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Viral business writing: 23 ways to to succeed

September 24, 2014

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Bloggers Emma Johnson, Cameron Huddleston, Morgan Quinn, Paula Pant and Jennifer Barrett (not pictured) offered advice about how to make online posts go viral. FinCon, a financial blogging conference, was held in New Orleans Sept. 17 - 20, 2014. Photo: by Carlie Kollath Wells, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Want to get more eyeballs to your stories? Writers and editors on a panel at FinCon 2014 say there are tried and true methods that give your pieces a better chance of going viral.

The advice was offered up Friday (Sept. 19) at FinCon in New Orleans. FinCon is a national financial blogger conference that drew about 600 attendees. The panelists:

  • Jennifer Barrett, personal finance/consumer news editor at CNBC Digital
  • Cameron Huddleston, contributing editor at Kiplinger
  • Emma Johnson, former AP business reporter and now founder of WealthySingleMommy.com
  • Paula Pant, founder of Afford Anything
  • Morgan Quinn, Business.com

Their advice for viral business writing:


  • Use strong keywords and adjectives in your headlines and social media promotions. Example: million, wealthy, rich, save money.
  • Put a number in your headline. People want to know what they are getting into. “10 cheapest U.S. cities to live in” is better than “cheapest U.S. cities to live in.”
  • Negatives do better than positives in headlines. “Worst” lists do better than “best” lists.
  • Use popular search terms. Start typing your headline in Google and see what autofills. See if your terminology matches up with what people are search for. Example: “5 sites that let you earn cash back” was changed to “5 cashback websites for online shoppers” and it performed better.
  • Provide details and specifics in your headline. Example: “How to save $1,000 in the next 6 months” is better than “how to save money in the next 6 months.”
  • What’s the most compelling statement in your story? Make that the headline.


  • Understand your core audience and issues they are concerned about. Write about what they are talking about. Example: “Women say ‘they’re sorry’ too much.” Reaffirm thoughts they already have or question something they do every day.
  • Check your stats and see what works for you.
  • Focus on your content and don’t chase after trends. If your site is about money, parenting and dating, all your stories need to fall into one of those categories. That strategy helps you have an engaged audience that’s more willing to share your content.
  • Find your niche, write about it and stick with it. Establish yourself as an expert.
  • Follow the topics of the day. If you can write a story with an angle that fits your niche, do it and publish quickly. Time is important when it comes to search engines sharing your trending stories.
  • Keep a media calendar with holidays and find ways to pull those stories into your brand/niche. Share them within 24 to 48 hours of a holiday.
  • Optimize actionable advice pieces. Those are easy to share and have a better chance of going viral. Example: “10 ways to avoid airline fees.”
  • Tell stories and make them relatable. Some business topics can be dull. Find real people and tell the stories through them.
  • Aim for pieces that provoke primal emotional reactions, such as surprise, anger and awe.


  • Use inspirational quotes when you share on social. It provokes a strong reaction that compels readers to share or comment.
  • Tease your stories on social and don’t give everything away. However, make sure your story is what you tease. Don’t be a clickbaiter.
  • Give readers a call to action and make it very easy to share. Add a “click to tweet” button on an interesting quote or data point. People want to look smart. Make it easy for them.
  • Optimize stories that would do well on social networks. “10 mistakes investors make” does well with views but isn’t burning up Facebook. “Why don’t we have family leave?” is shareable.
  • When you write about people or brands, tweet at them with a link and tell them. Often, they’ll retweet you and share it with their networks.
  • Check your stats and see who is sharing your stories socially. Identify influencers who are sharing with a large network and develop relationships with them.
  • Use different images for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Tailor your social media promo for each one.
  • Art suggestion for social – take an inspiring quote or a data point and use photo-editing tools like PicMonkey to apply text over a stock image.

And if you don’t yet believe that finance bloggers have a lot of fun doing all this, take a look at this crowd-sourced video.

Carlie Kollath Wells is a New Orleans-based reporter. Contact her at carliekollath@gmail.com.


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