Modern Norwegian is heavily influenced by English and of course by the technologies that have become a part of our lives. One of the expressions most people have heard is to go viral. This doesn’t actual have anything to do with illness, even though the behaviour may sometimes suggest fever.
The word viral was originally used on viruses and bacteria that could make copies and distribute them on their own. The word is also being used for marketing today. Ylvis were behind what may have been the biggest planned success in Norway when they used the video What does the fox say to promote a new season of their TV show, and if enough people share a video or post in social media, you don’t have to do anything to spread the information yourself. I think it was this type of marketing when the blogplatform United Bloggers, Bonnier Media and Aller Media (publish some of the major magazines in Norway) introduced ethical guidelines for bloggers. These players make their money focusing on good looks and success, and I think their main objective is to move negative attention away from themselves. These guidelines are supposed to help young girls develop a healthy body image, but they are not binding and don’t deal with any of the many other ethical problems.
When you search the net for ideas about how to become a popular blogger or how to create content that goes viral you find a lot of banalities. It helps if you make people laugh (What does the fox say) or seem to offer good advice (United Bloggers), or if you just stick to photos. I would still argue that it’s virtually impossible to know what content and timing will guarantee you success.
I don’t know what kind of figures United Bloggers usually have, but they have to be compared to themselves. The post about the ethical guidelines had been shared 248 times on facebook the first ten days, which doesn’t seem impressive considering the most popular Norwegian bloggers get 100 000 hits every day. This is a success if the normal is ten shares during the first ten days. In my case ten would not be unprecedented, but certainly a remarkable sucess, so I would probably define 20 as going viral.
There are many factors that come into play and I have often been surprised at how little attention a rather controversial post received, while something benign became widely popular. Sometimes the safest, most obvious ideas hit the target. Sweet doesn’t interest me, unless we’re talking about tea, but I bet some photos of my daughter and her cat would have done the trick. Most people want success and a short post promising advice on how to become an internet sensation would probably be a good alternative to exploiting cute animals and children.
It’s not that hard. Cats, babies, beautiful women and the rather unique politicians Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have shown the way. The rest of us have to try to be more original or find the stories people want to read, when they want to read them. Quality isn’t always enough, but sometimes you get lucky, like the time when a 19 year old girl from my hometown posted her own drawing of Dwayne Johnson to Instagram. The actor himself discovered her talent, shared the photo, and suddenly the girl had 2000 followers. People win the lottery too, but the system wouldn’t work if we were all winners.