Yes, another blog post on Susan Boyle

Today’s topic: Susan Boyle, the break-out sensation from “Britain’s Got Talent” and this week’s YouTube phenom. As with all discussions in the social-sphere, every day in every way, things are getting meta and meta. We’ve moved on from experiencing the Susan Boyle phenom to analyzing it, and then critiquing that analysis, and I’m more than happy to jump into the echo chamber.

Inevitably the hot topic among digital marketers is, how does something like this go so viral so fast, and how can I get me some of that? I’d like to spend a few words bursting that particular bubble. If a client were to ask me how they could create viral videos approaching this level of success, my response would be something like:

“First, become a global entertainment empire with huge stakes in television, film, music, and Web media. Create a hit show with cross-promotional deals in all of these arenas. Spend billions on advertising. Run the show for 8 years on two continents. Create an unprecedented level of viewer participation, then jam the resultant superstars down the entire world’s entertainment craw. When you’re done with that, train the spotlight of your massive empire onto an unlikely star, ideally during a disheartening economic downturn, and make sure the whole transformative experience can be viewed in less than 5 minutes.”

So, maybe not. My point is not that viral success requires this kind of backing – clearly that’s not the case – but that we ought to put a big ol’ asterisk on the word “viral” when applying it to something created out of a very traditional and very large media outlet. The asterisk would be there to remind us that what makes something truly viral is much more esoteric, and more importantly, that there’s usually no substitute for the kind of slow-burn, grassroots effort that’s needed for brands to succeed in the social space. Hey, brands, we want to build you something that goes viral. But let’s just start by building you something that’s great: something that’s funny, authentic, and disruptive. Step two: global domination.


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