“Viral” is the buzzword companies often want to hear, especially when it involves their content. We all know what it means to “go viral,” but why might something go viral in one region of the world and not another? Although the digital sphere is global, viral trends spike for different reasons in each region. In this week’s Friday5, five Edelman employees from around the world share their favorite viral trend of 2013 and why they think it went viral.
1. Matthew Hayles, Calgary
“Rob Ford. Toronto’s private obsession became a global viral sensation when he admitted to smoking crack cocaine to Canadian news media after accusations from Gawker and the Toronto Star. There is no better lesson in the interplay between social media, blogs and traditional media: an American blog broke the story, which forced one of Canada’s most established media brands to publish its own investigation, which set off a months-long controversy that played out over mainstream and social media, until brands even became witting or unwitting accomplices to the farce. (A further lesson for self-conscious Canadians: you haven’t really gone viral in Canada until you’ve made it onto CNN and the BBC.)”
2. Santiago Pochat, New York
“2013 could very well be defined as the year selfies took off, or the year Snapchat hit the mainstream, but my favorite trend this year has got to be the extensive use of GIFs. From reaction GIFs to full-on Tumblrs filled with them, GIFs returned to become the shareable and snackable pieces of content we all love. The trend has even led to full-on warfare over pronunciation. GIFs are micro-content at its best: they allow for a broader range of response yet still keeping it lighthearted and fun. Although it’s taken a while—they were first introduced in 1987—I know we are all glad GIFs are in full force.”
3. Carolina Pietoso, São Paulo
“My favorite viral trend this year in Brazil was a video showing the 10 Commandments of the King of the VIP Area. It was originally created as a spinoff of an investigation made by Veja, the most widely read magazine in the country, which profiled millionaires who spend fortunes in nightclubs in São Paulo. The video soon became a local phenomenon and generated copycats and several other memes. The video shows, in a very corny way, the excesses of the top 1 percent in a country where inequalities are felt on a daily basis by most people. Suffice it to say, the video generated a lot of online conversation from both people for it and people against it, as well as those suspecting it to be a stunt promoted by comedians. To me, it shows viral trends are as much based on social and cultural interests as those of other human interactions.”
4. Louise Moran, London
“The best viral trend of 2013 has to be ‘cats wearing tights.’ Cats, whether squeezing themselves into boxes, impersonating pin-up girls or crashing album covers, make for great online shareable content. Case in point? Procatinator. Sorry for your sudden loss in productivity. ‘Cats wearing tights’ wins for me because it’s weird, wonderful, funny and strangely compelling. Much as I want to sometimes, I just can’t look away. And, like all the best viral trends, it’s already got a spinoff. Anything cats can do, dogs can do better. I give you dogs wearing pantyhose.”
5. Crystal Reinitz, Sydney
“A few months ago a colleague from Edelman Vancouver sent me a link to YouTube with the message: ‘Wow, great stuff coming out from the Aussies.’ The video was Dumb Ways to Die from Metro Trains. Dumb Ways to Die was created with all the elements of a great viral video: it’s the perfect length at three minutes, it’s funny, smart, cute and the song gets stuck in your head for days. But the best thing about this video is that it proved that content doesn’t have to be for pure entertainment purposes to go viral. This video delivered an important safety message and with over 64 million views on YouTube, I would bet the benefits of this cautionary tale had an impact all over the world, not just in Australia.”
Although we live, work and play in a global digital world, there are very different reasons for trends go viral in different regions. The connecting themes, however, are that viral content tends to be lighthearted, fun, “snackable” and, most importantly, highly shareable.
What has been your favorite viral trend in 2013? Why do you think it went viral?
Image credit: Mikey G Ottawa