Viral Content in a Social Media World

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and the catchy, yet somewhat annoying, “What Does the Fox Say?” were both internet sensations in little to no time of emerging into the social networking world. Dave Itzkoff explains in his New York Times article, “The Fox Says, ‘I Can Make You Famous‘”, that the song rose to No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart during the week of October 11th, 2013.

In both situations, the video crazes took off like wildfire and immediately sparked parody versions and rapid social conversation. Who could forget the USA Swim Team or President Barack Obama singing along to “Call Me Maybe”?

Twitter played a very large role in the social immersion and presence of both songs. Justin Bieber heard Jepsen’s song on a Canadian radio station and tweeted about it saying, “Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol“.

The Twitter-verse

Twitter, a social media staple in today’s world, seems to contribute in large when internet content goes viral. While each of the popular social media outlets have their specific niche, Twitter seems to attract users because of its short, instant updates. Authors Jenna Wortham and Vindu Goel of “Swarm of Rivals Seeking Share of Social Media Pie” wrote, “since its founding in 2006… Twitter has essentially stuck to its main vision of letting people share text messages no longer than 140 characters.”

Another popular characteristic of Twitter is the list of trending topics on the lefthand side of one’s browser. The usage of hashtags allows users from all over the world to discuss a common topic. While Twitter has used this feature for a while now, Facebook and other social media sites are starting to catch on. Author Josh Constine discusses Facebook’s transition is his article “Facebook Launches Trending Topics On Web With Descriptions Of Why Each Is Popular“. Trending topics allow not only for engagement among users but they also allow for a sense of “here and now”, letting someone feel connected to the “right now” happenings all over the world.

What makes a post go viral?

For some viral topics, popularity is simply happenstance. I’m not sure the Ylvisaker brothers ever thought their tune about animal sounds would be on top of the singles chart, but it happened. While a post’s timing is an important factor, I believe the content of the post is the most important element in gauging internet and social media popularity. As referenced in Scott Stratten’s book, Unmarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging, the content of a post – it’s authenticity, creativity and quality – is what attracts a viewer and, in turn, what makes content into potentially viral material.

Readers, what is your favorite recent viral topic? What do you think a topic needs to have in order to go viral?


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