Feeling viral

I’ve had a virus for the last three weeks. It infected me without warning. It multiplied inside my body. As well as a streaming nose, it has given me a cough that’s annoyed (and continues to annoy) most of Western Europe. All the time I was probably spreading my virus unknowingly to other unsuspecting victims. But at least the virus I’ve got is only a cold and it’ll go away. Yes, it’s a phlegm fest, but I’m grateful it’s nothing serious.

Surely the way a virus works offline explains the concept of “a viral” online — but I’m still not sure people really get it. There’s lots of talk about “virals”, etc, however there’s sometimes a perception that a viral video, for example, can be manufactured. Sure, a video can be manufactured but it needs the “support” of bloggers and the general Internet community in order to go “viral”.

Virals spread without viewers/users necessarily being aware that they’re spreading them, just like the biological versions. Why? Because the content is so irresistible that people share it and talk about it.

There’s now so much content out there on the Internet it’s survival of the fittest (or most infectious). Simply uploading a video to YouTube doesn’t make it “a viral” — a piece of content has to be infectious enough to be picked up by influencers and spread to the people they are in contact with. It’s not a case of manufacturing “a viral” overnight but more about creating something highly compelling, getting it in front of key influencers and then letting digital nature run its course. Another example of how it’s possible to influence but not control.

Below is an example of one of my personal favourites, along with the mutations (mashups) it spawned:

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