Viral is the new buzzword on the internet these days. Viral content may or may not be liked but it sure does become famous. And on the internet…everything famous can make you money.
Fidget Spinning To Virality
Rewind to 8 months in the past and you will see that there were close to zero searches on Google for the term “fidget spinners”. It was only in December 2016 that the search term began appearing on the charts. Fast forward 8 months from then and today, they are everywhere! From being sold online to being sold on traffic lights, it’s hard to not spot a fidget spinner. Although no concrete data is available due to the large number of small-scale sellers, it is estimated that atleast $500 million worth of fidget spinners have been sold till date. And what is more surprising is not a penny worth of marketing had to be done. This was what a marketing enthusiast would call a ‘perfect case of organic publicity’
Forgive me for all the jargon. And no, this isn’t a business study article. So, hopefully you won’t fall asleep by the time you’re done reading!
Now, the term ‘viral’ isn’t new for any of us. It’s something everyone wants to be on the Internet these days. Ice bucket challenge, flip bottle challenge, planking, dabbing etcetera and etcetera we’ve seen them all come and go. It’s quite fascinating, how a viral trend works. There are so many people engrossed with a single idea at a single time that no matter where you look almost everyone on social media is liking, sharing, commenting, snapping and tweeting about the exact same thing.
Humans like to do things in groups. We are more comfortable going to a party with 3 more friends rather than going alone. Being in a group gives us a sense of security and also a sense of validation. When most people think that something is right, it becomes easier for the rest to believe it is right too. And because we want to be accepted in the group, we let go of our ideals and opinions and instead adopt the group’s philosophy. This is exactly what happens in a viral trend. We like to do it…just because everyone else is doing it!
Now this is fine for as long as it’s limited to stuff like fidget spinners or flip bottle challenges. But what if the same effect could be created for something that has a bigger and more direct impact on our lives. Say an election. Or a law being passed in the parliament. Or a political party trying to further its ideology. Now this is something to think about.
Social Media-The Culprit
There was a time when people would read articles, books or participate in healthy discussions and thus, get to really know about an issue. And there still is a good portion on the human population does that today as well. But what can be said of the younger generation? A vast majority of the 12-25 age group isn’t interested in reading boring 1000 word articles. The news of today comes in the shape of 225 character tweets, 40 second long Instagram clips, Facebook posts, memes and snapchat stories. Of course it is impossible to get “the complete picture” about any issue via these miniature sized information boxes. And thus, it becomes very difficult for the younger generation to even understand most issues let alone formulate sound opinions about them.
Add to this the huge amount of validation a viral trend can give and presto! You now have the ability to implant ideas into people’s heads. Viral campaigns are so powerful that in the recent past we’ve seen them altering the outcomes of elections (Donald trump), wrecking havoc for an app’s future (Snapchat CEO incident), they’ve made hundreds of people millionaires, create political revolutions(Arab spring) and almost overnight, create a 500 million dollar market for fidget spinners.
It’s no surprise that everyone today wants to be viral. There are studies being conducted and experiments being run on how to create viral content and sustain a trend. Until now, most of the trends we’ve seen were organic ones. Which means that there was no company or group of people pushing the trend trying to achieve a certain goal. But it won’t be long before the greedy corporate world and the media houses of today learn how to create and sustain these trends. Then they would push their products and ideas onto the masses, advertising them without us even realising that our attention is being sold. The content they create will be so irresistible and compelling that it indoctrinate opinions in our minds and influence our decison making.
You Spin My Head Right Round
I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory but, every single viral trend we see is evidence that such a world is near. A world full of people with poor decision making skills who can be easily controlled. Fidget spinners was an accidental discovery that took the $90 billion toy industry by surprise. Big players like Hasbro and Mattel who own more than 90% of the market were left scratching their heads while small scale businesses took over most the fidget spinner market. But the next such trend may not be an accident. It will be a well proven and well funded campaign designed to achieve a certain goal for a certain corporate giant or a cunning media house. This is what the rise of fidget spinners predicts.
It is time we learn and also teach our younger generations how to read between the lines, how to analyse and how to form rationally sound opinions. An Arabian proverb says “Democracy is where the opinion of two fools is heavier than the opinion of a wise man”. In a world that is becoming increasingly more democratic with every passing day, it is important that the wise men do not become a minority. We need to become more vigilant. If you don’t guard the garden of your mind, then it won’t be long before someone else plants poisonous weeds and makes you believe that they’re in fact flowers. Wake up!
Have a great day!