It is such a satisfying feeling to see how an article of yours gets shared on social networks.
And of course it’s not only about the feelings. Popular posts bring you tons of other cool stuff: new readers, new subscribers, new customers and maybe even new fans.
But what if your “creative genius” isn’t showing up to help you write the awesome viral post that will make you rich and famous?
Well, just go steal it from someone else!
Good artists copy, great artists steal. (Pablo Picasso)
So how do you “steal” a post and get your dose of validation and benefits from it?
Pillar #1: Find the Post To Steal
Your post won’t take off unless there’s a powerful idea behind it.
But how can you know in advance if your idea will work or not?
We’re going to reverse-engineer this process: find already popular articles first and then fish out the powerful ideas behind them.
There are two ways to find what’s popular:
- Browse your competitors’ blogs;
- Browse “news aggregator” sites.
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Method #1: Browsing your competitors’ blogs
I assume you know your niche quite well and you can easily name five powerful blogs that set the trends. So how do you find which articles are popular there?
One way would be to browse all their posts one by one, look at the numbers on social buttons and put that into a spreadsheet. That would be a very tiring and time consuming method, but that’s what I used to do in the early days.
Later on I’ve discovered a handy online tool that can show you the number of tweets on the articles of a given blog. The name of the tool is Topsy and the search string you should use for this kind of results is:
Here are the results for DailyBlogTips:
This tool saved me tons of time and helped me to discover some amazing articles. But unfortunately it didn’t go beyond tweets, and Facebook “Likes” are more profitable than tweets.
I couldn’t find any tool that would give me the full picture of social shares: Twitter tweets, Facebook likes, Google +1’s and Linkedin shares.
So I eventually created this tool myself. It’s called Strip The Blog and it’s absolutely free.
See how I “stripped” DailyBlogTips:
Strip the Blog makes it easy to find out what’s currently popular on your competitor blogs, so let’s move forward.
Method #2: Browsing “News Aggregator” Sites
There are quite a few of these. Some are niche specific, like Hacker News and Inbound.Org, while others cover all sorts of things, like Digg and StumbleUpon.
My personal favourite in terms of “stealing ideas” is Reddit. They have a subreddit for almost any given niche, and lots of meaningful conversations with tons of amazing ideas to steal.
I’ve just opened a photography subreddit and instantly spotted a very cool idea for a new post:
“How to photograph nude men?” – this kind of article can be very provocative, which works amazingly well on social networks. Cha-ching!
And I know for sure, that this topic will make readers “tick”, since it’s already trending on Reddit.
Pillar #2: Idea Stealing 101
You’ve found an article with an impressive amount of social shares, what next?
What you definitely shouldn’t do is simple rewrite the article in your own words. That’s an easy way to annoy the original blogger (especially if you don’t link back to them) and to bore your readers, who may well have read the original version.
Luckily, there are a number of great ways you can “steal” an article and not annoy anyone along the way:
- Disagree with the author of the original article; have a totally opposite opinion and bring some facts to support it (like Michael Sharkey did just recently with “Lean Startup”).
- Look at the bigger picture and write a more general article about it.
- Perhaps an author is missing something, then you can publish an article and expand on his idea (or you can even expand on your own successful posts, like Glen from ViperChill did with a few of articles on “The Great Google Sh*tstorm”).
- Alternatively you could try to look at the original idea from a different angle (not necessarily the opposite one) and add some of your personal experience there.
- And of course you should read all the comments, as readers might give you some very straightforward hints about what really bothers them in this idea.
In other words, you need to add a clear personal touch to the original idea – otherwise you’re not stealing it, you’re just copying. And copying doesn’t work.
Pillar #3: Go Back To the Scene of the Crime
If you’ve mastered the art of stealing posts, you should feel comfortable letting the original author and his following know about what you’ve done. This alone can give your article enough momentum to go viral.
It’s like planting a seed into fertile ground. You already know that all these people support the idea, as they showed their passion with social shares and comments.
Drop a quick email to the author of the original article and send a few dozen tweets to people, who were sharing it on social networks. If your work is really worthy, it will take off from there.
The chances are, you won’t be the only one following the trend. See if anyone else blogged about the same topic and connect with them as well.
Go to forums and “news aggregator” sites to plant your seed. You should try to appear everywhere, where the original article did.
So that’s it! Hope the whole process makes sense to you. If not – feel free to throw rocks at me in the comment section below.