Going Viral: Moving beyond the “One Hit” Wonder

What does a dog who loves bacon, a mom with a Chewbacca mask, and a frog with a dark side all have in common? Over 10 million views or shares across various social media platforms. And all of them became viral.

 

But what is viral? Viral videos has become a buzz word that can be subjective depending on the viewer. Does the amount of views make a video viral? Does how quickly the video spreads matter? Or does the amount of time for popularity matter? It’s important to see why certain videos hit that “viral” status and what we can do to make our own posts go viral.

According to Josh Elman, viral videos aren’t just a small selection of videos that magically go viral. There are methods that can put your videos or products on the right track to that viral status.

“Many successful companies have done distinct things to help make their products go viral, all in completely different ways,” Elman said. “So I thought it would be helpful to try to classify the disparate approaches.”

Elman emphasizes the five different types of “virality” that exist:

  1. Word-of-mouth virality
  2. Incentivized word-of-mouth virality
  3. Demonstration virality
  4. Infectious virality
  5. Outbreak virality

The first four types really focus on products and the various ways you can spread awareness of services or products through friends and friends of friends. But the last virality, Outbreak, can be the epitome of what think of when we say viral videos. It’s the fun things that we share because they are popular, make us laugh or give us joy.

The first video really hones on this humorous side since this dog really can be relatable for anyone. The same goes for the hugely successful “Chewbacca Mom”. This was a woman who posted on Facebook Live about a Chewbacca mask that she absolutely loved. Her personality, laugh and humor really made her relatable to a mass audience, and eventually made her move to late night television.

 

To Chris Andersen, one of the core reasons that Chewbacca mom went viral was because someone from Disney saw the video and reblogged the video to their Star Wars page. Once that happened, her video went from thousands of views to millions of views. This is the concept of the long tail. The basics of the long tail is that something unique may start with a small, local audience. If that product or video is found by a influencer, then it can use the influencer’s popularity to gain even more views and go higher up on the tail.

If we want our own products to go viral, we need to see what people like about videos that go viral and apply it to our videos. It’s about differentiation in product but using the same processes to be successful. We should use humor and reliability to our audience as well as connecting with influencers who can bring our videos into a higher level on the long tail.

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Make Facts Great Again: Breaking the “Fake News” cycle

Despite what you read on Facebook or Twitter, Pope Francis did not endorse Donald Trump for president nor did Ireland start accepting Trump refugees from America.

These were stories, like many others, that circulated on social media platforms and gained over 800,000 engagements from readers and news organizations. Despite the fact that both were completely fabricated, many people actually believed what they read.

As fake news stories become more prevalent on social media and the Trump administration continues to blame media outlets for “misrepresenting” their actions, it’s important to understand how fake news spreads and what readers can do to break the “Fake News” cycle.

So why do we love to read fake news?

Josh Stearns discussed that there are several reasons why readers might share fake news on their social media platforms. First, people want to help in any way they can, even if it’s just passing along information. Stearns also mentioned that people are trying to make sense of the world, so when they read an articles quoting a “rumor” about an event, it helps them fill in the gaps of that story. Third, people want to feel part of a shared experienced, so they will seek out connections online to find solidarity. Lastly, people just feel an impulse to share information, even if that information isn’t correct, because it provides an emotional trigger.

All these reasons aren’t malicious in nature; they are all rooted in natural human behavior. But there is also the concern that it’s getting harder for people to identify fake news stories.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about a study that found that most students don’t know when news is fake. Even though adolescents and teenagers are a large audience on social media, the article says “they’re often clueless about evaluating the accuracy and trustworthiness of what they find.”

Many readers, including teens, aren’t reading skeptically anymore, according to WSJ.  When they read a headline on Twitter, they take it as truth instead of reading the full article or researching more about the topic from other news outlets.

So it’s obvious we have a problem.

But how do we stop fake news?

Wynne Davis wrote that “stopping the proliferation of fake news isn’t just the responsibility of the platforms used to spread it. Those who consume news also need to find ways of determining if what they’re reading is true.”

To put it simply, it’s really up to the reader.

Readers are in control about a story going viral or dying. And if readers can read stories critically and prevent sharing false information.

Davis included several tips to encourage readers to be vigilant while reading. A few tips were:

  1. pay attention to the domain and url
  2. read the “about us” section
  3. look at quotes in the story
  4. look who said them
  5. check the comments
  6. reverse image search

Davis said, “If you do these steps, you’re helping yourself and you’re helping others by not increasing the circulation of these stories.”

If readers don’t want to investigate a website or they still aren’t sure if a website is legitimate, Slate offers a new tool that not only identifies fake news, it also reminds you that you can interrupt its viral transmission. The Washington Post also develop a web extension that fact checks Donald Trump’s tweets on Twitter.