And Then There's This: How to Make Sense of Viral Culture
In today's digital world, we are constantly bombarded by stories that capture our attention, make us laugh, shock us, or outrage us. These stories, whether they are about celebrities, scandals, memes, or trends, often go viral on social media platforms and online news outlets, reaching millions of people in a matter of hours or days. But what exactly is viral culture, and why does it matter? How can we understand the dynamics and implications of this phenomenon that shapes our collective consciousness and behavior?
What is viral culture?
Viral culture is the term used to describe the phenomenon of stories, images, videos, or ideas that spread rapidly and widely through online networks, especially social media. The term \"viral\" comes from the analogy with biological viruses, which infect and multiply within host organisms. Similarly, viral content infects and multiplies within online communities, generating reactions and responses from users.
Why does viral culture matter?
Viral culture matters because it influences how we perceive and interact with the world around us. It affects our emotions, opinions, values, and behaviors. It also affects how we communicate and relate with others, both online and offline. Viral culture can have positive or negative impacts on individuals and society, depending on the nature and quality of the content that goes viral.
How can we understand viral culture?
To understand viral culture, we need to examine its various aspects and dimensions. We need to look at how viral content is created, distributed, consumed, and interpreted. We also need to look at how viral culture interacts with other forms of culture, such as journalism, marketing, politics, art, and entertainment. In this article, we will explore three key topics related to viral culture: nanostories, viral journalism, and viral marketing.
The Rise of Nanostories
What are nanostories?
Nanostories are short-lived stories that emerge and fade quickly in viral culture. They are often based on trivial or sensational events or topics that generate a lot of buzz but have little lasting significance or value. Nanostories can be factual or fictional, serious or humorous, informative or misleading. They can be about anything from celebrities' personal lives to political scandals to internet memes.
How do nanostories spread?
Nanostories spread through online platforms that enable users to share content easily and instantly with their networks. These platforms include social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, etc., as well as online news outlets like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Vice, etc. Nanostories rely on users' attention and engagement to spread further and faster. Users can amplify nanostories by liking, commenting, sharing, retweeting, reposting, or creating their own versions of the content.
What are the effects of nanostories?
Nanostories can have various effects on individuals and society, depending on how they are perceived and received. Some possible effects are:
They can entertain, amuse, or inspire us, providing us with a sense of fun, curiosity, or wonder.
They can inform, educate, or raise awareness about important or interesting issues, providing us with a sense of knowledge, insight, or perspective.
They can influence, persuade, or mobilize us, providing us with a sense of identity, belonging, or action.
They can distract, confuse, or mislead us, providing us with a sense of boredom, anxiety, or deception.
They can polarize, divide, or offend us, providing us with a sense of conflict, resentment, or outrage.
The Challenges of Viral Journalism
What is viral journalism?
Viral journalism is the practice of producing and publishing stories that are designed to go viral online. It is also known as clickbait journalism, because it often uses catchy headlines, images, or videos that entice users to click on the content. Viral journalism aims to attract as many views, clicks, shares, and comments as possible, in order to generate revenue from online advertising or subscriptions.
How do journalists create and cover viral stories?
Journalists create and cover viral stories by using various techniques and strategies. Some of these are:
They use data analytics and algorithms to identify trending topics, keywords, hashtags, or sources that are likely to generate interest and engagement from online audiences.
They use catchy headlines, images, or videos that appeal to users' emotions, curiosity, or biases. They often use hyperbole, exaggeration, or sensationalism to make the content more compelling or controversial.
They use short and simple language and format that make the content easy to read and share. They often use lists, bullet points, quizzes, polls, or infographics to present information in a concise and visual way.
They use social media platforms to distribute and promote their content. They often use hashtags, tags, mentions, or influencers to increase the visibility and reach of their content.
What are the ethical and professional issues of viral journalism?
Viral journalism poses several ethical and professional issues for journalists and media outlets. Some of these are:
It can compromise the quality and credibility of journalism. It can lead to inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information. It can also lead to plagiarism, fabrication, or manipulation of sources or data.
It can undermine the public interest and trust in journalism. It can divert attention from more important or relevant issues. It can also create echo chambers or filter bubbles that reinforce users' existing views or prejudices.
It can erode the editorial independence and responsibility of journalism. It can pressure journalists to follow the dictates of market forces or audience preferences. It can also expose journalists to legal or ethical risks such as defamation, privacy invasion, or hate speech.
The Opportunities of Viral Marketing
What is viral marketing?
Viral marketing is the practice of using viral strategies to promote a product or service online. It is also known as word-of-mouth marketing or buzz marketing because it relies on users' recommendations and referrals to spread the message. Viral marketing aims to create a positive image and reputation for the brand or business among online communities.
How do marketers use viral strategies to promote their products or services?
Marketers use viral strategies to promote their products or services by using various techniques and tools. Some of these are:
They create viral content that showcases the features, benefits, or values of their products or services. They often use humor, creativity, emotionality, or novelty to make the content more appealing or memorable.
They leverage viral platforms that enable users to access, share, or interact with their content. These platforms include social media sites, blogs, podcasts, video-sharing sites, etc.
They engage viral influencers who have large or loyal followings online. They often collaborate with celebrities, experts, or ordinary users who can endorse or review their products or services.
They encourage viral participation that involves users in creating or contributing to their content. They often use contests, challenges, games, or surveys to motivate or reward users for their involvement.
What are the benefits and risks of viral marketing?
Viral marketing can have various benefits and risks for marketers and consumers. Some of these are:
It can increase the awareness and visibility of the brand or business. It can reach a large and diverse audience in a short time and at a low cost.
It can enhance the reputation and loyalty of the brand or business. It can create a positive word-of-mouth and a strong relationship with customers and potential customers.
It can boost the sales and profits of the brand or business. It can generate more traffic, leads, conversions, and referrals for the products or services.
It can backfire and damage the image and credibility of the brand or business. It can trigger negative reactions or responses from online communities or regulators.
It can be unpredictable and uncontrollable. It can depend on factors such as timing, quality, relevance, or virality of the content that are hard to measure or manipulate.
It can be unethical and deceptive. It can use misleading, intrusive, or manipulative tactics to influence or exploit users' emotions, opinions, or behaviors.
Summary of main points
In this article, we have explored the phenomenon of viral culture and how it affects our society and culture. We have looked at three key topics related to viral culture: nanostories, viral journalism, and viral marketing. We have seen how these topics involve the creation, distribution, consumption, and interpretation of viral content online. We have also seen how these topics have various effects, challenges, and opportunities for individuals and organizations.
Recommendations for further reading or action
If you are interested in learning more about viral culture and how to make sense of it, here are some recommendations for further reading or action:
Read And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture by Bill Wasik. This book is a fascinating and insightful exploration of how viral stories emerge and fade in our digital age.
Watch Going Viral: The Mother of All Pandemics by BBC. This documentary is a compelling and informative investigation of how viral outbreaks spread and affect our health and society.
Subscribe to The Viral Newsletter by The New York Times. This newsletter is a weekly roundup of the most interesting and important viral stories from around the web.
Follow @viral on Twitter. This account is a curated source of viral content from various platforms and genres.
Create your own viral content using tools like Canva, Lumen5, or BuzzSumo. These tools can help you design, produce, and analyze viral content for your personal or professional purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between viral culture and popular culture?
Viral culture and popular culture are both forms of culture that involve mass media and mass audiences. However, viral culture is more specific and dynamic than popular culture. Viral culture refers to the phenomenon of stories, images, videos, or ideas that spread rapidly and widely through online networks. Popular culture refers to the general set of beliefs, values, norms, symbols, or practices that are shared by large groups of people in society.
What are some examples of viral content?
Some examples of viral content are:
The Ice Bucket Challenge: A social media campaign that involved people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and funds for ALS research.
The Dress: A photograph of a dress that sparked a debate over its color (blue and black or white and gold) due to different perceptions of lighting and contrast.
Gangnam Style: A music video by South Korean singer Psy that featured a catchy song and a humorous dance move that became a global sensation.
Baby Shark: A children's song and video by Pinkfong that featured a simple melody and repetitive lyrics that became popular among kids and adults alike.
The Bernie Sanders Mittens Meme: A photograph of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders wearing a pair of knitted mittens at the 2021 presidential inauguration that inspired countless memes and parodies online.
How do you measure the virality of content?
There is no definitive way to measure the virality of content, as different platforms and metrics may have different definitions and standards of virality. However, some common ways to measure the virality of content are:
The number of views, clicks, shares, or comments that the content receives on online platforms.
The reach, impressions, or engagement that the content generates among online audiences.
The sentiment, tone, or emotion that the content evokes from online users.
The influence, impact, or outcome that the content has on individuals or society.
How do you make your content go viral?
There is no guarantee or formula to make your content go viral, as viral content depends on various factors such as timing, quality, relevance, or virality that are hard to predict or control. However, some general tips to make your content go viral are:
Create content that is original, creative, entertaining, informative, or inspiring.
Use catchy headlines, images, or videos that appeal to users' emotions, curiosity, or biases.
Use short and simple language and format that make the content easy to read and share.
Use data analytics and algorithms to identify trending topics, keywords, hashtags, or sources that are likely to generate interest and engagement from online audiences.
Use social media platforms to distribute and promote your content. Use hashtags, tags, mentions, or influencers to increase the visibility and reach of your content.
Encourage user participation and interaction with your content. Use contests, challenges, games, or surveys to motivate or reward users for their involvement.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of viral culture?
Viral culture has both advantages and disadvantages for individuals and society. Some of these are:
Advantages: Viral culture can entertain, amuse, or inspire us. It can inform, educate, or raise awareness about important or interesting issues. It can influence, persuade, or mobilize us. It can increase the awareness and visibility of brands or businesses. It can enhance the reputation and loyalty of brands or businesses. It can boost the sales and profits of brands or businesses.
Disadvantages: Viral culture can distract, confuse, or mislead us. It can divert attention from more important or relevant issues. It can create echo chambers or filter bubbles that reinforce our existing views or prejudices. It can backfire and damage the image and credibility of brands or businesses. It can be unpredictable and uncontrollable. It can be unethical and deceptive.