The viral boom

‘Hadoukening’, ‘Vadering’ and perhaps most bizarrely, ‘Quidditching’ are three new internet fads that have Japanese school kids jumping for joy. No really, they are –
All you need are some athletic participants, a trigger happy cameraman and some slick editing and you’ve got yourself a hilarious still-scene to be shared around the world.
With the recent spate of teenage creations taking over the web, people must be wondering, what makes a piece of media go viral?
Viral videos were a technological constant even before YouTube and other sharing sites existed. 1996 saw Ron Lussier’s 3D character animation ‘Dancing Baby’, become a hit when it was shared via email around the animator’s workplace. Since the 90s however, the internet has developed and the audience for the term ‘viral’ has expanded from your colleagues at the water-cooler to the whole world.
For any video to go viral, it needs a ‘hook’; a simple enough concept but tricky to achieve. The hook draws in an audience which boosts views dramatically, or so you hope. If it’s good enough this can happen overnight. But, before anyone gets their hopes up, sadly for all you budding YouTube video bloggers, without a celebrity link or huge following this can be near impossible.
Research has shown that shorter videos gain higher YouTube views and comments and when the entire world is at your fingertips you’re attention span is a hard thing to focus.
The ‘Harlem Shake’, a now tired and unwanted video went viral in early February 2013. Thirteen days after the original video was posted, 40,000 replica videos were made and the viewing for all ‘Harlem Shake’ videos reached over 175 million. So, what’s so great about a video of people dancing to a trancelike beat? Lasting only thirty-seconds and the hook of the breakout scene, gave this video what all bored YouTube browsers crave – short and entertaining videos they can easily imitate.
MEMEs are the best example of an internet trend that succeeds, because they’re easily replicated. They can be hilarious, political, crude and sometimes just plain terrible. But, a perfect snapshot of what entertains a culture. The MEMEs single photo is easily recognised but the text to accompany the photo and create the meaning is always transferable. This ease of input brings with it more shares and this makes it go viral.
Something simple, snappy and easy to digest already has the quality to storm across social media sites but if it’s not easy to replicate, it will never make it to the top.
While you can chuck a celebrity onto your trend to boost your internet rep, the best things that go viral are unofficial random bursts of simple, ingenious creativity that anyone can copy. But beware, once a new craze comes along your viral days are over. It’s a short-lived flight at the top.

At Macmillan we made our own ‘Harlem Shake’ and admittedly it’s a lot of fun to make –


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