What the Harlem Shake reminds us about creating viral content?

harlem shakeBy now you have maybe come across the latest viral video sensation, The Harlem Shake. Accompanied by a hypnotic dance track by American DJ and producer Baauer, The Harlem Shake meme revolves around creating your own video to a set formula. In the track intro, a usually masked individual appreciates the beat in a crowded setting. The crowd appear unaware of the solo dancer. When the drop kicks in, all hell breaks loose. Common sights include superhero costumes, inflatable animals and people dancing in sleeping bags.

It’s probably best you see what this is all about…

That’s the meme. But what does it tell about creating viral content? As soon as I saw the Harlem Shake I thought back to the wise words of Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s trends manager. We’ve been including Kevin’s excellent February 2012 Ted Talk video in our social media training events to explore content propagation. In it, he suggests that their analysis of viral video identifies three key components for success:

  • Taste makers – the video needs appeal to, and be discovered by (or sent to) one or more high connectivity, high volume sharers.
  • Participation – there are opportunities to “build” on the meme.
  • Unexpectedness – there is a surprise element.

This would seem to describe the Harlem Shake meme perfectly. There is unexpectedness, huge opportunity for participation, and the video did nothing until picked up by tastemakers, as shown by the Google Trends graph:



Nice one, Kevin. If you’d like to learn more about content propogation and watch Kevin’s talk in it’s entirety, here is our “Social Media 101” presentation:

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Jeremy Webb

Chief & Adventurer

Jeremy WebbWhat the Harlem Shake reminds us about creating viral content?

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