It is in every brand’s dream that they can create something viral on the internet. But instead of creating something that people actually care about, many ended up creating content that their followers are forced to watch.
Why so? Because they don’t know enough about what drives content to go viral, said Saskia Jones, Data Strategy Director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
During her session at Social Media Week London 2018, Jones provided advice on how to start behaving like creators rather than “laggards,” and dissected how local culture becomes a global phenomenon.
Our culture has shifted
In modern days, it’s time to watch out for “neo-tribes,” according to Jones.
With the rise of the internet, culture is democratized, and we’ve gone from culture to subculture, too. Neo tribes are all about being part of many – it’s about the coming together of a group of people with the same passion – which is why we are seeing things viral on the internet, according to Jones.
She analyzed the time it took for viral content to spread from its creator to the majority of people on the internet: once a content is created on, say, Twitter, it usually takes five days to reach Reddit, 15 days to reach influencers/Instagram, and 42 days to reach BuzzFeed. Then when it finally arrives at the doors of ad agencies, it would already have been 50 days.
This is what makes us “laggards,” Jones said. But how do we avoid it?
It’s not content that’s viral. It’s the network
Jones shared this finding by sharing a quote she loves.
“At one point people thought the influx of new internet users would make the internet more like the real world. What actually happened is the real world became more like the internet. ”
She used Black Twitter and Reddit as examples to show that we’ve been analyzing viral content and looking for inspiration at the wrong places.
Black Twitter is a cultural identity consisting of Twitter users around the world that focuses on issues concerning the black community, particularly in the U.S. Feminista Jones described it as “a collective of active, primarily African-American Twitter users who have created a virtual community.”
“It [Black Twitter] has such a strong hold over America. It’s getting more global and it’s impacting how we talk. It’s not going anywhere,” Jones said, citing stats which shows that search interest in Black Twitter has increased 149 percent in the last six years.
Another example she raised was Reddit. According to Jones, Reddit’s search interest has increased 12 percent in the last year alone, and on an average day, Reddit generates more search interest than Trump.
Circling back to the viral content time span, Reddit and Black Twitter are the two that are very close to creators of viral content, where neo-tribes are fond of. That’s why Jones thinks they should be the sites to look for inspiration.
“Just remember that they [neo tribes] are unified by a passion or an emotion, and that’s what brought them together in the first place. They talk about and share everything. So I think it’s worth bearing that in mind next time we decide that it’s probably not relevant to us.”
Identify the right places to find inspiration for viral content
You might be surprised about where knowyourmeme.com, a viral content site, finds its inspiration — it’s from bodybuilder.com. According to Jones, bodybuilder.com has gathered tribes that make it a key place of indication of what the next viral meme is going to be. And the reason is simple — people frequenting that site talk about lots of different subjects, and a lot of them is about creating internet culture.
So where do we go look for inspiration? Because every brand wants different things, Jones didn’t give a specific destination but instead summed up her finding in these few rules.
First, stop obsessing over what’s gone viral. As she repeatedly emphasized and analyzed on “the network effect,” it has been the network, instead of content, that’s gone viral — we’ve been looking at the wrong place all along, and there’s no guarantee that copying a viral content and repeat will generate the result you wish for.
Second, you can’t simply understand viral content by observing just a Twitter account — instead, with all being mentioned, you will be so far down that cycle of network effect that you would’ve missed it.
Finally, hire the right people. Brands should start thinking of not only learning from but hiring the groups of people who either created or curated viral content, and who’ve spent time studying the network effect. She thinks that only until then will we create better content and pick up potentially viral content in a faster manner.
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