7 Things I Learned From Going Viral

Tebow Phil419

Who knows what Tim Tebow will be able to do with the Eagles, but he will always win Twitter. Thanks to him and a hastily done Photoshop, I trended on Twitter last night.

Here’s how it happened.

When I saw the Tebow news, I knew social media would have a lot of fun with this. So I tweeted what I thought would be my only joke of the night.

Some friends retweeted it and we laughed about it, but nothing much came of it. Then, one tweet gave me an idea. After Googling didn’t show up where Tebow had the eyeblack I wanted, I went ahead and photoshopped it.

I hoped it would get the same type of reaction—some laughs with friends. But that was not going to be the case. It went viral and (as of me writing this) it’s still gathering retweets and favorites.

Having become temporarily “Twitter famous” (which is one step below Internet famous and still another step below reality TV show famous), here are 7 things I learned from going viral.

1. Watermark your work: Once my photoshop started picking up steam, people began to download it and share it themselves with no attribution. With no markings on the original I posted, there was no way to tell it came from me.

Normally, if I do a photoshop that I think might catch on, I will add my Twitter handle because I’ve had people take credit for my work before. But I didn’t last night and I should have.

So always add something to make it clear you did it, which also helps make it obvious it’s a photoshop.

2. Don’t chase down thieves: Regardless of what you do on social media, people will take your work for themselves. Some may do it intentionally, others may not know, but it’s not worth the trouble of trying to track down everyone who tweeted it as their own.

I’m thankful for some friends who were calling out some who took it, but there would be too many for me to do that myself. And I probably would have only came across as petty if I did.

Obviously, if people are stealing something for which you get paid or something significant, that’s one thing. But for me and a simple photoshop that was already getting more retweets than I could keep up with, there’s no real benefit to shaming social media thieves.

3. Put down your phone: The retweets, mentions and favorites were coming so fast, Twitter was crashing on my phone. While I responded to numerous people, mainly to those who were wondering about it being real, there were several times I just turned my phone off and did something else.

Part of that is to save my phone, the other part is to save me. I don’t need to bask in the glow of the Twitter feed, I have a wife and kids to love and spend time with.

In case this ever happens to you, if you have notifications turned on with your phone, make sure they are set to only do push notifications for someone you already follow. You don’t want your phone vibrating and dinging every time a random person retweets or mentions you.

4. Capitalize if you can: This is not something I was really able to do, I suppose this blog post is my only real attempt. But if you can, capitalize on your momentary fame.

Point people to your business, blog or cause you believe in. It’s probably the only chance you’ll have with the vast majority of people with whom you are interacting.

But just to let you know, going viral does not pay well. My bank account still has the same number in it this morning as it did last night. I’m going to my job (which I love) today, not diving in a money bin of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

5. Expect hate: I know this will come as a shock to you, but there are people on the internet who are offended about many things and want to share their angry opinion with you about it.

The vast majority of people who shared my photoshop got the joke (though I don’t believe most understood the subtle critique of the Christian celebrity culture). But some thought I was attempting to spread a fake photo, even though I was clear about it being photoshopped from the beginning.

One even questioned my salvation, saying they did not understand how I could call myself a Christian after making the photoshop ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

It happens. Don’t let something like that bother you.

6. Have fun: Seriously, just enjoy the ride. It will be over soon.

By tomorrow, some people may remember me as “that guy who did that Tim Tebow photoshop” on Twitter. By next week, no one will even give it a second thought.

I’ve had some laughs with friends over this whole thing and that has been the best part. If you ever catch lightning in a bottle and find yourself or your work going viral, just have as much fun with it as you can.

7. Keep perspective: Nothing has changed today after last night. I added a few more followers on Twitter and I’ll probably get a Klout bump. Like I said, nothing has changed.

My wife would rather I take out the trash than get 5,000 retweets. My kids don’t listen to me any more because I trended on Twitter. My relationship with Christ is not dependent on my Klout score.

While my Twitter notifications were a blur last night, life goes even faster. Choose to concentrate your time on things of value—things that last in this life and things that last beyond it—instead of obsessing over internet fame.


If you really enjoyed the Tebow photoshop, I’ve written plenty on him. As I’m an evangelical sports fan, it’s almost required.

Tim Tebow humor posts:

Serious takes on Tebow and his faith:

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About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.