Monday, January 11, 2010

Facebook & YouTube - Instant Fads & Overnight Hits

In the last week there have been three Social Media phenomenon that have really grabbed my attention. Three "campaigns" that have, by all accounts, sprung up completely organically and engaged the public in a way that no one could have predicted.

Paul Cunningham's Winter Hat
The first is the Irish internet sensation that is Paul Cunningham's hat. For those who don't know who Paul is; Paul is RTÉ's Environment Correspondent. While doing a report as part of the Nine O'Clock News on RTE1 on 7th January, Paul wore a rather..... noticeable hat. What no one could have predicted was just how much the public would latch onto this little fashion misadventure.

The 'We love Paul Cunningham's winter hat' already has 3,420 fans. Just one of several YouTube videos of the news feature has 3,082 views. Admittedly these aren't huge figures but at the same time, it's a Christmas hat.

Man Falling on Ice
This is another Irish "campaign", and again has a winter connection. Unfortunately, for at least one poor bloke, this particular internet wonder looks a little bit more painful then an odd hat. Three days ago as part of a RTÉ's report on water shortages due to freezing pipes, a piece of video was used that showed a pedestrian slipping on the ice. The feature went viral almost immediately and a Facebook Page sprung up that currently has 26,827 fans!

That's an awful lot of fans of someone falling over. Could it really be that good? Unfortunately, and I say unfortunately as I think someone really got hurt here, this is completely compelling and there's something about it that you just can't help laughing at. This is clearly shown by the YouTube video that has driven 40,773 views to date.

Facebook Status My Bra Colour
Finally we have this, non-video related, entry to my little list of three stand-out internet phenomenons of the last week. You may have noticed female friends or acquaintances updating their Facebook statuses recently with colours or patterns. These updates usually carried no information or explanation, and there didn't seem to be anyone offering any, anywhere. The trend or meme, which I haven't actually been able to verify, was seemingly started by a group of women in Chicago to help raise awareness of Breast Cancer. The campaign had a small level of uptake but then a girl named Kimberley Griffiths created a Facebook Page for the campaign.

The Page was founded on the 7th January and has exploded in activity with 60,196 fans already joined up. I think the number speaks for itself. That's just 4 days!

So what's next? What video or tv moment or charity activity will grab us and capture our attention? Who knows! (That's not a question!) The truth is, there's a 'little something' about each of these "campaigns" that can't be planned and can't be predicted. They're also three examples from an otherwise very short list when you consider exactly how many Facebook Pages and YouTube videos get uploaded and created every week. So is there a point? There is, and it's fairly simple. While I believe it's not massively difficult to create real campaigns that engage with your audience and create a greater public resonance beyond simple awareness, planning them is another matter. Budgets aside, there are various techniques to drive engagement. Competitions, free samples/trials/products or any number of other ways to get the public to hand over personal details. However, while it's easy to engage, or to at least create an appearance of engagement, it's not easy to create that public resonance.

My conclusion: the "viral effect" (a horrible term and one I don't really use) of a campaign can certainly be manipulated or augmented, but at the heart of it all you need something that simply can't be thought up. I can't tell you exactly what it is, because no one can. It's that thing that will drive people to pass it on to their friends. That thing that will make people become a fan or friend for no logical reason whatsoever. Most importantly, it's not something you can buy. Not every product or brand is even capable of it. Sometimes it requires huge amounts of money, and other times it's achieved by someone with a camera phone for nothing. Either way, beware of anyone that says they can get it for you through a planned approach. It just happens for you or it doesn't.

No comments: