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Virality Is A Drug That Distracts You From A More Fulfilling Goal

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The desire for a feeling of importance is one of the chief distinguishing differences between mankind and the animals. — Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends And Influence People

I gained 100,000 TikTok followers every month for 5 months straight and I’m here to tell you: virality is a trap.

I downloaded TikTok in July of 2019.

A few days in, I posted a video for my 13 followers.

25 days later, that video had 1.2 million views and 153K likes.

A month later, I had seventeen thousand, six hundred people hit “follow.”

That was the beginning of the end.

I. was. hooked.

At the beginning of my content creation journey, I participated in trends.

If there was a popular sound, concept, or topic, I made a video.

I watched what went viral and recreated a version for myself.

I did this for about a year.

I noticed other creators going viral for creating comedy sketches and wanted to try my hand at it. I had no idea what to post until I came across a trend: walk into frame in regular clothes, sit down on the beat, and transition clothes to a retro style. The videos in this trend were blowing up and I used the concept as leverage for my sketch. I followed the trend up until a certain point to hook the viewers but failed to change clothes so my two characters had something to argue about.

I posted this video in August of 2020.

It reached 2 million views and 548K likes.

20 days later, I reached 100,000 followers.

I was onto something.

In October, I posted a sketch with 10 different characters who discuss the creation of Earth. Within 3 hours, it had 238,000 likes. My notifications could barely keep up.

It is my best performing video to date at 8.6 million views, 2.2 million likes, 32,000 shares, and 8,057 comments.

5 days after posting, I reached 200,000 followers.

I felt like I cracked the code.

People loved the video so much, I decided to post a sequel, and another, and another.

By December, I reached half a million followers.

By January, 600K followers.

During these 5 months of insane growth, my family members were the only ones who knew what I was going through.

They could see it with their own eyes:

Virality hijacked my brain.


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Virality Is A Drug

Most businesses are operated according to what the owner wants as opposed to what the business needs. — Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

I thought about going viral for hours every day.

Posting and checking comments was all I wanted to do.

When a video’s engagement slowed down, I wrote the next one.

Going viral activates dopamine pathways in your brain.

Dopamine is a feel good neurotransmitter.

It gets released when you anticipate or receive rewards.

It motivates you to perform the same activities that brought you good feelings.

Can you see how activities that release dopamine can quickly become addictive?

And what better reward than hundreds of thousands of people affirming not only your existence, but your excellence?

I didn’t notice my virality craving until I posted the 3rd video in my Earth series.

It didn’t hit TikTok’s For You Page with the same intensity as the first two.

Instead of millions of views, it got a couple hundred thousand.

One of the craziest confessions I can make?

I was disappointed at the time.

I didn’t get my hit.

Every time I went to post after that, I second guessed myself. I'd seek validation from my family before posting.

“Is this good?”

“Will the algorithm pick it up?”

“Will people still think I’m funny?”

“What if it doesn’t perform as well?”

If I posted a comedy sketch unrelated to the Earth series, it would get tons of engagement…but not enough. I became a slave to what the algorithm would push out and what the audience would engage with most. I was so consumed with growth that I put myself in a box that I never felt I could break free from.

I prioritized short-term “success” over long-term sustainability, creativity, and personal fulfillment.

Now, I’m building everything from scratch, all over again.

Please don’t make the same mistake I did.

It’ll save your brain some trouble.

It’ll save you some time.


If Virality Isn’t The Goal, Then What Is?

This graphic represents the differences between creating content to go viral and creating content to have a long term impact. Virality is a drug that offers highs and lows. Sustainable creation offers slow growth and fulfillment.

When you live through the ego, you always reduce the present moment to a means to an end. You live for the future, and when you achieve your goals, they don't satisfy you, at least not for long. When you give more attention to the doing than to the future result that you want to achieve through it, you break the old egoic conditioning. Your doing then becomes not only a great deal more effective, but infinitely more fulfilling and joyful. — Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

If your content creation journey is about the numerical end result, you will suffer as I did.

Likes will matter. Followers will matter. What people say will matter.

View count (and how to get more) will consume you.

You will chase a high and validation.

You will get stuck in a cycle.

Nothing will satisfy you.

When you realize virality is a drug that distracts you from a more fulfilling goal, it loses its appeal.

You get to shift your focus to building a loyal community and improving your craft.

You get to make the content you want, not what the algorithm wants.

You get to thrive.

You achieve sustainable growth and fulfillment by focusing on:

  • developing a unique style

  • investing in digital real estate

  • understanding human nature to create impactful content

Allow me to unpack:

Develop Your Own Style

The most successful creators are the ones who stand out.

They have a unique style, point of view, and create what they want.

When you go to their page, who they are, what they do, and how they think is clear.

To figure out your unique style, you need to:

  1. define your content pillars

  2. intelligently imitate successful creators

  3. close the gap between your creativity and skill

1. Content Pillars

As a creator, you need to stand out. Otherwise, no one will consume what you’re creating.

The good news is: it’s easy to stand out. Your specific interests combined with your personal experiences are all you need. You are the niche.

What are you interested in?

What can’t you shut up about?

What fires you up during a conversation?

What do you learn about in your free time?

What do you care about that no one else seems to notice?

Answer these questions and come up with multiple interests. Your content should be a combination of them. Bonus points if they fit into the evergreen markets (health, wealth, relationships, and happiness).

Then, answer why you’re interested in them. What makes them special to you?

Finally, list the benefits of each. What would make an audience care about them?

2. Intelligent Imitation

More often than not, it took time for your favorite creators to become clear on how they deliver their message.

They posted. It didn’t get traction.

They copied their favorite creator. It didn’t feel quite right.

They tried a combination of the two. Bam — something worked.

What successful creators do you look up to?

Who would you be thrilled to be associated with?

Study them. Imitate what they’re doing. Ask yourself if it feels right for you. Pivot if it doesn’t.

If you want a deeper dive into Intelligent Imitation, read How To Copy Your Way To Success (Instead Of Mediocrity) by Dan Koe. (You’ll notice we write in a similar style…cough cough…because I’m intelligently imitating him. Thanks Dan!)

3. Close The Gap

As a creative person, your biggest strength is your taste.

Your biggest weakness? Also your taste.

When you start out, your creation doesn't match up to your perceived potential. You know you want it to be better, but you don’t have the skills to make it better.

Solution: embrace making bad content as a necessary step towards improvement.

When you publish, be brutally honest with yourself:

  • What did I do well?

  • What can I do better?

  • Did I post this for myself or others?

  • What would my favorite creator say?

  • Did this serve the intended audience?

  • Where can I improve (story, filming, lighting, editing) with little investment (tutorials, free guides, coaching)?

Your greatest danger here is your ego and how it makes you unconsciously maintain illusions about yourself. These may be comforting in the moment, but in the long run they make you defensive and unable to learn or progress. ― Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature

The only way to close the gap between your taste and your skill is to practice and self assess.

If you don't know what areas to improve, email me.

I'll help you with a social media audit.


Invest In Digital Real Estate

Why do people invest?

They want to make their money work for them.

There’s a reason people invest in real estate: properties usually go up in value over time.

When you create content, you invest in digital real estate. Even if your post has low engagement today, your content goes up in value as it accumulates.

Who do you trust more:

  • the person whose been posting about the same topics for years, who can explain the ins and outs, who has tons of unique perspectives posted online?

  • or the person who occasionally posts and only leaves up the posts that do well?

By creating a page full of content, you make yourself and your brand binge-able.

When someone finds you, they have a whole word to enter into.

This establishes more trust and connection.

This leads to easy sales.

Keep posting.

You’ll get ahead of the people who mistake virality as the ultimate marker of success.


Understand Human Nature To Make Better Content

To create impactful content, study human nature. Then, apply the lessons to your target audience.

How do they think?

What do they need?

What do they desire?

How are they influenced?

What do they want to feel?

How do they make decisions?

If you don't know the answers, change "they" to "I." If you don’t understand others, understand yourself. The more you do, the easier it is to see why your content is working or not.

This lets you focus on:

  • creating the best content for yourself and others (because you know what they want)

  • providing true value to the viewer (because you know how they’ll feel when they get it)

  • promoting your content to the people who want it (because you know how to catch attention)

When you understand how people operate, you know how to craft a message that resonates.


Sustainable Creation Will Get You Further

How does one come to the point in his or her life when he or she is not only ready but eager and willing — however terrifying the prospect might be — to self-execute such a leap of faith without any guarantees that it will do any good? — Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

Creating content is scary.

You put yourself out there for others to see.

They may judge you. They may laugh. They might not get it.

There is no guarantee that this will work out for you in the way you want it to.

You owe it to yourself to try anyway.

Don’t chase virality.

Chase purpose.

Don’t chase trends.

Chase originality.

Don’t chase fame.

Chase legacy.

Focus on building an engaged community.

Focus on becoming a trusted authority.

Focus on delivering value to others.

Focus on long-term impact.

These things bring fulfillment.

The other stuff? Fluff.


If you need help shifting your focus from virality to:

  • building a sustainable and thriving content ecosystem

  • cultivating a loyal community

  • defining your content pillars

  • or refining your style

you can learn more about my services here.


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I write about the connection between personal growth, online business, and psychology to offer you tangible steps for your own transformation.

I'm emma

Actor, Writer, & Content Creator

Small changes,

big impact:

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