It’s easier to make people mad than to please them. Poke them where they’re comfortable and they’ll jump. So ask yourself, would you rather be the cushion or the stick?
To be popular, sometimes you must be unpopular. Fly the flag everyone wants to boo. I often imagine the internet is a woman I want to date. Will she go for the nice guy that carries her books and agrees with everything she says? Or does she want that bad boy who can’t be tamed?
You know the answer.
Kittens with Quills
I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan. I get the most traction when I tell people the soft fuzzy kitty cat is actually a porcupine. My most popular piece proposed the question: “Is Russell Wilson the scariest man in the NFL?”
Early in the quarterback’s rookie year, people saw him as nothing more than a cute, undersized guy they’d like to have throwing passes to their kids in the backyard . I detailed why he was leading an army against the league and he’d metaphorically leave their team bloodied in the ditch.
It got passed around a lot, fueling arguments on both sides.
Famous for Being Terrible
A strategy you should never adopt because it works too well is to be popular for being terrible. Momentarily, I’ve been jealous of other writers who get more views, shares, and comments than I do.
Then I read the comments.
Readers would rather talk about you being an idiot than a genius. When you spell one name three different ways, transpose digits in your statistics, and refuse to proofread, you’ll hear about it at the bottom of the page. With any luck, you’ll go viral from people showing their friends what some dummy wrote.
A very popular article on athletes that were born rich went big with this accidental strategy.
First of all, the writer did almost no research on the topic. Rather, he included every athlete whose parent was also an athlete and called it a day. Nothing about growing up with the best of trainers at an expensive prep school. Commenters let him have it for that one.
On top of that, the writer and editor were unaware of a WordPress glitch that would not show numbers after a dollar sign in a slideshow. So the article stated, “Joe Baseball’s father has a net worth of $0 million dollars.”
Of the many amusing comments, my favorite was simple: “I also have a net worth of zero million dollars.”
Be the Stick
Get between readers and that comfortable cushion they’re stuck to. Use your leverage and pry. They may not like you, but they’ll react. And this game is all about reactions.
On your next assignment, ask yourself what the popular assumptions are about your topic. List what the cool kids think. Then get your back into those opinions and spend some time writing content that pops them loose.
Eighty S writes about football, family, cigars, food, and whatever shiny objects catch his eye. He likes blatant pen-names.