Why things “go viral”

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If there is a lesson to be gleaned from the phenomenon of #theDress, it’s that “going viral” doesn’t require “influencers” nor is it particularly “predictable” (i.e., plannable – yes, I made up a word!). If you represent a business or organization, run away if the agency you’re interviewing for a job promises to create “viral content”.

There are, however, some commonalities to content that goes viral, that is, digital content characterized by speed and scope (it spreads quickly and spreads widely). Social scientists call this “contagion”. We’ll leave the discussion of how the language of illness is being used to describe communication for another day. Another shorthand: Internet meme.

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