Ep 30: My reel went viral; here's what happened next

I’ve always said that if I ever went viral, it would be for something stupid. I’d be filmed saying something grammatically incorrect. Or trip and fall face-first into the concrete in front of Ryan Eggold (after saying something grammatically incorrect).

Apparently, manifestation is truly a thing.



I made an Instagram reel.

Within 24 hours, it had 1.2 million views. 10,000+ likes. and 6,944 shares. 

Here's what happened next. 



It started like any old Monday. Slowly and with (decaf) coffee that I firmly believe wakes me up.

Late afternoon, my best friend send me a reel she thought I’d find funny because we have an inside joke about the pronunciation of the word “croissant.”

I laughed hysterically and clicked on the account of the stand-up comedian who made it.

He only had 554 followers, which I thought was a crime because he's so funny. I screenshot his account and shared it to my stories, hoping that a member of my community of 8 would also be thrilled to discover him.

He replied to my story via DM and said thank you. His account had been hacked 2 week prior and he was starting all over. 

I thought, "How can I better share him with my community (of 8)?"

I could repost to my feed (but to repost a reel I figured I'd have to download some new app I didn't know how to work) or I could try one of those duet things. 

The duet option made more sense. It was quick and didn't require that I download a new app.

So I made a ridiculous duet of me "reacting" to Dylan's hilarious reel. 

I never thought anyone beyond my community of 8 would see it (or care). If I'd known this would happen, I would've used better lighting and put on mascara (and put my new book, a CTA, or the mere mention of what I do in the caption!)

Within an hour, the reel went a little viral.

It hit 162k views in 8 hours and was up to 1.2 million by the next morning.

I couldn’t keep up with my activity updates. 

After 30 hours later, it had 1.2 million views, 10,000 likes, and 6980 shares.

(My previous reel, posted earlier that morning) had 172 views and 12 likes. The post before that? 8 likes. And the one before that? 6.

Now, saying “it’s no big deal” is like saying “hitting the NYT bestseller list is no big deal.” (Kind of.)

But it's not a big deal for the reasons you might think. 

In this episode of Write the Damn Book Already, I break down my experience and explore why thinking that anything is a magic bullet is dangerous. It's important to explore our expectations and assumptions when it comes to going viral, hitting a (real) bestseller list, having a million followers on social media, or quickly (and non-methodically) growing an email list of 20,000.


The lessons (so far) in a nutshell

  1. Sometimes, 12 likes on a post or a reel brings an interested (and, with any luck, kind) new subscriber or invested follower, while 9,974 likes brings nothing but a number.

  2. When you put yourself out there (intentionally or otherwise), be prepared. Many of the comments on the reel were so mean that I deleted them. There will always be someone who says something illogically unkind. It’s almost never about you. My delete/block/ignore game is strong, but strangers saying horrible things to/about you sucks. And I’m 50! It hurts my heart to imagine how much this affects teenagers. 

  3. Sometimes, it's best to focus on the one new friend or connection you make that you might not have otherwise connected with instead of the expectation for how many things you'll sell or new followers/clients/admirers you'll instantly receive. In this case, I made a wonderful new connection (the creator of the original reel). He’s working on a book. (Who isn’t? And why haven’t you joined Book Writing Made Simple yet? {wink})

  4. Several people I shared the original reel with (before I made the duet) laughed out loud, which made me happy because spreading joy is one of my favorite things to do (besides making up new words).

  5. Interesting statistic: The reach outside my followers was 1.2 million. Reach TO my followers was 0.  ZERO! THE ONLY PEOPLE I INTENDED TO SHARE THIS WITH WERE MY FOLLOWERS, AND NONE OF THEM WERE SHOWN IT! I find this most perplexing. In short, I'll never understand the algorithm, which is fine since I've never had a strong desire to understand it.

  6. There has been a small uptick in activity on my IG account. The reel I posted a few hours prior (about book writing) went from 172 views to 477 and from 12 likes to 17. Yay? 

  7. If the increased 5 likes on a reel are from people who got value and will be more compelled to keep writing, FANTASTIC! If even one of the new 130 followers in’t a robot and will contribute to my community? GREAT! Otherwise, this was fun, but by no means any sort of magic bullet (those don’t exist, by the way.) 

  8. This reel, which is getting 53429% more plays than any of my last 5 reels, has nothing to do with book writing. It has nothing to do with…anything really. It feels WEIRD to be so seen for something so obscure when I work day-in and day-out to get out a message that matters to me! But hey, maybe this is the universe’s way of giving me a boost. If so, I’ll take the good, leave the not-so-good, and carry on!

  9. It must be REAL HARD to be sponsored or an influencer or otherwise rely on your views for compensation/validation. It also must truly suck some days to be well-known and have everything that comes out of your mouth be criticized or outright attacked by someone. Even the word “croissant” can be weaponized! 

  10. Both "success" and "failure" are a flash in the pan, and we can control very little of the narrative. Think back to most American Idol winners and  runners up. Where are they? Rihanna's half-time performance? All anyone was talking about was whether she was pregnant --- not her makeup line (which she was clearly promoting). No no one is talking about it anymore because she didn’t perpetuate the conversation.

  11. The onus is on the creator to sustain the momentum of anything and be able to hold it. People hit the New York Times bestseller list, and then there’s an expectation that they keep that momentum going even if they aren't sure how to do so. But it's nice to get to DECIDE whether we want to figure out how to sustain the momentum of something, not be expected to.

  12. The notion that any of us has to do anything in order to realize "success" is absurd. Some authors LOVE touring and imply that it's required if you want to be successful. You either  love the idea, or you don’t. Either is fine. Colleen Hoover doesn’t do the circuit. Neither does Liz Gilbert. You could argue that they’ve gotten to the point where they don't have to, but you could also argue that if they don’t work to stay present, they’ll be forgotten. That’s not happening.

  13. We can always find at least ONE win from every experience. Mine? Thank God I didn’t go viral for saying something grammatically incorrect.


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