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Social Search

A little bit of geekery today — but don’t go mad! It’s all rather clever stuff from Google in that when you search they’re not only scouring the general internet but potentially also sifting through your friends’ social profiles to find relevant content for you.

Given that the vast majority of people start their internet journeys from a search engine, this  development shows just how important it for brands both to sort out their own websites and crucially create content which people will take away and place on their social profiles.

I’ll leave it to Google to explain how the search bit works:

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:

Disco grooves

My wide-collared jacket and disco shoes came out of retirement last week to celebrate 30 years of Saturday Night Fever. The BBC invited various artists to perform tunes from the film’s legendary soundtrack as part of their Electric Proms season – Robin Gibb himself even made an appearance singing ‘More Than a Woman’.

The likes of Sharleen Spiteri, Gabriella Climi and Sam Sparro took to the stage with their versions of classic Bee Gees tracks from the movie. It was pretty cool although inevitably some of the stars were better than others. It must be tricky performing these kind of covers because the originals are such classics there’s a big risk you’ll be accused of belting out nothing but dodgy karaoke.

(BTW the one I enjoyed the most was Disco Inferno)

I think this idea of ‘making something your own’ works in exactly the same way online. Internet users are beyond the stage of accepting what they’re given as gospel with no alternatives – they’ve got television for that, a linear means of pumping out content which is (for the most part) passively consumed. I worked in TV for a few years and the majority of what we did was based on decisions made in London and then beamed around the world with (in those days) next to no input from the audience. The Internet doesn’t work like that. Instead, users discover content which they may (or may not) consume and which they may (or may not) then repurpose as they see fit. I understand why brands may be nervous about this but at the same time it’s potentially a fantastic opportunity to foster engagement.

So what do the Bee Gees and “mashups” have in common? If I only wanted to listen to the music I’d have put on my Saturday Night Fever soundtrack CD. The Electric Proms show was about seeing how the artists took inspiration from the original to create something new. It’s got me talking/blogging about Saturday Night Fever in a new way and enthusing about the brand.

Surely if you like a brand which subsequently gives you content to play with you’ll do your best to reversion the content (favourably) and tell your friends about it. Now that has to be an opportunity.