What makes a campaign or an advertisement social? What is it about social that is so shareable?
These thought-provoking questions came up during a conversation I had with Proximity‘s Social Media Strategist, David Jones. He gave me a good idea to write a post on this subject, and so here I am, sitting in front of my computer screen and scratching my head. What makes things social and thus shareable?
So I drew out a mind map and came up with one of the many options of what social media is:
From looking at just this one mind map, a lot of factors play into making something social. One could suggest the following process (among others):
1. The content viewed, listened to or read moves people in an emotional way and makes it relevant, impressionable and creative to them.
2. One person feels the need to connect with others (who perhaps have similar tastes or are curious about their reactions) and thus shares with them or collaborates on user-generated content with others.
3. Content it distributed throughout the media landscape.
4. The content is eventually viewed by others and becomes, in some instances, an element of pop culture – so much so that it is enough to share with hundreds, thousands or millions more.
Let’s take a look at Volkswagen‘s “The Dog Strikes Back” commercial aired during the Superbowl, for example. You know, that beautiful dog that sees himself as overweight and subjects himself to an intense workout routine and diet to be able to run alongside the car?
This commercial has received 9,899,009 YouTube hits from that one link so far. One reason could be that we love the determination we see in the animal and connect some similarities to our own human behaviour (what science calls anthropomorphism).
But the more obvious reason is the ending, where Volkswagen takes us back to last year’s memories of the Darth Vader kid thinking he has superpowers.
The commercial makes a pun on what is essentially an inside-joke to those who saw the “prequel” – a conversation held between a few ‘people’ in a bar who argue that the dog is “funnier than the Darth Vader kid” (who later feels the wrath of Darth Vader for making that comment).
Not only was the original commercial a cute and memorable idea to connect the kid with the car, but the commercial became so lovable, so shareable, that YouTube hits have reached 50,836,938 to date. Even more, Volkswagen even created a teaser for the anticipation of the sequel release!
Volkswagen essentially made their way into pop culture through its viral-worthy content and treated their audience as movie-goers. Viewers enjoyed the content as perhaps humorous, cute, smart and real to some (as several parents may have connected on the same idea that their children pretend to have powers too… and sometimes let them think that they actually do).
Thus I think human connection, a real one, is at the root of what is social and what is shareable. Connection and the desire to seek out others who have similar tastes and needs (a term some sociologists would label as homophily) is one factors that drives virality.
As humans, we want to feel like we are in this – life – together, that we are not alone. This may even go back to centuries ago where we were bred to believe that this connection is the key to survival – it’s human nature!
But adding procreation into the mix may be stretching the idea a little too far (ya think?). Alongside human connection and emotion as part of what makes content social and shareable, I would even like to add the concept of participaction to the mix. People no longer want to just be a recipient of the brand, but they want to feel that they are actually a part of it.
The audience sees something they like and may decide to modify, add or delete aspects of a social concept to call it their own and share it with their friends (i.e. crowd-sourcing and mash-ups from user-generated content). They become the brand itself, or at least an extension of it.
Sometimes we want to be the first ones to say “I saw this first!” or “hey check out what I did to that viral hamster on a piano video!” Thus a sense of belonging and recognition builds makes its way into the picture.
There are several factors that play a part in making content sociable and shareble, including the ones just mentioned. Whether it’s something that tugs at our heart strings or want to simply belong to a project that is greater than ourselves, we want to be an active participant in creating that connection.
Whichever reason, just make sure not to mention that the dog being funnier than the Vader kid…
What do you think makes a campaign or ad social and shareable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!