Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Next Viral Video is...Not

A short conversation on Twitter this morning:

llbarkat: @gyoung9751 thanks for the RT. Isn't that live-stream the coolest thing? Just think, you could live-stream eating your breakfast. :)

gyoung9751: @llbarkat Livestreaming my breakfast? Cheerios with sliced banana? The next viral video on YouTube!

I have a friend who works in social media for another company who is plagued by her boss. He’s generally a pretty good guy, she says, but he has one major character flaw, a flaw that affects her directly and has become like a millstone around her neck.

He wants her to create a viral video.

He wants her to produce a viral video that will put their company on the map and make the world love them.

She understands how viral videos work. She asked me what to do. Other than quit.

I had some suggestions.

Her boss could do a version of the Bud Light commercial, the one where the woman is collecting items for the clothing drive and offers a free Bud Light for every article donated.

Or her boss could dress up in a frumpy housedress, show up on Britain’s Got Talent and act slightly off, and then sing like the angels. And he could keep the dress on and go celebrate the Saints being in the Super Bowl with the rest of the crazy people in New Orleans (I’m a native New Orleanian, so I can say that.)

Or he could do a walk down the wedding aisle that looks more like a rock concert. Or learn to ride a bike. Or learn to sing opera. Or dance in the Antwerp train station. (And the Antwerp one was an ad.)

The fact is, no one who deliberately decided to make a viral video ever succeeds. There’s no explanation, no definition, not even some flimsy guidelines on how to make one. The would-be video producer is totally at the mercy of the people who see the video – they’re the ones who determine what does and doesn’t go viral. Think of social media in general -- it's not the people who produce content who are in control; it's the people who determine whether or not your content is worthwhile.

Viral videos are a combination of content, mood, humor, where the public psyche happens to be at the moment, and – most important of all – phase of the moon. Which phase, however, is unknown. And it changes, like all phases do.

My Cheerios with sliced banana has a better shot at going viral than anything anyone sets out to do deliberately.


Maureen said...

Obama Girl went viral and now she's disappointed.

S. Etole said...

amen ...

Anonymous said...

good humor, i like it.

Michelle DeRusha said...

Yes -- we were just talking about the very same thing in our promotions meeting at work today (luckily the people here understand the nature of viral).

Unknown said...

*agrees wholeheartedly*


Kathleen Overby said...

Glynn - the concentrated juice in this post is unfiltered, pulpy and truthful. It needs said over and over again. Wish it could get rabies. That's what I always think of with 'viral'.

You totally crushed my naive heart with the Antwerp train video. [wiping tears]

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why my YouTube recitation of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" never took off. I mean, I got out of the van and recited it in the snow and everything. What a fickle world.

Seriously, though, Glynn, this is a great overview of the unpredictable nature of the "groundswell," if you will (I just started that book and may not be using the terminology correctly).

Try the Cheerios thing. Maybe break out in song as you slice the banana. You never know where it could take you...

Anonymous said...

That's the paradox, right? That the ones that go viral really didn't intend or plan on it. The very nature of viral probably can't be scientifically predicted. Good luck to your friend. Good ideas there, though.

SO I'm wondering: when do you think our blogs will go viral? Oops. Bad question.

L.L. Barkat said...


I love that it began with our conversation and continued with this. And isn't that viral in its little way?

Viral probably happens organically more often than not. (Hey, are those organic bananas in your cereal? :)

L.L. Barkat said...

And I have to add...

hilarious, Ann. :)

Sarah said...

You're from New Orleans? Awesome. I was born in Lafayette.

Also, hilarious . . . actually, I think your friend should combine all of the above ideas. You know . . . just for fun.