How to go viral? Do you know what it takes?


What makes a social media post go viral?

A few days ago, I read a newspaper article shared on Facebook about a mini-documentary that had gone “viral”.   It did not appear to have the usual “hooks” of sex, scandal, stardom, big money or drugs to garner attention.  Instead it was a story of an Inuit elder in a remote Arctic community filmed in Inuinnaqtun (a lesser known Inuit language).  It made me wonder what makes a post go viral?

“Documentary on Kugluktuk elder goes viral”, Nunavut News,

So where did I go to find the answer?  Google, of course!  According to  “What Makes Something Go Viral?” the experts have a number of theories.  I’ve set out a few below.

According to Kevin Allocca, YouTube Head of Culture and Trends at Google, it comes down to three things:  tastemakers, communities of participation and/or unexpectedness.  Tastemakers of individuals who have influence and can spread an idea or product through their vast network to spark interest.   Does Kim Kardashian come to mind?   From there, communities of participation can rally around an idea or product to help spur it further.  Typically, the item of focus must have some element of uniqueness or unexpectedness about it.

Jonah Berger, a Wharton marketing professor and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, outlines 6 main reasons why a video goes viral and summarizes them as STEPPS.  Broken down, STEPPS stands for:

  • Social currency
    • Is there some social value in sharing it? Do I look cool?
  • Triggers
    • What is the predominant need or desire of the sharer? We tend to focus on those things we may be longing for.
  • Emotion
    • What emotion does the content evoke? Positive or inspirational stories are more likely to be shared.
  • Public
    • Sharing information that is out there and shared may make you feel part of the larger group
  • Practical Value
    • What’s the top 10 ways to cook a chicken? 5 must do behaviours when looking for a mate.
  • Stories
    • Everyone loves a story particularly a heartwarming one.

Berger goes on to say that ALL viral content share these 5 attributes: SurprisingInterestingIntensePositive and Actionable.

So how does this relate to the mini-documentary, I AM HITKOAK?

There were no tastemakers or big name celebrities or personalities from all accounts that brought forward the mini-documentary into the public eye.  However, its promotion by Reel Youth, a national organization that promotes visual arts among youth may have given recognition of the film through a community or communities of participation to spur its sharing.  Its uniqueness in content, language, location and subject could not be more unique or unexpected, reflecting Allocco’s third element.

Looking at it through the STEPPS lens, the intrigue of the north and ability to gain a glimpse of traditional life may have led to social currency in sharing the story.  It may trigger a desire for connectedness and adventure by those more familiar with a stale urban backdrop.  The short duration (just over 6 minutes) gives rise to a number of emotions including playfulness at the opening scene to the desperation of starvation that was all too real in Hitkoak’s life and the Inuit.  Sharing the story may highlight that you are part of a sensitive caring public.  While the documentary may not provide the practical tips that we’ve all become accustomed to seeing on social media, it certainly highlights the basics of a nomadic traditional lifestyle where food, shelter and clothing cannot be assured.

I AM HITKOAK provides insight to a lifestyle that is far different from many and leads us on an emotional ride in a short time.  The story of the film’s making is particularly heartwarming.  The two young women took time to listen, to hear and to learn from the elder, HITKOAK.  The intergenerational respect, caring and sensitivity to while making the production which is truly inspiring as well.

So what have we learned from this?  Want your post to go viral?  Is it unique?  Does it take have emotional appeal?  Does it have social currency?  Can you win favour with the tastemakers?  Then you too may be able to go viral.

 Going viral?  What does it take?

 Do you know what it takes to go viral?

#respectingElders  #Inuittraditionallifestyle  #goingviral



Social Media Breeds Hate


How many of us believe that social media breeds hate or have at least given this serious consideration?  We’ve all seen exchanges between individuals on Twitter or Facebook that have quickly escalated into name-calling or even threats.  Even a seemingly banal post can take a nasty turn.

Most would consider that living in a small gulf island community on Canada’s tranquil Pacific west coast would be pretty idyllic….and it is!!!  Yet there is a dark cyber world underbelly which is exposed when you visit the four community sites online.  Why four?  Well, at various times, someone has been cast away out due to a difference in opinion and s/he has then started a new discussion group.  Topics such as whether or not roosters should be allowed in our rural environment can become quite heated.   There are continued arguments between north-enders and south-enders and heated arguments over a bridge or no bridge which, prior to the internet, were debated through written Letters to the Editor in the local community “rag”.

Although some express their opinions online through the anonymity of pseudo-names, it is still sometimes possible to attribute harsh comments expressed online to an islander.  Surprisingly, it can be the friendly chap who always waves “hello” at the Village Market or the lovely woman who serves customers at the Coop and then it starts to colour the view of your own community. Amid the online hostility though, there are the humorous small-town chatter such as a report of a donkey running loose on South Road or the important community alerts that a cougar has been spotted chasing a deer or an update from the Fire Chief of a bushfire nearby.  While some of the exchanges can be pleasant, others can truly be concerning when it exposes intolerance, unwarranted hostility and even hatred to those expressing an alternate view.

More recently, I saw a post on Facebook about a social experiment aimed at addressing social media hate.  Interestingly, I might not have seen it otherwise if not for a friend’s sharing of the link….not being a fan of Dr. Phil or never hearing about his segment “Tuesdays with Troy”.  The experiment – Killing Hate — put together a diversified group of millennials (being the largest age group on social media), each one having spurred aggressive online conversations or been affected by online hate speech. The group members would soon realize through the experiment that they did not share core beliefs or values.  Questions are asked about their positions on typically touchy issues such as pro-choice versus pro-life, pro versus anti-immigration, affirmative action or not, etc. After each describing themselves in their own way (as progressive, conservative, democrat, liberal, queer, etc.) and indicating their positions on a variety of issues, they were encouraged to talk about their views, their whys and their differences.  Interestingly, engagement built bridges and perhaps understanding rather than the hostility and vitriol that is so prevalent in online “discourse”.  The group was then challenged to provide some guidance around the use of social media and how to lower the level of hate.  The millennials set out the following five principles to consider before engaging in an online debate.

  • Listen before responding
  • If you wouldn’t say it in person don’t say it online
  • No insults
  • Meet anger with kindness
  • Find the common ground and good in others.

The facilitator of the experiment, Troy Dunn, also added “consider that the possibility that you may be wrong”.

On reflection, these principles are not much different from other advice or “rules” to guide good conduct.  One that comes to mind is the Rotary Club’s Four-Way Test, specifically (1) Is it true, (2) Is it fair, (3) Will it build goodwill, and (4) Will it be beneficial?  Not unlike the motherly advice, “If you can’t say something positive, don’t say anything at all” but that would hardly facilitate good debate.  However, the difference is that these principles were developed by millennials, the greatest users of social media  and by those who themselves have incited or faced online hatred directly.  They have lived with social media for the greatest proportion of their lives.  Clearly we have something to learn from them…..and we ought to listen.

 Do you engage in online debates?  Will these 5 principles developed by millennials change how you approach your online exchanges? Click here for more

 Here are 5 principles that millennials developed when engaging in online debates. Can they teach us something? Click here for more

#whenmillennialsspeak  #eliminateonlinehate  #5principlestoliveby #killhate


GoFundMe this!!!

GoFundMe this!!!

Is it just me?

There seems to be a huge surge in crowdfunding appeals lately for everything from home renovations to tuition assistance to medical procedures.   The stories can be awe-inspiring, tragic or even frivolous.

Results can be astounding with funds raised far exceeding the original request such as the appeal for the Humboldt Bronco tragedy.  Funds raised now stand at over $15M in response to the $4M request.  When it reached over $10M, it set a record as the largest Canadian campaign ever.

Humboldt Broncos bus crash

Other campaigns have attracted abysmal results such as a young man from Montreal who launched a GoFundMe page seeking $25,000 assistance for flight school.  Even he seemed doubtful his campaign would be successful which might explain why he received only $777 a full year later.  I have also followed a single mother’s competitive bodybuilding quest that has largely been funded through successive crowdfunding campaigns.

Clearly these appeals can yield results if sincere.  Even better if there’s a heart-tugging element to the story.  A quick Google search reveals many crowdfunding alternatives such as Indiegogo, Fundly, Bonfire and Edco to name a few.  GoFundMe alone has 18 different categories to register a campaign.  Sure beats asking Mom or Dad to pay for your shaman training in Peru.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed something new, perhaps even a micro-trend, with loved ones launching a crowdfunding campaign for a bereaved as a show of sympathy and support.  “Come on, let’s show Sherry how much we love her!”  The focus has shifted from addressing a need to demonstrating concern. Has this become the “modern” alternative to offering a shoulder to cry on and what message does this convey particularly when financial support is not needed?  “Sorry about your loss but here’s some money.”

So GoFundMe this, how does this new micro-trend sit with you?  Truthfully, I have my reservations but I appreciate the concern.

facebook  Does sending your best via a crowdfunding campaign replace being there?  What’s your take?  Facebook

Twitter Hey, sorry for your loss, here’s some money.  #ismoneyenough #offeringconcern #Iamthereforya  Twitter


We’re cheering for Champ and you should too!

Who is Champ?

I’ll warn you now, he’s a charmer.  For a tiny guy, he has attracted a strong following in just a few days.

He is also why I am behind with this assignment and so much more.  As I was searching for a topic for this week’s social media assignment, it occurred to me that Champ’s story highlights how social media can reach out and turn fate around.

Champ has many physical ailments but his challenges may have been his good fortune earlier this month.  While many lives were so tragically lost in the SPCA (West Quebec) fire on July 4th, Champ was not among those who had recently been sent there by the Iqaluit Humane Society for rehoming.

fire-aylmer-spca-of-western-quebec-july-2-2018Fire destroyed the SPCA of Western Quebec in Gatineau’s Aylmer neighbourhood Monday night, killing 70 animals. (CBC)

Fire at Quebec SPCA leaves Iqaluit shelter in dire need

Instead he remained in Iqaluit.  While pleas were circulating social media to help rebuild the much-needed facilities in Gatineau, IHS was facing over-stretched resources and the loss of a critical partner.  The Board had to consider whether Champ’s “luck” had truly run out.

I received a PM through Facebook from the IHS Chair asking whether I might know of any options for Champ.  While I had once lived in the territory full time, I am now a two-day journey of connecting flights from Iqaluit and a day’s travel from the closest major centre.  Through social media, though, distance does not matter.  I worked quickly in putting two compassionate women together to give Champ a lifeline.

Meet Champ


Photo courtesy of Tails & Trails Country Pet Resort

While his issues are major, his spirit has captured hearts across the country.  Comments posted on Tails & Trails’ Facebook page include expressions of love and well wishes from those who have never met him.  If not for social media, a disabled three-month old pup in the eastern Arctic would literally not have a chance at life.  While we await the results with a specialist in Ottawa tomorrow, we’re cheering for Champ.

We hear a lot these days of the negative power of social media to cause disruption and spread falsehoods but it also has the capacity to empower for good.

Why you should be cheering for Champ too!

Now why does a little pup from Iqaluit deserve your attention?  Well, every once in a while there’s a story that comes along that unexpectedly tugs at your heart.  While it does nothing to address the horrific injustices or conflicts in the world, these small opportunities to make a difference help feed the soul.  We were not expecting to become so involved ourselves but through sharing via social media, we have come to know his personality, his fighting spirit and his determination.  Despite his challenges, nothing deters him from exploring and appreciating life.  Not a bad reminder for us all.

“That which is around me does not affect my mood; my mood affects that which is around me.”

~ Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain


facebook  We are cheering for Champ.  Find out why.

Twitter We are cheering for Champ!  Join us to find out why.

#Champfans  #Tails&Trails #IqaluitHumaneSociety