Episode 81: Going Viral Sucks

You’re listening to The Work Of Becoming podcast! My name is Dr. Karin Nordin. I am your host as well as a behavior change expert and self-proclaimed tornado girl. I spent years of my life struggling to change before I finally got my PhD and learned the psychological tools that I needed to actually make those changes happen. Now, I’m bringing you five-minute sneak peeks of how I’m applying the real science of self-help to my life. Let’s get started!

Good morning, everybody! Welcome to today’s Work Of Becoming podcast where we are gonna talk about going viral and my opinion, which is honestly that it sucks and I hate it. [Laughs]

So, to give you some context, it is Tuesday, April 18th when I am recording this, at least, and I recently went viral on Instagram with a reel that I had about my grandma. This particular situation was interesting because, first of all, this is the most viral I’ve ever gone on Instagram. I had gone viral one other time and grown. Last year when I went viral I grew from 5,000 to 13,000 followers. So, that was a nutso experience. But this time I just had one particular reel (this grandma reel) go viral, and it currently has over 800,000 views on this reel, 13,000 likes, definitely not as many follows as last year when it happened, but viral, regardless.

I’m laying here in my bed literally in my pajamas recording this batch of podcast episodes, and I wanted to talk about that because I think as entrepreneurs or as coaches early on in our businesses, or at least for me — when I was early on in my business, going viral was the dream. It was like the thing I wanted. Every single time I put a reel together that was awesome, I’m like, “Ooh, maybe this will go viral!” If you’re out there, you might be thinking that too, but in my experience, because it’s happened twice now, going viral is absolutely not what you want, and there are a couple reasons why.

Number one, going viral is the most emotionally-draining experience that has ever happened in my entire life because every single time you log onto Instagram you are either gonna get a huge reward or you’re gonna get a huge emotional shock. What I mean by that is when you go viral, you essentially get blasted to a bunch of amazing people on the internet and a bunch of people that are going to hate on you for no reason whatsoever.

So, in the past two days I’ve had people make snarky comments about my personality. I’ve had people tell me I’m ugly. I’ve had people ask if I brushed my teeth in a very nasty way. I’ve had people who are like, “I can’t believe that you would say this. This is so ridiculous.” I’ve had people who are accusing me of trying to monetize the situation with my grandma. Nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty.

From a behavior change perspective, we know that if you put a rat in the cage and you randomly shock that rat, that rat’s psychological state is going to decline very quickly, and that is the equivalent of what is happening when you go viral and you’re getting nasty comments. Every single time you refresh your notifications, you’re potentially gonna get shocked with someone saying something nasty about you.

Nobody told me about that. Nobody talked to me about that. When people talk about growth on Instagram, they do not talk about that fact, and they do not talk about the fact that you have to grow your ability to manage your relationship with Instagram before you would even want your Instagram to grow and be in front of more people because that type of situation is happening. So, that’s reason number one.

Reason number two is that virality, for me at least, has inflated my sense of audience but has not always converted to actual paying clients and followers. I’ve talked to several other people in the industry who are my friends who have had experiences going viral because I’m like is this my business? Like, is there something wrong with my model where when people find me through going viral they don’t convert, and the answer is no. When people find me through my regular posts that get shared, do a little bit well but don’t go completely viral, they do convert. They buy our Meaningful Mornings course, they get on my email list, etcetera, etcetera. But when I go viral, I get tons of new followers, and they don’t do anything. They sit there in my audience. They don’t engage, oftentimes. Like, sure, you’re gonna get a small amount of them that become your superfans and all of that. But my question to myself is always, “Is the stress and the chaos and the emotional regulation required of me when I go viral worth those ten clients when I could get those ten clients in other ways?” No. No, it’s not.

And so, I’m gonna wrap up here, but that is what I wanted to remind you today, if you are a coach or entrepreneur, is that you don’t need to go viral in order to have a successful business, and if you do go viral, eventually, just be prepared for that to be one of the most emotionally, gut-wrenching, difficult experiences of your life because every single time it has happened to me, oof, it has been a trip. That is what I’ve got for you today.

By the way, I will say, if you enjoy sort of business riffs like this, if you enjoy hearing me talk about my business, make sure you are on my Fly on the Wall email list because I give that email list real-time, diary-style updates on what’s going on in my life. So, if something’s really working in business, I tell them about that. If we’re trying a different approach, I will give them a real-time sneak peek. So, it’s a great place to be and it really gives you a transparent look on what it’s like to scale a business to a million-dollar business. That’s all I’ve got for you today!

PS: if you are on a journey to become a better you, and you want to learn the tools and techniques that will actually help change your life, make sure you check out my Change Academy Membership. Each month, we do a 1.5-hour workshop on a different psychological topic, but we also provide resources like journal prompts, worksheets, and trackers. We host community events and more. If you’re struggling to close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it, this membership was built for you. Go to www.karinn4.sg-host.com/change-academy to learn more!


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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.


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