Friday, March 16, 2012

Why Videos Go Viral: Text 3 for Assignment 2

NMN Assignment 2 for:JessL
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Kevin Allocca (2011), YouTube Trends Manager, explains the three factors that are necessary for an online video to "go viral" in a video from TEDTalks' TEDYouth event. The term "go viral" in this case means that a video receives millions of views seemingly overnight.

Allocca (2011) explains that viral videos must have to have three elements: they must be seen by cultural tastemakers, must naturally develop communities of participation and must contain unexpected content. 

Allocca's humourous presentation includes clips from viral videos, including the double rainbow video, Rebecca Black's Friday music video, Nyan cat video and Casey Niestat's video showing why you can't ride in bike lanes in New York (2011).

Allocca explains that viral videos need to be seen and discussed by tastemakers such as late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel or performer Lady Gaga in order to go viral. Although Allocca does not explain the theory behind this claim, the reason why tastemakers are so influencial is that their reputation has earned them a legion of devoted followers. Jimmy Kimmel has 1.2 million Twitter followers plus a television show while Lady Gaga has 20.8 million fans on Twitter. When one of these high-profile celebrities talks about a video to their extended social media network, the video is thrust in front of millions of people with the celebrity's seal of approval. As Howard Rheingold (2002) says, "reputation is one of the ways we mediate trust".

When a Jimmy Kimmel fan sees it and enjoys it, it only takes a push of a button on a smartphone to retweet the video out to their network, which causes the number of views to grow exponentially. No one tells the viewers to share the videos. They are not paid nor rewarded except for the satisfaction of finding something “cool” before their friends and family find it.

Community of participation
The second element needed for a video to go viral is that it naturally creates a community of participation. The Nyan cat video inspired copycat videos, real-life versions and musical spinoffs. This element cannot be predicted. No amount of money, force or advertising can illicit the range of creative responses that are developed by the community. In his Smart Mobs lecture at MIT, Howard Rheingold (2002) explains that technology such as PCs and the Internet was created by social communication and its users, similar to the way uploaders and viewers are changing YouTube. Rheingold jokes that if we waited for the governments and corporations to create the world wide web, our grandchildren would still be waiting for it (2002). But by allowing users to do what they want with it, even if it's simply posting videos of their dogs, they change the technology in ways we never could have imagined (2002).

Rheingold points out that Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, didn't have to ask permission from a large association to connect computers, he just did it (2002). Rheingold echoes Allocca's statement that YouTube viewers participate because "no one has to green-light your idea" (2011). 

Allocca's the third element that helps create viral videos is unexpectedness (2011). This hard-to-describe trait means that the video is surprising, entertaining and memorable. Allocca says that 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and this trait makes videos stand out (2011).


Allocca, K. (2011). "Kevin Allocca: Why videos go viral
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Berners-Lee, T. (2012). Bio
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Black, R. (Singer). (2011).  Rebecca Black - Friday - Official Music Video [YouTube video]. United States. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from

Gaga, L. (2012). @ladygaga. [Twitter account]. United States. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from!/ladygaga

Hungrybear9562 (Cameraperson). (2010). Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow 1-8-10 [YouTube video]. United States. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from

Kimmel, J. (2012). @jimmykimmel. [Twitter account]. United States. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from!/jimmykimmel

Neistat, C. (Producer). (2011). Bike lanes by Casey Neistat. [YouTube video]. United States. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from
PRguitarman. (GIF animator). (2011). Nyan Cat [original] [YouTube video]. United States. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from

Rheingold, H. (2002).  “Smart mobs: The next social revolution.”  MIT World. [Video file]. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from

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