What happens when your post goes viral with Wendy Jacobson

If you’ve ever wondered what makes a piece of content go viral, the latest episode of the Marketing Mentor Podcast is for you.

B2B content and case study copywriter, Wendy Jacobson of Incredible Content, shares what happened when her post went viral on LinkedIn (and how to be prepared when that happens to you).

(Spoiler alert: so far she's gotten 6 new clients directly from this viral post.) So here's the proposal process that wins her the jobs she really wants (on sale today for $9.99!).

From her Viral Post Checklist, 5 things to keep in mind:

  1. Timing: Is Saturday morning the best time to post?
  2. Structure: How much white space should your post have?
  3. Topic: How personal is too personal? How personal can you be in a professional environment? Which topics are more likely to go viral? Does the quality of the writing matter? How important is it to have a photo?
  4. Channel: Which social media platforms are best for a viral post? Facebook or LinkedIn? Would her post have gone viral on Facebook?
  5. Intent: Will it go viral if you want it to? 

Cue the opening song from A Chorus Line, "I Hope I Get It." :)

Listen here (and below) then scroll down to read the transcript:

     

    You can read her guest blog on how it all happened here too.

    if you like what you hear, we’d love it if you write a review, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

    Read the transcript below.... 

    Ilise benun

    Hi there, this is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor. And this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.

    Have you ever wondered what makes a piece of content go viral? Well, if I knew, I'd bottle it and sell it. However, today I'm talking to Wendy Jacobson of incrediblecontent.net, who is a B2B content and case study copywriter, about a post of hers that went viral on LinkedIn. So, listen and learn. 

    Hello, Wendy, welcome to the podcast.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Hi, ilise. So good to be here. Thank you.

    Ilise benun

    You're welcome. Please give your elevator pitch.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Sure, so I am Wendy Jacobson. My business is Incredible Content. I believe that businesses should use content to establish and build their credibility, and I help B2B businesses do that primarily through website copy, article writing and case studies.

    Ilise benun

    And we're talking today … I mean, we can talk about writing case studies and marketing, but we're especially talking because you had a situation that I think is enviable to a lot of people. It happened to you accidentally.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yes.

    Ilise benun

    And I want to help people learn from it. So, I want you to start with the story of how your post on LinkedIn went viral.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Okay, sure. So, it was Easter Saturday of this year, 2022, and I had just returned from a fairly regular annual trip I take with my dad. I help him drive home from Miami Beach back to Minneapolis. He winters down there. And I just posted a picture of my dad behind the wheel, and just some thoughts about the last four days I had shared with him driving from Miami back to Minneapolis, and the gratitude I had for spending time with my dad, and the parting words of the post, some wisdom that he shared. And that was it. 

    It was just a nice sweet post and it got a little bit of traction at first, and then it just lit like wildfire and blew up LinkedIn with no effort really on my part—getting over, 7 million views and 3000 comments, and just crazy numbers that, again, I think ‘caught’ because a lot of people could relate to the story. We all have fathers. If we're blessed to have a good relationship with our dads, then this was a very heartwarming post. If we've taken road trips with our dads, this was a heartwarming post. It just tugged at the heartstrings.

    Ilise benun

    And I mean, for my purposes as a marketer and someone who helps other people like you get better clients with bigger budgets, to me, the best thing about this is the new clients that came out of it, right?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yes, definitely, definitely.

    Ilise benun

    So, we can talk a little bit about that. But I think the thing I would point out first is that it was a very personal post, and often people lately, especially, have been saying, “Oh, that belongs on Facebook,” right? Or, “This thing doesn't belong on LinkedIn.” 

    And there were some people who commented along those lines, but I personally think that the lines are blurring, and content is content, and people don't have control over what they respond to. 

    And so, this went viral. We don't exactly know why. I'm curious, how long did it take for it to go viral, because that's, I think, something people are curious about?

    Wendy Jacobson

    It did not take long, at all, to go viral. So again, it was a Saturday morning that I posted it. I think either later that afternoon or the next day, it was already featured on LinkedIn News—they have those five articles in the upper right-hand corner. Couple hours after I posted it, it had several hundred comments. And by the next day, Sunday, which again was a holiday, it had several thousand comments. I got like 77,000 reactions, and my inbox just started flooding, probably a couple hours after I posted it, with not only connection requests, but also direct messages from people just sharing how much they liked my story. So, it didn't take long.

    Ilise benun

    It sounds a little overwhelming.

    Wendy Jacobson

    It was incredibly overwhelming. Again, it was so unexpected and was so not my intent that, you know, it became just all-encompassing and really hard to ... It got to a point it was hard for me to manage and quite exhausting, to be honest with you, but again, super exciting.

    Ilise benun

    And I think what I want to get at with this is how to use an experience like this, both for you and for people who are listening, because I don't think even if we try to explain how to go viral, it's not something you can control. But I do think you can be ready for it. And that was one of the things that we have been talking a little bit about. 

    And the other point, and I'll connect this, is that everything is “content.” I really see content everywhere. I hear content everywhere. And sometimes my job is simply to say, “Okay, what you just said, that's content. Go write it, go record it, go do something with it,” because we can't always hear it when it's our own. 

    And so, we're working on turning this into some content. And the first thing that you developed was this freebie checklist, the Viral Post Checklist. So, I just wanted to talk a little bit about what's in that and make it available to people who are listening. How does that sound?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Awesome. I love that. Thank you.

    Ilise benun

    What it says is, “Want to know what makes a post go viral on social media? The truth is there is no secret sauce that will guarantee your post will go viral, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you craft your post.” 

    So first off, we need to be creating content on LinkedIn, and you identified five things to keep in mind, so let's just go through them briefly.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Sure.

    Ilise benun

    And I'll say them all first, and then we can talk about each of them. You said one is timing. Another is structure. Another is topic. Another is channel, and the fifth is intent. 

    So, what is it about timing? Is Saturday morning the best time to post?

    Wendy Jacobson

    If you look at LinkedIn, there's so many creators on there who say, “you have to post on Tuesday at three or Monday at eight.” The point is, my post was Saturday, a holiday Saturday, and it caught. So, I don't think timing really is a factor, especially now as more and more people are on LinkedIn at all times a day. In the past, there was so much emphasis on when the best time to post is. Post when you're ready to post.

    Ilise benun

    I agree with that. And what about structure? What does that mean “structure”?

    Wendy Jacobson

    So, structure to me means, and I'm a huge advocate of making things easy to read—you don't want to make your reader struggle or do any work—so make your posts scannable, right? Make ‘em lots of white space, not lots of paragraphs glommed together, but just a skimmable post that is easy on the eyes, that does not make your reader do any work to digest the information.

    Ilise benun

    And do you know how many words your post was?

    Wendy Jacobson

    I do not, but it was, I think the longest paragraph was probably two or three sentences. And those are short sentences. I'm a huge advocate of that. I definitely practice what I preach there.

    Ilise benun

    And what about topic?

    Wendy Jacobson

    So topic. So again, my post was about my drive with my dad. If you want to engage your readers, it has to be an engaging topic. Something that they can relate to. And if your topic is highly technical, and those are the people you want to engage, that's fine. I would just caution that's probably not going to go viral or it might not get a whole lot of traction because it's a very specific readership that you're addressing with a super technical post. So, topic is, it needs to be relatable. Something that a lot of people can relate to, or at least your target audience can relate to.

    Ilise benun

    Right. And as I've been having conversations with people and sharing that your post went viral and what is it about your post, some people were pointing to other articles that they'd written that didn't go viral and wondering, “Well, what's wrong with this, that it didn't go viral”? 

    And I think the point you're making here about topic is directly connected to “niche,” in a way—that if the market is small for the topic, then it's probably not going to go viral. But if it's more general, or more personal, or as you're saying “more relatable,” then it has more likelihood.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah. I mean the more eyes that will see it and digest it and like it, the more eyes will see it and digest it and like it. The algorithm will catch onto that. So, if it's a super-niche topic, then probably not going to get a whole lot of eyeballs.

    Ilise benun

    And not to dis the quality of yours at all, but I want to say, does the quality of the writing matter, do you think?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Well, come on now, mine was a very well-crafted post.

    (Laughter)

    Ilise benun

    No doubt.

    Wendy Jacobson

    No doubt. But to your point, I don't think the quality of the writing really matters. I mean, obviously you want it to be grammatically correct. And again, I write for a living, so I'm kind of a stickler for that. But it can be colloquial. You can end sentences with a preposition. You can break some of those grammar rules that we break when we speak. So, it doesn't have to be like an English teacher giving you an A on it, but quality of writing is probably secondary to actually the topic and how it reads.

    Ilise benun

    And actually, I don't know if this is part of topic, but I think it is … the fact that you put a picture of your father, who's 90—you didn't say that part—and I think this old man is so darling. I think that had a lot to do with it, don't you?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah, I mean, my father's one of my favorite people in the world, so of course I think he is darling. But pictures do help, too. And the fact that my dad's 90, that all played into it, right? Like a 90-year-old still driving and he's cute, and even though older people don't like being called “cute” because it's somewhat degrading … yeah, that all plays a part. 

    There are people that go viral with really not super-valuable content, but they include a picture of themselves and it goes viral, so pictures can help.

    Ilise benun

    Yeah. All right. And number four is channel, what do you mean by “channel”?

    Wendy Jacobson

    So, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. And so, I would imagine that helped the virality of my post. You want to be where your audience is. So if I were to post the same post on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, I probably wouldn't get the same response.

    Ilise benun

    That's interesting. I wonder!

    Wendy Jacobson

    Well, I guess I could try it. But channel … You are on LinkedIn … well, at least I'm on LinkedIn for a reason: to establish relationships and network and have my content seen. And so, I spend a lot of time there, and so that it made sense for me to post that post there.

    Ilise benun

    Yeah, and I'm partial to LinkedIn, in general, for most of the people that I work with, because it is, as we know, a Rolodex, basically. It's a database of professionals who a lot of them hire creatives and freelancers to get their marketing work done. So, I do think that's a place to be.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah, definitely.

    Ilise benun

    And then your fifth and final thing to keep in mind is intent. What, was your “intent”?

    Wendy Jacobson

    My intent truly was, I had not been on LinkedIn for a couple weeks because I was on vacation and I just wanted to dip my toe back in the water and share a little story of gratitude about my drive with my dad. Truly, that was my intent. 

    And so, when I talk about intent, you got to be authentic. And if you try too hard, then chances are, you're not going to get what it is that you're going after. So, pressure off. Post what you want, but do so in a genuine and authentic way, and provide value and quality along the way, and see what happens.

    Ilise benun

    So you're saying, “You can't want it to go viral, number one. You can't be trying to create a viral post.”

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah, right. I mean, you can want it to go viral, but people can sense that when you read it. Just don't want it so badly. Everything happens in life when you least expect it, generally. Right? Good things happen when you least expect it. So don't try so hard to go viral because it just, that will just go against you, in my opinion.

    Ilise benun

    Yeah, I agree. And you want to be ready, just in case it does. And that's one of the things that we're working on to put into this next piece of content or the product that will come out of this. 

    But I just want to tell you one funny thing, because I think the kind of, let's call it desperation or neediness or ‘I really want this thing to happen’ … that kind of feeling—whether it's a post on LinkedIn or even worse, I think, a prospect who can feel that energy coming from you—it's the kiss of death. 

    And this morning I was listening to the score, the cast album from A Chorus Line—which I remember seeing in New York when I was very young—and the very first song is the one that stays with me the most: “I Hope I Get It.” Do you remember that song?

    Wendy Jacobson

    I wish I did.

    Ilise benun

    Oh my God.

    Ilise benun

    It is awesome. I may ask Dan, my sound guy, to put some of the song into this podcast at the end, because it's so appropriate for what you should not do. And I'm just thinking about it a lot today for some reason. It's forefront in my mind. 

    So, here's what I want to get to next, and maybe wrap up with this, because as I said, everything is content and we're working on turning this experience you had into something that others can learn from, basically.

    And in your freebie, you write: “I'm breaking the entire thing down in an upcoming report where I discuss the components of the post and its virality.“ So it’s like an anatomy of the post is what I envision there. 

    And, “how to manage the response,” based on what you did, and perhaps what you could have done better, and how to prepare for that. 

    And, “prioritizing messages and connection requests.” Talk a little bit about that because, if this happens, and even if something gets a lot of response and doesn't go quote-unquote “viral,” you do have to decide which messages to respond to first. How did you deal with that?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah, that was actually the biggest challenge for me, because I'm a huge advocate of … I try to … whatever post I post, and I've never had a post like this, I try to respond to all the comments. 

    So at first, I was really focused on the comments and I didn't realize that my inbox was blowing up—the message requests or connection requests and messages. 

    So I had to pivot away from the comments and look at the messages and the connection requests—and a lot of them were overlap. A lot of the messages were part of connection requests. And there were thousands of them. There are pages and pages and pages. So just wrapping my head around that was step number one. 

    And then step number two was starting with the connection requests and messages that came in first. So I had to back-page to the first messages and connection requests I got, and then determine which ones I wanted to respond to. I responded to the ones that either asked if I could help with content, and-or connection requests that had messages, whether or not that they were asking for help with content. 

    And then I tried to reply to those first. And then I learned with help from you, ilise, I wasn't necessarily replying in the most effective way for me, because I could add these people to my mailing list, which I wasn't doing at first. And then so, with the help from you, Ilise, I started to amend my message back to them with: “Hey, if you like my content, I send out an email letter every Tuesday. You can sign up for it here with a link.

    Ilise benun

    And just to clarify there, because people are sticklers about this kind of thing, it's not that I told you how to add them to your mailing list. What you did, what I suggested was, invite them to sign up for your mailing list if they like what they saw.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yes, absolutely. I did not automatically put them on my mailing list. I invited them, including a link to sign up if they wanted to.

    Ilise benun

    And did they?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Some did and some didn't, yeah.

    Ilise benun

    Right. So that's one nice way to build a list from people who are genuinely interested. Just one more question for you, which is the big ROI. How many clients have come out of that process so far, and are they good ones?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah, so the very first client I got from this was actually doing case-study writing, which was super exciting, because I love writing case studies. But so far, I've had about 27 meeting requests …

    Ilise benun

    27?

    Wendy Jacobson

    Well, 25 meeting requests, excuse me, 25 meeting requests. I took 19 meetings or 19 meetings came out of it. 12 proposals sent, and 6 new clients retained, so far.

    Ilise benun

    Wow! You must have a good proposal process, too. All those proposals. 

    (Laughter)

    Wendy Jacobson

    Well, I did take your …

    Ilise benun

    Proposal Oreo Strategy.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Yeah. Right.

    (Laughter)

    Ilise benun

    Awesome. I'm thrilled, Wendy, and I'm really excited about working on this with you and can't wait to see what else comes out of it. 

    So I just want to thank you. Oh, actually we'll do the baby step now, right? That's my new thing, this year, is if people want to move in the direction that we're talking about—I'm not necessarily saying a viral post—but, what is one good, first, baby step that people could take to move in this direction?

    Wendy Jacobson

    I would say commit to some kind of LinkedIn habit, whether it's posting twice a week, whatever it is for you, but include posting and commenting. So post twice a week, and then every day go and comment on three other people's posts. Commit to that, just to create some habit on LinkedIn and to get some traction on LinkedIn, start developing relationships and engagement, and just do that consistently and see where that takes you.

    Ilise benun

    Beautiful. All right, Wendy, tell the people where they can find you online, please.

    Wendy Jacobson

    I am at incrediblecontent.net. And then of course on LinkedIn, I think my profile's just Wendy Jacobson.

    Ilise benun

    And we will link to it in the companion blog post. And thanks again for sharing what you're learning and we will talk to you soon.

    Wendy Jacobson

    Absolutely. Thanks so much, Ilise.

    Chorus Line

    (singing: “I Hope I Get It”)

    Ilise benun

    So, lots to learn there, whether your post ends up going viral or not. And the baby step Wendy suggested is to essentially make it a habit to post and comment other people's posts on LinkedIn. And, of course, I agree with that. 

    So, did you learn a little something? I hope so because that is how this works, one baby step at a time. Before it, you'll have better clients with bigger budgets. Speaking of better clients, they're probably not going to fall in your lap. That's why I keep hawking my Simplest Marketing Plan. If you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, it is not too late to start.

    And Wendy is following the Simplest Marketing Plan, which is packed with six case studies and six lessons about how to use the three most effective marketing tools. You'll also get three different planners, plus access to the free monthly Office Hours group coaching session where you'll meet other creative pros who are practicing what I preach, and taking control over their business and their life. You can find it all in the Marketing Mentor shop at marketing-mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to ditch the feast-or-famine syndrome. See you next time.