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Network Effects and Viral Videos

An article in “Wired” magazine suggests that videos go viral by triggering visceral emotions in viewers, who then forward the video to their friends.  This article brings up two intriguing questions about network efforts in viral videos. Firstly, is content important in creating a viral video? And second, what are the dynamics of a viral video in comparison to a video with steady viewership?

It is evident from the history of viral videos that the content is not critical. The article describes the home video of two children that went viral because of the unusual feeling it aroused in people. Another example is the video “Friday” by teenage singer Rebecca Black. “Friday” received a large proportion of “dislikes” on you tube, nonetheless, it went viral for a few weeks. In fact, there are viral video marketing companies that assist clients in making videos viral in order to aid business. This usually involves embedding them in several webpages, in social networking sites, and creating high-impact titles that attract viewership and encourage sharing.

Since viral videos can trigger network effects that are favorable to business, it is important to compare the two types of videos with high viewership. Some classic videos have steady viewership whereas some viral videos have spikes in popularity.

Google trends

The graph shows a comparison of search trends of “Rebecca Black” and “Metallica.” A short lived viral trend like Rebecca Black has a significantly higher peak but dissolves rapidly to a low level. This is in agreement with the proposition in the textbook that some network trends can be terminated rapidly. Whereas a long standing interest in Metallica results in a healthy search volume over time and shows smaller spikes corresponding to events such as album releases and major concerts. In this case it is true that Metallica has several more albums than Rebecca Black, but the trends at the same time as the latter gained popularity are indicative of the concept. A long standing popular video does not necessarily go viral but has a greater impact than a short lived viral one! This is possible only by incorporating good content with long term appeal.

This leads us back to the first question: Is content important? For a long lasting impact and viewership, certainly!


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