Exponential Spread


                At work I face the idea of Viral video every day. A client will approach us and ask us to make them some kind of viral content.(whether it is video, audio, imagery…) But what most of these people do not get is that you do not just make something viral. There is no set formula to making a viral video. It is an unexpected product. The idea is that you cannot control it, like a virus in the medical world. The content expands at a rate that you cannot control or really influence that much. Now obviously there are ways to help your fledgling video into viral stardom, but it is more like a nudge in a direction not steering down the path.

                Now the things that could help content become viral range massively, much like the content that is considered viral. I personally think that “Viral” is to weak of a definition. The ideas that “Viral” encompasses are to widespread and vague. Think of some examples of viral content, Nyan Cat, Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Key Board Cat, Star Wars Kid. These videos do not share much in common other than humor, and these are not that great of examples. (Just what came to me off the top of my head.) But could you consider a television show or a book viral? Their popularity can spread in almost the same way as the videos that I listed above. How about Harry Potter? The book was written by a no name author that struggled to get the book published. When it finally makes it to the shelves it starts slow but in almost no time it explodes and becomes the number one selling young adults book. That then leads to the highest grossing film series of all time. All this popularity sparked almost overnight.  

                One of the important ideas behind viral video is how it spreads. Not how much it spreads, but how that spread happens. The spread of viral media happens through a “Word of Mouth.” Although users may not actually speak about the media directly the idea that views bring more views is essentially the same. Content on many popular sites are organized by their popularity. More purchases, views, hits, or any other measurement on how popular something is push it to the top of the list. Things at the top of the list become more popular, so the effect is a giant loop. To become more popular you need more hits, but to get more hits you need to be more popular. This loop is what leads to content that soars to the top. The exponential growth, is where the media gets its name. Viruses spread through the body at an exponential rate just as media spreads through the body of consumers.


In your mind what is it that makes media viral?

Is their a system to follow to create viral content?

Is this only limited to online media, or could books or other forums of offline media be considered?


22 thoughts on “Exponential Spread

  1. When examining viral content on the internet you really cannot predict it. Sometimes the first time you see something in pre-viral stages you can tell it is going to catch on because it has something bizarre or original or extremely humorous. The more unusual the content it seems sometimes the more popular it becomes however you said it in your post, there is no real formula for making something go viral. The content has to have a right mix of traits and get the proper exposure to put something in position to go viral. Even then, there is no guarantee of anything. I do believe other forms of media can go viral like popular books can blow up and in ways become viral. Think 50 shades of grey, the movie the Secret or fads that have come about and blown up because of the mere fact that everybody is talking about them. In the future I believe most media will be online anyway so there won’t be much offline content to consider the more things shift towards modern technology.

  2. It’s like you said, a viral video stems from the word ‘virus’ in the medical world. You can’t control how it spreads, and you can’t control becomes popular, at all. Most of the viral videos from what I’ve seen become viral because they’re funny, or people hurting themselves – although that also falls under the humor category. I think it’s much more rare to find a viral video that isn’t funny.

    I don’t think there is a system to follow. With most viral videos it just seems like pure luck, or accident. I suppose the only way to get a video viral on purpose is to already have one accidental viral video, which then makes you sort of “You Tube famous”, and then if you upload more videos, those, too, are likely to become viral. (Sometimes that isn’t the case, but they’ve got a better chance than the rest of us!)

    I don’t think books or other forms of media could be considered viral, simply because I think the term is meant for the internet. However, I think that something that becomes extremely popular, i.e. the Harry Potter series, will more than likely have something go viral on the internet, i.e. ‘Potter Puppet Pal’s’

  3. I think to make a video viral it has to start out with one person of course, and then that video starts to get even more and more views due to the fact that more and more people are finding out about it and talking about it. There is no set system to make a video viral, I believe, but it simply gains popularity and gains people’s attention overtime.
    This is not only for online media. For example, the book Twilight was and still is popular among young teenage girls, and some boys too. “Planking”, “owling”, and “tebowing” I believe can also be considered to be viral. First, it started with people who were talking pictures of themselves “Planking”, “owling”, or “tebowing”, then some of my friends started to do it too!

  4. I wonder, as the receive for becoming viral becomes more and more understood, does it become more and more manipulated by those with the resources to “make” something viral? For instance, can’t organizations or people with resources buy paid advertising that sends people to video content to increase their popularity? Can’t they also approach celebrities and other popular content owners to solicit their recommendations? Couldn’t they also optimize the video content to ensure it is visible to natural search engines? Finally, isn’t there some technical solution to hack a site and increase view / like counts? If any or all of these are possible, I wonder if “original” viral content is going to become less and less prevalent . This would make resources and technical knowledge the most important determinants in a video’s success, not the quality of the content. I hope the content aggregators realize this and take steps to ensure the future of unique, user generated content.

  5. I think it is hard to attribute one thing that makes media viral. I would say generally, it is the use of social media. Videos get passed on and linked in different forms whether Facebook or Twitter. If something is catchy or will attract a large audience, chances are it will go viral. I don’t believe that there is any system in having a video go viral. It can’t be planned really. I think a good example of a video trying to go viral was the was that Psy song “Gentleman”. “Gangnam Style” was a viral video and I think they tried to make that happen for the next song, but it failed. It’s like you can’t make a video go viral. It just happens. I do think the term viral is generally for something on the internet. To me, the extent of something going viral in real life is just considered a fad or trend. It becomes popular for a while and then tends to fade.

  6. I really think that media can be anything and still be viral. However, I think a lot of viral videos tend to be funny or feature really catchy music, like Gangnam Style. Today, a lot of viral videos or media spread by social media. Media that spreads on Twitter can reach anywhere around the world so quickly, it is such a powerful tool to spread information. So, I think media that is popular on Twitter can become viral easier because so many people use Twitter every day. I wouldn’t consider anything that isn’t online viral because when I think of viral, I immediately think of the internet. Books and TV shows don’t need to be considered viral to become popular.

  7. In my opinion, for something to become viral it has to be eye-catching and entertaining. Usually viral videos grasp the audiences attention and make them laugh, or its a story about someone that is usually sad and is trying to get a message across. Viral videos are very common but there is no system in my opinion you have to follow. If something is funny, people will talk about it, email it, post it to their blog or facebook and then others will start to watch the video and thats how a viral video is made. I dont think viral is something that relates just to videos even though thats what we usually connect it with. Books, movies, and even music can go viral. We just have to open up our eyes and realize how viral something can actually be.

  8. To me what makes media viral is the people. Without us some of the biggest celebrities wouldn’t have made it. For example, Justin Bieber was discovered on Youtube. He wasn’t found just because of his talent, it was by the people who watched, talked, and told others about his videos. Something goes viral when people start talking about it. More recently a video that went viral was a video titled “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NjKgV65fpo). The video was about a young boy who was diagnosed with a rare disease. The video was posted and not even a week later had millions of views. Why? Because the video went viral, celebrities began tweeting about this young boy which made other people want to see what his story was.

    I do not think that there is a system to follow to create viral content, I honestly think that the more people talk about a video or any type of media the more viral it will become. I think that this is not only limited to online media, although it is easier for online media to go viral. Books as well as other forums in my opinion could be considered.

  9. Like you said there really is no formula to follow that can create a viral video from thin air. A viral video is one that is so popular or infamous that its spread cannot be controlled which can have positive and negative impacts at the same time. What makes a particular video viral is its level of impact on people. How it makes a person feel is to me the single most important factor in determining just how viral it’s going to become. Sometimes they make you laugh while others make you mad; the important thing is that it makes you feel something strong. There is no system one can follow to do this but I’d say websites like Youtube and Reddit are good ways to be noticed. If you can create “buzz” by having people like your video that can help it become viral but like I said before; if it doesn’t move people in some way it won’t spread very far.

    I think the word viral is more of a modern term used often in today’s internet world. Movies and books can become popular very quickly which can mimic the effect of a viral video but in my opinion that is not the same thing. When you are talking about something going viral these days you are talking about it spreading through word of mouth particularly through social media and Youtube. You are talking about the amount of “buzz” it gets online as opposed to the physical world.

  10. Well, what makes video viral has to do with a few things. One would be the content of the video, is it funny? Next would be if its something that will attract multiple audiences, and who the video is about or who it was posted by. If a celebrity posts a video, the chances of it becoming viral is likely.

    Yes there is, there’s a step by step list of guidelines to follow in order to make a video that can become viral. There is also marketing procedures to follow.

    No clearly books can become viral, like you stated above, Harry Potter became viral and that was a book. Another recent book I know became viral in the last year is that stupid 50 shades of Grey book as well.

  11. I think that the term viral describes anything that spreads as a virus would spread. A virus starts off making one person sick, and that person infects others. As the number of people infected increase, so does the rate of transmission. This is a natural occurring phenomena caused by the extent to which humans interact with each other. The internet has increased the ability for any sort of media to “go viral” due to the increased amount of interaction allowed. I do not think the term viral is limited to online media. However, for something to be truly viral nowadays, it has to be spread over the internet in some way (Raving reviews or blogs about a book could be an example of how a non-internet related piece of work could go viral).

    I do not think there is any system to follow. However two things need to be present for something to go viral. The first is content: there has to be quality or value to the entertainment presented. Why would anyone tell a friend about something boring? The second is that it must reach an audience with the ability to spread the word. If the piece of work is only shown to a few people who have no interesting in sharing with others, the work will die.

  12. I don’t think there is anything specific that makes a video viral. All it has to be is something that is catchy, unique, and creative and people will love to love it. I think there is a system for something to go viral. The first step is for a video to get popular. The way it does this is by making multiple tags and a lot of times they use something that is already popular in their video to help expand their video views. It’s not only limited to online media. While it may be the most popular version of making something goes viral, books gain popularity (i.e. harry potter, fifty shades of grey, etc…). They do this by having a great story and have a great marketing scheme.

  13. “Wolfman’s got nards!” This was on the lips of every kid on my playground after the release of the 1987 film Monster Squad. I’m guessing that was the equivalent of a ‘viral meme.’ Monster Squad’s popularity with kids spread by word of mouth and the odd magazine. Does that still happen today? I don’t really like terms like ‘viral’ being used to describe a popular thirty second video of a cat pissing itself or whatever. I have noticed that many ‘viral videos’ have very little artistic merit. It’s a sign of the times that people place such importance on stupid youtube videos. I refuse to use the term viral to describe anything but an infection.

  14. For something to go “viral” it has to have some unique quality, it has to contain something people remember and want to share. This thing they remember doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be memorable. The reasons things go viral have more to do with the content than a “system” created to make something viral. Whatever the medium is, whether a book, video or movie, it must contain characteristics that induce people to share.

  15. I think it is the mind that takes something to be considered viral. Anything that has had a viral impact to this point has been spur of the moment and most times is uncalculated.

    There is no true system to follow to make viral things. People do try to go viral but it honestly takes something to be spread. Just because something goes viral doesn’t mean it is quality but just that enough people have spread it around.

    Offline things can go viral but it takes much longer and it may have a different term because it doesn’t happen as quickly or the impact isn’t so great

  16. To me, there is no system to make a viral video. I’ve seen people try it and it always flops. In my experience, you don’t make a viral video, it just happens.
    Viral videos usually have nothing in common with each other, other than the fact that they have gotten millions of views, comments, hits, likes, etc… But we really don’t know what determines whether a video goes viral or doesn’t. To me, the dumber, the more viral it will spread. Look at Nyan Cat for example. That is the most annoying, repetitive, pointless video that anybody has ever watched. Yet, it has millions of views on Youtube, clothing with Nyan Cat on it and much more. There is no reason for it to be so popular, but it is. It’s all about the viewers likes and dislikes. If they like it or find it funny, they will spread it around to their friends, family, followers, etc…to show the world the “hilarity” they just found on the internet.
    There is no substance behind viral videos, other than they are usually funny and make people laugh. Sometimes it takes years for a video to go viral, others take a day or two. I also think that the newest shows on television help make some videos go viral. Shows like Tosh.0 and Ridiculousness center themselves around making fun of web videos. They are able to spread the videos around to people who may not have looked for them, through a different medium.

  17. To me, viral media really only relates to certain kinds of digital media, 90% of the time being video. It is also something that people pass along to friends and colleagues because they find it evokes an emotion in them, and they want others to experience this. There really isn’t a system to create such content, it just happens. Sharing digitally and word of mouth allow interesting or funny items to travel fast. Pretty soon “everybody” is talking about it. In the medical world, a virus is a physical thing, not a mental thing. I relate this to my belief that viral media is a digital thing, not a physical thing. It’s just too broad a category to classify so many forms of media into.

  18. I like your example of the Harry Potter book which shows how the media played a big role in the financial success of the entire Harry Potter franchise. After the Harry Potter movie came out, sales from the book and the movie went viral because of the multiple and repeated opportunities for exposure to the franchise. This is what matters these days; if you want a product or a video to succeed, the one of best free advertisement method is to make it public through a free public source like Youtube, Facebook or other type of social media sourcehttp://www.forbes.com/sites/lewishowes/2012/08/09/how-to-go-viral-on-youtube-the-untold-truth-behind-getting-views/. For example, if a person designs a product that helps to improve a car’s gas mileage and wants to advertise that product but does not have the resources to advertise, that person can create a very interesting video to be posted in social media sources. If it goes viral, then that person might be able to attract investors and secure financial assistance to actually buy more advertisements and sell more products.

  19. Some videos that come off the top of my head are kabooyah and the lady o lord it’s a fire. These videos went popular because people found it humorous news reporting. These videos seemed unrealistic due to the characters of the interviewees. I must say I feel that to be viral it’s content much reach a skew of people in a short period of times. Many things can be viral clothes, books, movies, videos etc. I consider most viral things similar to a “trend”

  20. Viral to me is something that catches wind and takes off. Considering the sheer magnitude of media on the web, the amount of content that actually becomes popular is miniscule. For something to become viral it must be online, some kind of video or soundbite. But the result of something becoming viral is popularity… meaning something must come before that. That thing is appeal. For something to become viral, it must have appeal. There are various motives for creating appeal. Financial gain, popularity itself, attention to an idea… but what makes something viral? You hear about a video; you check out the video. You can agree with it, disagree, or like it, or hate it, but in the end it’s catching your attention. You’re using the media. Even if everyone hates the video (like the infamous “Friday” music video) it still has gone viral due to it’s attention.

  21. A viral video to me is one that keeps coming up in conversation, whether it be online or in person. For example, when all of those Harlem Shake videos peaked in popularity, I kept seeing them pop up on Facebook. I kept seeing people talking about creating their own. People would ask me offline if I’d seen or heard about them. It spread like a virus, and I mean literally a virus because it was something I didn’t want or care about lol.

    But even when it’s something that sounds lame or dumb, I’ll still check it out just to see what most of the fuss is about. Most of the time, I end up disappointed, but ya never know unless you check it out!

  22. I believe that in order for media to be considered “viral” it has to appear through multiple platforms on a mass scale. One point that you touched on was the fact that you cannot set out to make a video viral, it just has to happen. I believe that a combination of creativity and timing is ultimately what makes a video viral. People dont share something unless it resonates with them and some way so viral videos and content have to appeal to a mass audience. Whether its thru humor or creative skill, the success of a viral video depends on a number of elements coming together to create something truly entertaining.

    In terms of books, I guess you could say that they can also go “viral”. They permeate culture through word of mouth and often are made even more popular by the internet.

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