“Quality, it seems, is a necessary, but insufficient attribute for success.”
― Derek Thompson, Hit Makers: Why Things Become Popular
“Entammede jimikki kammal, Entappan kattondu poye, Entappante brandy kuppi, Entamma kudichu theerthe”. If there are few lines every Malayalee (Mallu’s as we are fond to call them), are singing in unison today, these are the ones. It is a song from a Malayalam movie already seen more than 22 million times on YouTube in the last 2 months. There are at least 5 or 6 versions of the song, one from Dubai (of course), one from Australia, one by Infosys team and more. A commerce professor danced to its tune with her students and the video of it garnered 8 million of its own views on YouTube. Simply put the video has gone viral!
Why do some videos go viral? Why some do not? Nobody knows. On YouTube, videos equal to 300 hours are uploaded every day. Very few (<0.03%) go viral. 1 out of thousands of cat videos go viral on Internet. When you look at some of the videos that have gone viral, you wonder what was there in this video for it to viral? Rebecca Black’s Friday video was a YouTube sensation in 2011 when her video garnered millions of views. Everybody was on one page when it came to this video’s artistic attribute – irritating! “Entammade…” does have a good tune, especially the second stanza which I think was sung very well. Sorry, I don’t understand Malayalam!
When Dhanush sang the Kolaveri Di song that went so viral, little did he know that it would grow into something so big! He sold the rights of the song to Sony for a pittance before it went viral. If any other music company signed him up with big cheques for his other songs expecting a rerun of Kolaveri Di success, it was their turn to earn a pittance. One thing is common about most viral videos – they are one off success stories. Heard the next number of Psy? Who is he? He is the singer of Gangnam Style. So going viral is a stroke of luck or is there a method & science to it?
Baby faced Prof Johan Berger of Wharton believes there is a science and a method to it. He is the author of the well-written book about viral messaging titled ‘Contagious’. He explores and explains the phenomenon of things going viral and tips on how to make things go viral. Applying some of his ideas (called STTEPS) one can explain the phenomenon of Rebecca Black of the irritating Friday song. It gets 80-90% of its views, you guessed it, on a Friday! Suppose you are looking for a song to patch on something related to Friday, here is a readymade one. There are very few songs on the days of the week out there, so there is not much choice but to opt for Rebecca Black if it is Friday! It is something happened without her choice. Can we make things viral with a plan? Here is an example.
There are literally hundreds of bars & pubs in New York. How do you get popular? By not telling anyone! In one of the hot dog restaurants in East Village in New York there is an old telephone booth in one corner. After you enter you are greeted with an old rotary telephone. Dial as per the instructions and a voice greets you with the message “do you have a reservation?” It is the secret entrance to the famous pub Please Don’t Tell. Even if you do not have a reservation (who needs one for a pub?), you are informed that you are lucky today and a door at the back of the booth opens to welcome you into the pub. Their only request, Please Don’t Tell. Being true humans, that what we do. Tell everyone and take it viral!
Unfortunately more negative things go viral (like the fever) than the positive ones. It is our choice what we don’t like and what we don’t forward. We see, like and share that has been by many (views counter on every video). Remember, these views can be bought and created to help the video spread to catch unsuspecting people like you and me with click bait headlines (watch till the end, what happens next is shocking etc.). Think twice before you hit the like, share or comment button on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.
Ultimately it’s our choice what goes viral.
P.S.: If you are interested here is a loose translation of the first stanza of “Entammede…” shared by a Mallu friend of mine.
My Mother’s dangling earring
Was stolen by my Father.
My Mother drank to the bottom
My Father’s brandy bottle.
Here is the video link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXiaIH49oAU