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©2019 by Chris Paul Walton.

Virality of Online Content

April 7, 2017

If you are targeting a different medium than feature film or TV, then you will need to consider the online market and understand the concept of virality. Indeed even if your target medium is a more traditional format it can aid greatly in marketing to understand the concept of virality. 

 

"Going viral" has been defined in several ways, but I believe the most accurate definition, or explanation, of virality was offered by Kevin Allocca when speaking at  The Conference in 2014. He explains that going "viral is not the science that people -- and, in particular, big brands -- believe it to be. Rather, it's a behaviour that has been spawned as a result of a very simple formula -- free web platforms, cheap devices, increasingly better bandwidth and the ability to openly distribute content for the first time on a large scale." (Collins, 2014). 

 

This ease of distribution means people can easily share things  they like, or perhaps don't like, to their friends, who then share it on, and thus the media is spread. Once a piece of content gains traction in this way it can spread very quickly across large areas of the online community. Part of this occurrence, and why it is so hard to forcibly replicate it, is because the audience see sharing it as their choice. 

 

Sumangla and Panwar (2015, p. 252) explain: 

 

“Viewers are watching out of their own free will which leads to further interaction playing and and replaying a video, adding a comment and even forwarding it to another friend which leads to a viral cycle.”

 

If you try and create something with the intention of forcing it to go viral, that knowledge alone could prevent an audience from engaging properly with the content. This is due to them feeling like the choice isn't theirs. it is what is expected and not what they want to do. 

 

So whilst you may not be able to create something to go viral very easily, knowing about the concept and understanding it to be able to capitalise on it should your content spread in such a way is vital. 


A good example of virality online is the ice bucket challenge that took the internet by storm in 2014. Even huge celebrities like Bill Gates got involved: 

The idea being that you film yourself pouring ice water over yourself, the cold apparently going someway to give you a feeling for what ALS can be like for a sufferer, then nominate three others to do it and donate some money to an ALS charity. This campaign was so popular, and raised so much money, that charities could fund new research, this research discovering a gene connected to the illness (BBC, 2016) that otherwise would never have happened.  

 

 

 

Image(s) 

  • Social media cloud infographic (Moreau, 2017) 

 

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