I am interested to know, what exactly goes behind the success of a post, from a strictly academic point of view of course. Measuring the “success” of a post is not that relative or abstract when there are defined indicators. For example, the number of comments, the number of tweets, or the number of “Likes” on Facebook are some indicators that define the success of the post, not to mention the content of the comments. I have a few theories, but I do not know if they work.
I would think the content resonated with most people who read it. Barring a few who did not like my post, most agreed that they identified themselves in a similar situation. I am somewhat hesitant with this theory, because in the past, I have written many posts that people identified with. None of those got as much attention as this one did. In fact, this is not even one of my better written posts. I have written much better posts in the past. I have even written about similar content, of the whole alienation experience when you live in a different country. So is it content after all?
The forum is undoubtedly a well-written, popular and a widely acclaimed blog. With thousands of readers, I am sure this post was bound to get some attention. So is it the fact that it was presented to a wider audience? I do not know.
Theory of Critical Mass
It could be possible that there is a critical mass of readers and more importantly, sharers for every post. I do not know what that critical mass is, but when it crosses that critical mass, it spreads like wildfire perhaps? When 2-3 people read something and share, chances are more that it would be a dying flame lost even before it has spread a significant number of times. However, when 200-300 people are sharing the same thing, the chances of it being lost or dying becomes significantly lower. Perhaps it is not content or platform alone, but a phenomenon of crossing that critical mass? I don’t really know.
Help me think of other factors that could lead to the success of a post. I know there are measurement biases and confounding factors involved here (for example, having or not having friends who network widely, and who spread the word). Still, there has to be something underlying, maybe singly, or maybe a combination of factors, that determine the popularity of a post. I have written travelogues with much time and effort that have done reasonably well in the past. However, on a bored Monday morning, in between listening to class lecture and introspecting about the value of taking that class, I had ended up writing a short post on why Portugal is an amazing country to visit. That post had become an instant hit, got widely circulated, showed up on travel websites of Portugal, was instantly loved by the Portuguese community, and currently stands at close to 400 “likes” on Facebook. No one really knows what worked right with that post, and when I tried emulating that formula again, things did not work. A hastily scribbled account of a country had produced an effect that carefully crafted travelogues that failed to create. In any case, given that the shelf life of a post is not much, maybe days, maybe weeks, I am currently basking in the glory of finally having written something that has gained the readership I have always dreamed of. Trust me, modesty and everything aside, it is an awesome feeling.