A Scottish spinster becomes an Internet sensation. Pants on the Ground is a trending topic on Twitter. We now know You Must Always Blow on the Pie (I like the South Park version). Things going viral on the Internet are now a fact of life (isn’t it funny to think the first video was uploaded to YouTube just 5 years ago?) but how do these viral things catch our collective attention?
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says there are three things needed in order to go viral. These are 1) the Law of the Few- three specific types of rare people who share things (the Connector, who has a huge network of acquaintances, the Maven, who knows lots of stuff and wants to share it, and the Salesman, who can persuade people to propel an idea), 2) the Stickiness Factor- you need content which is memorable, and 3) the Power of Context- other helpful environmental factors.
Take the bra colour Facebook status updates, the Internet meme that that went viral at the beginning of January ’10. Women received a message from friends saying they should update their status with their bra colour supposedly in honour of breast cancer awareness. What’s interesting about this one is that no one knows where it started- not even Facebook– but it went truly global in a couple of days.
Employing Gladwell’s Law of the Few, one well-connected person could have written this message- which she then messaged to all her many her female friends, who messaged it to their female friends, and so on. The idea was Sticky- slightly risqué (when you’re in on it), and within the Context of Facebook, it could spread easily (and fast!).
And my status? Black. Heehee.