Three Things That Always Breaks Through In Social Media

by Patrick on December 27, 2009

How To Make Your Article Hit The Front Page Of Digg and Go Super Viral in 24 Hours

That was the title of a November 7th post on the blog Shorter and Sweeter. The post was more of a jab against posts that did make the front page of Digg, and provided more snark than advice.

One month later this blogger actually stumbled upon one of the sure ways to make the front page of Digg when he posted a funny e-mail he received. In this e-mail was a photo and story of a clever Christmas decoration:


The story from the e-mail:

“Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn’t realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn’t take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.”

As of this writing, that post has garnered over 6100 Diggs and, 1500 Retweets, and 4700 posts on Facebook.

You see this blogger may not know it but he stumbled upon one of the three things that always goes viral in social media: Humor.

Why did he receive that forwarded e-mail? Why did so many people pass it along to their friends? Because it was a truly hilarious story and photo. I ran into this blog post when I saw that my friend Doug had it posted on his G-chat status.

If it’s funny and entertaining you bet it will quickly spread. That’s why we know who Kelly is and why she love shoes. If a video is not only funny but cute then you can expect even more hits. The cuteness doubles the effect. That’s why David After Dentist has 37 million hits. If David was a middle aged man we’d chuckle a little, but since David is an adorable 7-year-old it’s YouTube gold.

I don’t remember how I ran into this funny Thanksgiving music video but it was funny enough for me to watch to the end:

It wasn’t til the end that i realized I just watched an elaborate Muscle Milk ad. Right now the video has over 866,000 views evidence that if it’s funny enough it’ll get watched.

So we all know that if you want something viral it’s gotta be funny- what else breaks through? Mindshift, videos that give you the Oprah like A-ha moment.

In my post about personalizing Social Media, I referenced a video that applied this idea in the context of how The Internet Is Changing Advertising. An item is more likely to get passed along if it introduces a new way of thinking or a mind blowing stat. Take the video Social Media Revolution:

The video has that “cool stat” feel that will make you pass it along, most likely in the context of “wow, I can’t believe these stats.” Did You Know 2.0 is another example of presenting information in a way that makes you think and inspires you to pass it along.

The last thing that always breaks through is something that plays to your emotions. Amazing feats like dancing all over the world or Crocodiles and Lions trying to attack a herd of Buffalo. These videos play to your sense of wonder and amazement.

While it is easy to identify what breaks through, it is a lot harder to figure out how to harness it for commercial use. What makes each of these examples viral is perhaps a required element that links them all: authenticity. Out of all the videos I mentioned in this post I think the Muscle Milk ad is the one that will grow the slowest since at the end you realize it’s a fabricated event. Sure you can say Kelly’s Shoes was funny, but Liam Kyle Sullivan created it to be funny- Muscle Milk created their video to sell drinks.

What really breaks through in social media aren’t entirely new concepts, it’s the same ideas you see in commercials and we already know that commercials are often hit or miss. So how do we take what we know and apply them to all the companies that want to establish a foothold in the new world of new media?

That’s the question.

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