You can’t make it Viral – Some Thoughts on adverts and virality

‘You can’t make a cult movie.’

I found this quote recently whilst reading a film critics blog, and the idea stuck with me. The post went on to explain that some film makers recently, especially in the comedy sphere, have tried to make films that are deliberately ‘so bad it’s good’ goofy, or peppered with pop culture references, in an attempt to make a cult classic (think The Rocky Horror Show.) The problem is, this films often end up feeling flat or forced.

I feel that the same applies to online viral videos, especially in the world of advertising. Any advertiser would love to have their work go viral, but it’s not a predictable or guarantee-able event. You can study ‘Charlie bit my finger‘ or ‘Friday‘ or ‘Numa Numa guy‘, or look at the demographics, the commenters, the imitations (or even make an response of your own – EE has a great ‘sequel to Numa Numa’ that I saw in the cinema last week and it’s pretty awesome, although I feel the older members of the audience didn’t get the joke) but you can’t really purposefully make a video with these features and expect it to ‘go viral’ and possibly more if you are advertising something. Online video gives opportunities for great, original and unusual advertising campaigns but in the end they work like any other traditional campaign, through message and exposure.

If anything, an attempt to create a spreadable video might backfire badly for a company, much like the films described in that blogpost. That’s not to say that advertising campaigns and videos don’t go viral on YouTube or elsewhere, they frequently do. But it’s not something you can plan for or rely on.


Useful related reading: Spread That! Further Essays from the Spreadable Media Project by Henry Jenkins

Spread That!: Further Essays from the Spreadable Media Project – See more at:
Spread That!: Further Essays from the Spreadable Media Project – See more at:

In this, Henry Jenkins points out that media doesn’t magically spread and share all by itself – there’s an audience involved who need to be appealed to in some way.


A Few of my Favourite… Websites for Blog Inspirations

I’ve always tried, with varying degrees of success, to keep my posts on this blog fairly varied, based anything around internet that I can think of! That’s a pretty wide net of ideas, but even so  I do get writer’s block more frequently than I should. In those situations, I tend to look at other sites for inspiration – perhaps by writing about something they’ve covered, or just to find something that might spark off a topic. There are a few big article sites I use

  • is a fairly obvious go-to for news on digital business and social media, since it’s one of the biggest websites/magazines, but honestly, only when there is big news. They cover a very wide range of science and tech topics which are always cool to read not not necessary blog inspiring!
  • Mashable is quite a bit better for general articles on social media, I wish they wrote much. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s a bit shallow.
  • Techcrunch runs a lot of articles on app and tech start ups and how they work, they’re quite business-news based which I’m trying to read more about and understand better. Much of my blog so far has been based on the elements of digital culture I’ve been involved in – fan cultures, amateur creative works, not to mention academic research, but I’d like to start writing more professional-related posts as well. They also can be followed on WordPress, though I had to stop as I could never see anyone else’s posts…


Creative Boom is mostly a site for design/architecture, but they also have a great section on dealing with working in a digital environment where I’ve found some great articles on social media, really thought-provoking stuff. Plus lots of pretty photos and art 🙂

I’ve also recently discovered Bonjour, Blogger, which is a site dedicated to helping people blog better, and creating UK-based blogger networks. I haven’t been following them for very long, not long enough to get lots of inspiration but I’ve definitely loved what I’ve read so far and had ideas from them.

If none of these work, then I tend to turn to twitter hashtags (I’ll probably do a post on my favourite hashtags soon) or use WordPress reader to find other blogging ideas on here to bounce off.

Micro-celebrities and Social Media

Recently, in my ‘blog on blogging,’ I replied to a comment (from the lovely Bitsphere) on how professional bloggers need to be more, well, professional and perhaps less spontaneous. I’ve copied the conversation below.


It got me thinking about a topic I have tried to complete a blog on several times now. I’ve always noticed that with many bloggers, vloggers and other online content creators, while they might be talking about a particular subject, perhaps reviewing a product or discussing a piece of news, they are also often marketing themselves. Their own voice and often appearance.


Weaving their own experiences into their work is a way of better connecting with their audience as well as making their work more individual. This means that people might follow the blogger/content creator for their personality and experiences as much as for their work, especially if followers are able to relate to those  than those of bigger celebrities. The feeling of closeness can create very dedicated fans, and perhaps close-knit fan communities as well.


I’ve particularly noticed this in the area of fashion and beauty bloggers, since they are obviously their own models, but this applies to many others as well. I first found the phrase ‘micro-celebrity’ in an article which can be found here, describing a number of case studies of musicians engaging audiences through social media usage. The implication is that ‘micro-celebrities’ (as oppose to traditional celebrities) are self-creating through the use of social media.

‘microcelebrity’ in which individuals who are not famous (such as camgirls) use social media to create audiences for themselves. Marwick and boyd (2011: 140) describe microcelebrity as ‘a mindset and set of practices in which audience is viewed as a fan base; popularity is maintained through ongoing fan management; and self-presentation is carefully constructed to be consumed by others.’*

Creating an online persona by using multiple social media account both reinforces a person’s ‘brand’ as well as creating as many ways to communicate with fans. The two-way communication, or promise of that communication, is what keeps followers, which I feel brings me back to my original point. While professional bloggers etc. might be required to behave in a more formal, article-writing fashion, especially while promoting a product or service, it is often their individual style, informality and willingness to be open which attracts followers.

I think there is also an interesting followup blogpost here on online personas created for fame – particularly as I’ve suggested that many bloggers and content creators gain followers by an open and honest approach, yet it’s clear that just of many create a less ‘real’ online approach, and there are many reasons behind people doing this – not all of them negative or even conscious decisions!


* From Baym, Fans or friends?: Seeing social media audiences as musicians do p289


Edit: To anyone visiting this post through Mt. Hood Community College, Hi there! Hope you’re enjoying the content and whatever activities you’re doing on it.