Going viral..

Posted by : Cubik-s | On : April 16, 2013

Popularity is, to me, a baffling concept.

Ever since i was little I was never the popular kid. I was a weird combo of athlo-geek, which was created due to my love for sports and the people i liked to hang out with in school. For me, being popular was never a goal (I was too tired from practice and late night videogaming to give a fuck) during my high school/university years. It is my understanding though, through extensive research (ahem, movie watching) during my university years that people strive to be popular.

Like in real life, popularity exists on the internet as well, whether it being how many friends, followers etc you may have in the social network you have deemed suitable for you or, if you magnify things a bit and look at individual posts, how many likes/shares/RT’s/mentions/comments your posts have had the luxury of receiving.

When, however, all hell breaks loose and you’ve posted something that exuberates the kind of sheer awesomeness which cannot be contained by the likes of likes/shares/RT’s/mentions/comments etc. then you go viral.


The adjective or adverb viral and the noun virality may refer to any viral phenomenon, that is, an object or pattern that is able to induce some agents to replicate it, resulting in many copies being produced and spread around.

Believe it or not though, virality, existed before youtube, albeit in a different form. One of the first encounters i had with this form of popularity was with the campaign Budweiser ran called ”What’s up”. While in Russia (i’m cypriot btw) with the basketball team i played for in 2003, the whole team was heavily influenced from Bud’s ads and would re enact it. This was recognised numerous times by various strangers.

The viral video

Then along came YouTube, and changed the way that videos were seen by millions of users online. YouTube perfected the art of showcasing short, advert sized video clips and attracting millions of people to watch them. The most successful of these would “go viral”, being shared, emailed and discussed between people all over the globe. The YouTube videos that would most likely go viral were the quirkiest ones that either surprised us, shocked us, or moved us enough to want to discuss them with our friends and colleagues, and very soon businesses started to embrace the idea that their video could be seen by millions of people over the internet. The viral hit became something to aspire to in advertising, with the potential to sell your product to millions of people without the costly exercise of TV advertising. As a result it has become an important way for advertisers to get millions of people interested in their company.


Benefits of going viral:

– Funny and factual

Blendtech is a company with a fairly simple business model: Sell blenders so powerful and reliable that they will destroy just about anything you put in them. The company’s big success story came with the “Will it Blend?” series for its new high-powered blender. The videos are simple – a charming man with an amiable manner puts something unexpected and expensive into the blender and turns it into its constituent elements. In very brief, powerful videos, Blendtech ended up demonstrating both that destroying expensive electronics in a blender is entertaining and that its blenders were incredibly powerful. People’s immediate reactions were, in order, “He just blended an iPhone!” and “I want one of those blenders.” So a good video can get the information about your product out there in a compelling, dramatic way that can’t be argued with.

– Cheap as hell

While other companies spend large amounts in order to make a successful advertisement for their product, viral videos tend not to need large budgets. Furthermore, they need not be aired during expensive prime time television hours.

– Free Transmission

Going viral is a spiral. Once you have the video up and going, and people find it entertaining, you don’t have to devote much effort to keeping it going places.


– Specialization

Most commercials are rather generic and do not have a target audience. Their sole purpose is to dumb down humanity into bumbling incompetents unable to pack their drawers, cut their food or clean their homes without the aid of some wundergadget. The result is bland pointlessness. On the other hand, a good viral video allows you to ignore all that and focus your efforts specifically on reaching a certain audience.

– Entertainment

By putting out a good, entertaining video that goes viral it implies that your brand is itself entertaining and creative. Your audience will want to see the continuation to your “campaign”. It will share your video with friends and, as me and my team did, try to re enact the funny parts of it. You will create a following, without the following knowing it is itself following you. Most important of all though, they will want to purchase your product for the sheer reason that it is funny. This instantly gives you a competitive advantage.

Virality exists in many forms, not only as a video. One of the first viral marketing campaigns was that of hotmail. In 1996, Hotmail was a particularly unique email service that was free, could be accessed anywhere, and would allow the user to have multiple accounts. It’s campaign consisted of attaching the message “Get your free email at Hotmail” at the bottom of every email sent by a Hotmail user. Once the receiving user clicked on the word “Hotmail” they were taken to Hotmail’s homepage where the free email service was further explained. This in turn generated a lot of traffic and subsequently a lot of new users of hotmail which was later sold to Microsoft for a more than large amount.


Furthermore, Barack Obama’s presidential win had about as much to do with social media and viral marketing skills as it did with his Harvard Law degree or stance on an array of political issues. Obama got the youth to vote, a task many thought impossible. He accomplished this by strategically tapping into nearly every major social media outlet. At the time of Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, the President had 13 million people on his email list, 3 million online donors, 5 million friends on more than 15 different social networking sites including 3 million friends on Facebook, 8.5 million monthly visitors to MyBarackObama.com, nearly 2,000 official YouTube videos (with more than 80 million views and 135,000 subscribers), and more than 3 million people signed up for his text messaging program. Now, that is how you win an election.

My favourite, by far, viral marketing campaign was that of milliondollarhomepage.com. The home page consists of a million pixels arranged in a 1000 × 1000 pixel grid; the image-based links on it were sold for US$1 per pixel in 10 × 10 blocks. The purchasers of these pixel blocks provided tiny images to be displayed on them, a URL to which the images were linked, and a slogan to be displayed when hovering a cursor over the link. The aim of the website was to sell all of the pixels in the image, thus generating a million dollars of income for the creator. It’s simplicity and the feeling of “why didn’t I think of that” combined with the ridiculously low amount required to purchase a pixel made the website a hit and it has been sold out since January 2006, just 6 months after it went live, making it’s 21 year old owner and inventor a millionaire.

So what does it all mean?

Corporate America has adopted viral marketing tactics by the droves as a way to ignite and increase awareness of a product. Some companies have grown quite successful at producing content that goes viral, but they must be careful. Companies and agencies cannot flood the web with a string of would-be viral campaigns. They cannot overstay their welcome in a world constantly searching for that next “cool” thing. Viral content is interesting, provocative, limitless, original, and even groundbreaking. Companies and agencies must not presume that they can simply create this type of content, for they are not the final say in what becomes the next web sensation. You are.

By Jowbin

Pic source: workingrhythms.blogspot.com, betterbloggingways.com, darkjade68.wordpress.com