I had the awesome opportunity to see an all too short talk from the awesome Tim Allen last week. I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of Tim before, but his talk focused around his life up until the point, during and after his work on Human Planet, the mental HD show the BBC produced that blew my mind.
Tim was a great talker and has a massive passion for what he does, and he also had some cool insight into his own journey on learning the power of the social web and hitting the ‘viral’ button.
Feeling motivated to get out and take more photos again!
Heard Duncan Trussel recite part of this poem on the Joe Rogan podcast (number #291) and thought it was awesome and worth looking up… (40 minutes in on the audio version)
‘Kubla Khan’ – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
This was going to be called ‘The War On Viral – AKA stop using that bloody word’, but I refrained because a.) I’ve become a little more SEO conscious recently and b.) the apparent negative slant to the afore mentioned title does not give precedence to genuine viral content, and runs the risk of detracting from it.
And please don’t get me wrong – I LOVE viral content. For one thing it truly epitomises what is awesome about online culture and perfectly exemplifies, in a way, how much we love weird shit.
Excuse my french.
My problem lies in the intention behind viral content.
Let me explain.
As I have used this example before, I see no reason to not use it again. Although it might be considered bad practice to re-use examples, this perfectly makes my point. Video in the break (pretty sure you’ll recognise it)
The old classic. For many this was the beginning of online marketing (or at least it was a wake up to brands that online activity could seriously damage their brand). While other videos have gone more viral in its stead, it still set the precedent – and for me at least is an example of the pure form.
United breaks guitars was not created for hits. It was simply the response from a pissed off customer to a complete lack of customer service and care from a huge airline (they subsequently got fu**ed I believe, although this was only one of the reasons – don’t quote me on this)
And that is my problem – now days people are spouting BS, promising viral content, providing viral video as a service and generally completely missing the point.
Viral is a description of a state, not a service.
I’ve seen a fair few blogs that have echoed this point – You cannot make a viral video, you can only make a shareable video. Whether it goes viral or not it completely and utterly down to the audience which consumes it.
This is certainly worth thinking about. There is probably a loose formula which can make a video more shareable than others, and therefore more likely to go viral, but there is not a magic formula for viral content.
for example, a recent Techmap event saw Mike Williams from Isobar talk about digital planning. He talked about the concept of disruption; that campaigns needed to disrupt a persons view of the world to make a lasting impact. I will talk more about this idea in a subsequent blog post, but the point I am trying to make it that Mike was looking at how to navigate human psychology to make digital campaigns more effective. Unlocking the code to Viral behavior/exposure.
Perhaps a more salient example of this is the famous CVIV from the ‘comms anarchist’ himself, Mr Graeme Anthony. Graeme was completing a move from Manchester, where he had been a successful PR professional, to London, where he hadn’t. Wrestling with a changing world and difficult job market, Graeme thought outside the box to get employment. But he didn’t stop there…
He thought outside the stratosphere.
Graeme took a tired format, and added new media. He combined new tech with old ideas and came up with a fresh and exciting permutation on how to sell yourself.
If I had more to my CV than intern experience I would have followed suit.
You can read over at Graeme’s blog about the aftermath of this incredible spark of genius, but if you don’t have the time to click (I appreciate this is already quite a long piece) then I shall pick out the most important bit in the context of the viral discussion. The @wearesocial crew asked Graeme if they could publish the CVIV to the world. 2 hours later and after a flurry of Twitter and email activity, Graeme emailed Robin Grant to see what the hell was up.
A simple response was received: ‘you’re going viral’
And this is my point. Graeme never intended for his video to even be shared, let alone hit the viral mark. Now you can ask anyone in PR or digital media who has half a head screwed on and mention the CVIV and they will glow in recognition of this incredible effort by Graeme, and how it really gave a breath of fresh air to a tired concept.
Viral video cannot be enforced. Viral video can only be created through mass consumption. A video maker cannot produce mass consumption, and so must rely on making the video as consumable as possible.
Quite often viral video is unexpected. It is borne of creative professionals who like to think outside the box, and who know the idea will resonate, but don’t see the degree to which this will happen before it does.
So next time someone pitches you the creation of a viral product, be it a video, an app, or a game, just stop them in their tracks and ask them how.
Because as they say, the pudding is in the eating…
And if you have made it this far, I shall treat you with one of the greatest viral hits of them all, starring Will Farrel no less in… The Landlord.
I think over 70 MILLION views pretty much equals viral…
Until (very) recently, I consistently resisted the practice of ‘liking’ events on facebook which had a negative tangent. The number of times I have seen people ‘liking’ a breakup or ‘liking’ a ominous event has far surpassed any number I could keep a count of, and every time I found this happening I questioned the sanity of the people who clicked the button.
But this all changed recently when a favourite hip-hop artist of mine, Brother Ali, began to post up on his page memories of an immensely talented rapper (also on the Rhymesayers label), Michael ‘Eyedea’ Larson (of Eyedea & Abilities), who had recently (and tragically) passed in his sleep. Cue a torrent of comments and ‘likes’ – mine included.
What I realised is that the ‘like’ button has either separated from the semantic loading of the lexeme (word) ‘like’, or that the word its self has been ‘neutered’ by the Facebook platform. My clicking ‘like’ did not, as I had felt previously, signal my joy at this event. While Eyedea wasn’t my favourite artist, I did really (and will continue to) love his music. My like was signaling my agreement in the feelings of a lot of the respondents.
The semantic content of ‘like’ has been dragged, kicking and screaming, into a different meaning. Devoid of polarity, ‘like’ has simply (or not) come to signal involvement, recognition, affiliation etc. While people like me will struggle with this for some time, the Gen Z kids will come to see this as normal.
But it isn’t organic language change – the digital revolution has put a death to that. Common usage no longer dictates how words evolve over time. The frameworks which we interact with online are now having a significant effect on the way our language is shaped and moulded. This is a fascinating development, and while it is not a revelation, it is the most salient example of this phenomenon that I have yet come across.
This would of course not be complete without a tribute to the late Eyedea. Brother Ali chose an awesome video with which to showcase the man’s incredible and unfathomable lexical creativity. RIP Eyedea, you were one of the best.