I never expected a little, quirky article would go viral. When my article “This Woman’s Unusual Skill Helped Her Pay Off $30,000 in Student Loans” was picked up by a major personal finance site, I was thrilled, but I expected it to a small, niche article that would be read by a few hundred people and forgotten. It was a piece on how I had used my skills braiding horses to make money through a side job – a very small, limited niche piece.

Good writing is a mane requirement. Photo courtesy of Daisyree Baker.

When I checked on it an hour after it had been posted, it had been read by about 30 people. Disappointed, I signed off and forced myself to accept it was a dud. But then I got an email from a reader. Then another. Within in a few hours, I received hundreds of emails and the post was shared over 3,000 times. It had sparked huge discussions on Facebook and I had requests from other publications to follow-up. It eventually ended up landing me gigs with other finance sites that doubled my freelance income.

This was a huge milestone for my writing career and was a learning experience for what content resonates with others. It connected with people because of several factors:

It Was Unique: Personal finance sites are saturated with content that is rehashed and duplicated time and time again. Finding fresh content is difficult and articles are often very similar from site to site. This article was about an odd skill that most people wouldn’t be able to do, but it was new and different than anything else they had read before. While they couldn’t all become horse braiders, it was a fun and inspiring piece on how to use specialized skills to make money.
It Was Authentic: While a lot of content is very impersonal and vague, this piece stood out because it was a real story based on my experience, the good and the bad. Rather than a rose-colored view of a side gig, it talked about the drawbacks in very real terms.
Visuals: Rather than stock photography, I used photos of real work I had done alongside the article. Visuals are extremely important, but stock photos can often depersonalize the piece and make it more commercial. Photos that are individualized add a sense of reality and intimacy to the piece.
I Was Reachable: When the post went live, I made myself available for people to reach out to me, either through Facebook comments or email. By responding to questions and comments, it emphasized that there was a real person behind the story, making people feel more connected. It also gave them a sneak peek into launching a side business.

viral photo
So happy to see my article go viral! Photo courtesy of Tina Franklin.

While I was pleasantly surprised by the article’s success, it was a great chance to see how content resonates with audiences. I’ve been able to apply this experience to other content, improving my work and building a larger client base. By applying these factors, you too can enhance your articles to better connect with customers.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to enhance your work, check out our success stories.