Monday, February 6, 2012

Tipping your online content: How stuff goes viral

I have to admit, even though I wholeheartedly believe the blatant and hard truths THIS PICTURE portrays (not to mention I've been victim to both also), bringing attention to that point was only half the reason I made it. I made it to prove a point and to test the powers of social media.

I've been reading the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (all time favorite author, super cool hair too) and in an attempt to apply what I'm reading, I have a few interesting comparisons I wanted to lay out. In the book when things "tip" they blow up with hoards of popularity and success. Being the social media geek that I am, naturally I started drawing comparisons between "tipping" and going "viral". I'll come back to exactly why I made this picture in a minute.

I know "viral" is a hot topic, meaning if you claim you are going to create something viral people will slap you and tell you to go back to myspace... (ouch!) Anyone who understands the world of social media will tell you that you can't just create viral content. It isn't viral until thousands of people make it that way.
If you're setting out to create a "viral video" STOP!! You'll have a lot better chance of getting a viral video just making some movie for fun instead of setting out for months to come up with the perfect viral video idea. Don't believe me? Here's the proof:

A simple class assignment that was shot and edited in no more than 2 hours now has over 5 million views. If this is the case what was the tipping point? What made it go viral?

The answer goes along with what I said above. It's viral because people made it that way, plain and simple. In the book the most intriguing chapter to me is "The Law of the Few: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen"

All 3 of these people have their own characteristics that when combined (like when earth, wind, water, fire and spirit combine on captain planet) have huge effects. In some cases they make things tip.

 Connectors are those people that everyone loves. They seem to know everyone. They always care about what you're up to, how you've been and how life is going. Normal people, if they ask those questions at all, ask them to be polite. Connectors are genuinely interested and really want answers. They have connections EVERYWHERE! I believe there are Social Media Connectors. These are the people like the Scott Stratten in of the social world. They believe that social media is there to meet new people and connect with friends. They have thousands of followers and loyal fans because they are genuine and real. They steer clear of constantly asking for things and promoting themselves or their business. They're in it for the friendships, not the attention.

Mavens are the the kind of people that you listen to. People value a maven's opinion so highly that if they were to recommend a pair of shoes to you, you would get them. Mavens make it their life to find the best of everything because they enjoy knowing every little detail about things. The author says that 50% of the world knows a maven. They aren't quite as numerous as connectors but to put these people in perspective; if a maven recommended 5 people to a hotel, he would make his case so well that all 5 would go there. Mavens know their stuff and people understand that. On the other hand if a connector recommended a hotel to 10 people, most likely only 5 of them would go. Mavens, however, are not persuaders. They merely have this swell of knowledge and information that they use to better the lives of themselves or others. If you don't listen, they're not going to make you listen. Do you know any mavens? Online, Social Media Mavens are harder to come by. In the camera industry people like the guys that run the luminous landscape are definitely mavens. Their website looks like it was designed in the early 90's but every single person that visits that site takes what they have to say like it's gold.

Salesmen... we all know who these people are. The author focuses on the fact that salesmen persuade people to do things. Salesmen connect with people and win them to their way of thinking. I compare that to someone like Obama. He sold people on his ideas and won enough people over (definitely with the help of mavens and connectors) that his presidential campaign tipped and he won office. Social Media Salesman are very common. I feel like the invention of social media has turned everyone into one. How? People are CONSTANTLY posting things to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Foursquare and Google+ because they want attention. They want people to RT them or to like their picture or to watch their video etc. They're trying to convince people that what they have to offer is good and they want reassurance. I'm guilty. I love attention.

"Good" salesmen are the ones that help make things tip. Anyone can be a good social salesman, some people just do it more often than others. For an example take my tweet from the Wyoming vs USU football game. I tweeted: "Watching a backwards rodeo #bullsridingcowboys". That got a lot of response and a good amount of RTs. It was a great complete tweet. I know it wasn't viral or anything but in a small way I believe that the hash tag helped make it "tip". I'm sure it would have got a lot of attention without the hash tag, but that little extra piece of humor was the icing on the cake. This applies to all levels of online content. Some stuff is good, but the complete stuff that leaves you feeling like there was nothing more they could have added to make it any better, is the stuff that has tipping potential if it gets in the right hands.

Back to the picture at the top. I made this picture because I wanted to see if it would tip. I knew it hit on  basically the same point of discussion as the "why men and women can't be friends" video did. I wanted to see if somehow from the chain of my friends and my friends friends and their friends, if a connector or a maven would pick it up and work his/her magic. I'm the salesman, it already had one piece to the puzzle and I was curious if it would all come together. The response I got from it was great! Almost 150 likes and 11 shares in 20 hours. Now, before I pat myself on the back however, that's just a needle in a haystack of viral possibility.

What I believe ultimately did it for the video was that it got the attention of connectors and mavens. One site in particular, Reddit, is full of them. It made the front page. In case you didn't know, the people of Reddit were some of the main drivers behind the #SOPAblackout. Saying they have the people and persuasion to make things tip is an understatement. Somehow as the video got passed around a maven or some connectors watched it and related to it. They had to share it. They got the word out and people listened because of who they were. Once enough people latched onto it, it tipped. The rest is history.


  1. I have been meaning to read The Tipping Point for a while, I just haven't. Thanks for the chapter summary and insights.

    I could be wrong, but I think videos have a better shot at going viral. I find myself saying "you have to watch this video" a lot more than "you have to look at this picture."

    Great post! Empizzle...

    1. I used to think that until recently I've been seeing pictures on Facebook that have over 50,000 shares. That's about as far reaching as a million views I think.