Going Viral

“Viral” has taken on a new meaning in the wake of the internet. What was once considered an illness is now a desired social media instance.  As Merriam Webster states, viral is to”quickly and widely spread or popularize especially by person-to-person electronic communication”.  We see viral content on all sources of social media from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube. Once of the most famous, and arguably one of the first, viral videos on YouTube was “Shoes”.

The viral video has accumulated more than 60 million views, 300,000 likes on YouTube, and countless shares on other social media platforms. But what made shoes so popular? It’s obvious that the content is hilarious and entertaining.  However, so are so many other non-viral videos.  According to Duct Tape Marketing, it’s largely about creativity and timing. Liam Kyle Sullivan, the maker of “Shoes” was successful perhaps was successful because the video was posted during such an early time of YouTube.  However, as Duct Tape Marketing says, viral content often goes viral when the creator isn’t trying too hard.  Sullivan, who has since retired from the viral video life, never intended to have such popular content but was successful none-the-less.

Though Sullivan is not a mainstream star, he is known in the YouTube world.  But that isn’t to say a viral video has not had it’s hand at bringing others to full on fame. In 2008 Justin Bieber was a 13 year old kid playing music, trying to make his dreams of becoming a musician come true. With the help of his YouTube video song cover of Chris Brown’s “with you”, he quickly shot from obscurity into the hearts of thousands of tween girls. Grow Digitally states that Justin Bieber’s YouTube viewership is now more than 2.3 billion, with nearly 52 million views just on that one video.

Beiber is a perfect example of the power of sharing and trending content. His voice captivated one viewer at a time resulting in multiple shares that ultimately led his content into the hands of record producers.

Aside from YouTube, Twitter is a major platform that thrives on viral content.  Twitter specifically has features that assist in showing trending topics and even bring virally shared content to the top of your twitter feed. Traffic Cafe mentions that in order to have a successful viral tweet, photos or graphics help.  So much more information and emotion can be conveyed in a photo and due to the 140 character limit, Twitter is the perfect place to practice brevity.

Harry styles tweet.pngAnother trait of a viral tweet is relevance to pop culture.  If the content is already a trending topic, there is a higher likelihood that the tweet will
tape into this popularity according to Duct Tape Marketing. Harry Styles of  One Direction tapped into this when he tweeted “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22” on his 22nd birthday.  The tweet received just shy of a million likes and 700,000 retweets. The tweeted phrase was already largely famous from the recent release of Taylor Swift’s song “22” and was likely trending on Twitter. Couple this pop culture reference, the trending topic and Harry Styles’ own fame and you have a recipe for a major viral tweet.

As social media overtakes a great portion of the marketing world, more companies are attempting to achieve viral status. Pedigree Dog Food was successful in it’s endevors with it’s tweeted promotion to

So what is the best recipe for viral content? Kissmetrics Blog breaks it down that in order for a viewer to feel compelled to share it must tap into the following:

  • Positive content, which typically has better potential for viral spread, makes the person laugh
  • A post must evoke a high level of emotion (positive or negative) in order to be shared. Angered or very happy responses compel the viewer to share.
  • People share content when they feel that their share could potentially help other (think charities or videos regarding an ill person)

A great example of this is the video posted by The Daily Mail that shows a young man thanking a police officer for saving his life as a child.  The video has received 23 million views on Facebook and was only posted on September 25, 2016. It’s clear the video evokes emotion into the viewer.  The moment is heartwarming and compels so many others to share their sentiments in the comments and to share the video to inspire someone else’s day.

Whether it’s a tweet, a Facebook post, or a YouTube video,  content has the potential to spread quickly with the capability of social media.  The original poster does not necessarily need to be famous and the content does not need to be perfectly orchestrated.  What is important is that it taps into some emotion, whether happy or angry, to give a viewer reason to begin to spread the content.  Once the content begins to trend, it’s viral capability knows no bounds. 


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