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Look at Me!

Who shares a video or photo online and does not hope that it becomes viral? What’s the point? If you’re making the content public, the idea is for as many people in as many places to see it and interact with it. Imagine the high-fives at the office of a marketer or public relations professional if a client’s video goes viral. But there is also disappointment when you think you have something great to share, but it doesn’t garner the views or likes you had anticipated. 

Social media has created a “look at me” world. People share anything and everything. Opinions run rampant on social media through posts and videos. Food, kids, special occasions, even morbid things such as a funeral – nothing seems to be off limits online. 

Going viral seems to happen by luck for some people. A video can be on YouTube for months or even years before someone notices it, shares it and it then goes viral. It’s a dream come true for aspiring performers. For example, several singers such as Justin Bieber and Chloe x Halle were discovered through viral YouTube videos. For others, the pursuit of going viral has to be more strategic. Knowing what to post and when to post comes down to science. 

Justin Bieber and sisters Chloe and Halle found success after their YouTube videos went viral.

The Harvard Business Review posted information on the type of content that is frequently shared and also the optimal time to share. It stated that wanting to know what friends thought was the number one driver behind why things are shared online. Another reason people tend to share is because it allows friends to connect about shared interests and socialize with friends offline, according to “Why Some Videos Go Viral.”   The article also stated that the most sharing activity happens on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This is great, essential information if your primary goal is to go viral.

Back in the mid-2000s while working at the Montgomery Advertiser as the online editor, a local businessman named Sammy Stephens became a national sensation because of a commercial that got the attention of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. The catchy jingle in Stephen’s commercial for his Montgomery flea market had lots of people bobbing their heads. I guess Ellen wanted to hear it for herself. She invited Stephens to her show and his popularity only increased after that. 

The Montgomery Advertiser published a story about Stephens. The Montgomery Advertiser’s online director suggested we ask Stephens to allow us to record him singing his jingle in front of a green screen. It was all an attempt to create a video that would go viral. Stephens had no problem with it. He recorded the “It’s Just Like” jingle for us. We then encouraged our website users to take the video and put it in front of their favorite background and repost it. Shortly after we put out the call, there were a few videos that were posted. We had hoped for so much more! But we were semi-satisfied. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of those re-posted videos. It’s been about 15 years so I guess that’s to be expected. But here’s a look at Mr. Stephen’s Ellen appearance. 

Although the Harvard Business Review suggests that “opinion seeking” is the main reason people go viral, “unexpectedness” seems to be what people are looking for. Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s Head of Culture & Trends, described “unexpectedness” in his TED Talk on “Why Videos Go Viral” as making something you might not care about interesting and memorable. People also look for uniqueness in a video. 

Allocca was later interviewed by Jillian D’Onfro for Business Insider and he said, “I think that if you look at this stuff, a lot of it is still very unexpected and unique,” he says. “If you look at the pairing of a Dover police officer singing in his car to Taylor Swift — this is a very unusual thing that we love. I think that the ‘unexpectedness’ factor is still true.”

It seems like the shock factor will get people to share a video. When a reporter in Dothan, Ala. confronted a city councilman about voter fraud allegations, it got physical and viral. The altercation was captured on video. The councilman (who happens to be my high school classmate’s father) poked the reporter in the face to the point where the reporter was bleeding. This story went viral almost immediately. The video was shared all across social media. It was picked up by the national news media as well. The video was on NBC News, FOX News, CNN, MSN and others. 

As if the viral video wasn’t bad enough, it got worse. Social media users started making memes. Although this incident happened in 2015, I still continue to see memes. And chances are, you have too. Needless to say, the day of the altercation was a bad day for the councilman. He will not be able to escape the many videos, altered and edited, because things tend to live forever when it is posted online. This is a cautionary tale for any person in a leadership position. Leaders have to be ready at all times because whatever you say or do can be captured and posted to social media. 

It’s always a pleasant surprise when I post something to social media and people actually like it and share it! It doesn’t happen too often because 1) I don’t post a lot of things that are set to public and 2) I don’t think the masses are very interested in what I post. I love to share photos of my children, especially when they go to events like prom. It was a prom picture I took of my daughter and her date last year that received the most social media attention I’ve ever gotten. I wouldn’t necessarily say it went viral, but it definitely garnered a lot of attention. It was this prom photo that led a gallery which received to-date 315 Likes, 51 Comments and 6 Shares. I was pleasantly surprised!

As I have continued my work as a marketing and social media manager, I’ve had some luck with going viral. I shot, edited and posted a short informational video about regening trucks that has received more than 72,000 views so far. But we all know that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

This just gives me motivation! I will continue to post videos and content with hopes that one day the content that I post will be so valuable that my company’s followers will be inclined to share it. The appropriate video (or content) will give the company nothing but more credibility, making us an even more respected leader in our field. 


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