Monday, March 1, 2010

What Makes Things Go Viral On the Internet?

(This viral video currently has 890 tweets on Twitter according to

Speaking of things going viral online, the first thing that came to my mind is, an experimental project by social media trend-capturing star As defined by themselves, Bitly TV "showcases the most viral videos shared on". Besides showing videos, Bitly TV also displays dynamic, real-time buzz and conversations of the video on Twitter. With all these conversations being captured and documented, it would be very interesting if there was research done on Bitly TV's top 100 viral videos and the reasons people were talking about them. Some common qualities of these viral videos may be revealed through this research. These common qualities of viral videos may make it possible to create a formula for producing successful viral videos and messages. Just as the Heath Brothers wrote in their book, Made to Stick, there are certain qualities that make messages "sticky" and stay in people's heads. Would the most commonly shared qualities of these viral videos and messages be humor, embarrassment, surprise, controversy or heart-touching emotion?

In Wikipedia's explanation of "Viral Marketing", viral messages usually rely on "pre-existing social networks" to spread, and "high Social Networking Potential individuals" are the most powerful force in helping spread messages. In that case, if viral marketing was designed to specifically cater to these two criteria, would it more likely for that piece of content to go viral?

Another question I have about viral marketing is that after a company successfully creates some viral buzz on the internet, how does the company turn that one-hit wonder into something that can sustain the brand? I still remember last spring the hot buzz stirred by Burger King's "Sacrifice your Friends" for a free Whopper program on Facebook. At that time, it was widely talked about, and I still remember it today. However, I did not see how that would have a specific effect on my purchasing behavior towards Burger King.

With so many questions about viral marketing in my head, I am very looking forward to hearing Social Media Whiz Matt Singley from M80 share his thoughts on this topic with us in tonight's class!

1 comment:

  1. Couple resources to consider/explore:
    * Anything by this guy:
    * The book "And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture" by Bill Wasik