Part I: The Dancing Baby Effect
Humans are social creatures. We like to talk, but we also like to listen. We’ve gone from oral history to the printing press, and eventually made our way to worldwide connectivity with the internet. Originally intended exclusively for military use, the guys over at DARPA discovered that it was actually pretty fun to send each other smiley faces through primordial cyberspace.
Years later, around the time that Ebay hit the scene, it was hard to find funny stuff on the internet. Chat programs like AIM, MSN, and ICQ worked in tandem with large-scale internet forums to keep users connected and sharing content. There was no nerve-center for comedy before YouTube opened the cat video floodgates and drowned our free-time like an angry god.
The Dancing Baby, is one of the earliest examples of viral content. It looks exactly how it sounds. The baby dances. Dancing Baby was spread almost exclusively through forums, chat clients, and eventually reporters picked it up for broadcast via local news. It’s been about 15 years and now we’re older, smarter, and doing the Harlem Shake.
Dancing Baby is the single-celled organism of viral videos. It’s simple, instantly recognizable, and there’s an uncanny addictiveness to it. If you’re making an ad, vlog, or anything that you want people to redistribute virally you need to start with what convinced millions of people watch an animated gif of a baby dancing. Here are the Dancing Baby’s five basic building blocks for virality:
5. It’s Relatable
We were babies, have babies, and know babies. They do funny stuff. Emailing someone a picture of one doing something funny isn’t too hard to do. Your content needs to be something that your audience can identify with. As a content creator, it’s your job to make sharing your content an easy decision.
4. It’s funny, but not edgy
The baby has no overt message. It seems kind of silly now, but people are free to interpret a dancing baby however they want. It could be celebration of life, a metaphor for the human experience, or maybe just simply a dancing baby.
3. It Doesn’t End Unless You Click Away
Gifs are animated images that repeat automatically. YouTube has attempted to recreate this by adding a column of ‘similar videos’ just to the right of anything you watch. Viral content leads to more viral content and releasing content regularly leads to more repeat viewers.
2. It’s Formatted for a Wide Audience
The internet was slower in the ‘90s. 56k modems meant a lot of waiting. As technology gets cheaper, pipes get faster, and expectations change. A dancing baby, like I said, is a symptom of the mainstream internet’s literal infancy. The casual user expects different content now, and watch out for the rest of our series for more ways to build your content’s DNA.
1. The Weirdness Factor
A good viral video is something that would normally slip through the fingers of the mainstream media. TV, print, and movie studios function as curators of content and their job is to predict what an audience will like. Your job as a content creator is to be smarter than think they are. Keep up with the popular videos of the past, present, and focus your content on what you think will make a splash.
We’re well past the Dancing Baby era of the internet, but the basic concept is still the same. If something is funny or cool then it will be shared. Do you have a favorite video? Let us know with a comment and we might end up analyzing it in next week’s viral video breakdown.
Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.
Follow Adam on Twitter: @thebizguy