after another, day in and day out.
(Want some inspiration? This is David Goggins. Also not a runner (in the beginning). He simply finishes runs. When I feel lazy, I pull up one of his podcasts/interviews, and then I don't have any excuses to feel lazy.
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.