Elements of Viral Videos

Anyone can be famous on the Internet, but not everyone can go viral. Here are three elements explained by Kevin Allocca, a trend manager at Youtube on how videos go viral and become a cultural moment :

  1. Tastemakers- Tastemakers introduce us to new and interesting things and bring them to a larger audience.
    For example, Double Rainbow, which has now been viewed over 33 million times was posted on YouTube months before it became a cultural moment. It wasn’t until Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about the video that it gained popularity and eventually went viral.
  2. Communities of participationThe introduction of a video through tastemakers accelerates the video to an audience that forms a community and becomes a shared experience among viewers.
    It is common to see a new video shared on Facebook by one Facebook friend and then come back a few hours later and see that 20 other friends have shared the same video. Once a video has been presented, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and be a part of the shared experience of the video. For example, Rosie, the eight year old who raps to Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass was shared by one of my friends on Facebook. At this point the video had about 150,000 views and after watching it I told my friends about it. The next day everyone was talking about the video and it was well on its way to its current 33,541,702 views.
  3. Unexpectedness Complete unexpectedness helps a video become viral.
    This video of an angry dad shooting his daughter’s laptop has over 31 million views. It starts with the dad sitting in his yard speaking into the camera about his daughter’s inappropriate Facebook post. In the last minute of the 8 minute and 23 second video, the dad  pulls out his handgun and shoots the daughter’s laptop multiple times. The title of the video is ‘Facebook Parenting: For the Troubled Teen’ and a viewer would never expect for someone to shoot a laptop. Since people have never seen something like this before, when someone mentions it the first instinct is to go on YouTube and watch the video. The unexpectedness of this video is what helped make it viral.

Content producers can use these elements of viral videos in order to get their message or brand to a large audience. To make this happen they will have to make a video that is not common or never been seen before and have some tastemaker (celebrity, public figure, etc.) introduce it to an audience. It is easy for a video to get lost in the clutter, but these elements can help make the video successful.


Creating Empathy Through Interactivity

Empathy is the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. It is a powerful emotion and everyday advertisements and news stories try to appeal to the pathos of the viewers. Pathos is one of three modes of persuasion stated by Greek philosopher Aristotle, appealing to one’s emotions. While appealing to pathos descriptive words can create an emotion, but it usually requires recreating the scene or event that would in real circumstances arouse the emotion. It is argued that pathos is the strongest of the appeals with the power of emotion to sway the mind.

With the decrease of people’s attention spans on the Internet, it is hard to capture the viewer simply through text on the Internet. Where people spend 25 minutes reading the newspaper, online viewers spend 70 seconds on a news site according to data from Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist. Interactivity is a way to allow active participation and engagement by the viewer. CEO of Eyewonder, John Vincent explains how video is an emotional and powerful way for advertisers to communicate with customers. The recreation of a scene visually can spark the real emotion of being in that situation, causing the viewer to feel empathy or some other emotion.

Jim Burch, a marketing executive, realized the need for engagement during trade shows. He decided to replace old display methods with touchscreens where the users could touch, pinch, and swipe the screen to navigate through clinical images. The increase in interactivity at the station resulted in an increased average time at the exhibit by 20 minutes. Although he was not directly evoking empathy, Burch put users in a real situation allowing them to see what it was like to be a radiologist.

The engagement and interaction of a user is what can really appeal to pathos and this can be accomplished through a game. For example, the game Spent challenges users to make it through a month financially after being unemployed, a single parent, with only $1,000 to start. The game gives scenarios that many people across the United States deal with daily. By selecting a certain answer, an outcome is presented making the game a very real experience for the player. The game creates empathy by putting the user in the position of someone trying to make ends meet on a budget.

Iconic Still Photography

What makes an image iconic? What turns a photograph from an image to an icon? By definition, an icon is a pictorial representation. An iconic image is an image that strikes emotion. While looking through The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011, emotions of shock, sadness, disbelief, & happiness make these images memorable. Either intentional or unintentional, the photographers of these images have captured a moment that may have never been experienced. For example, this image to the right was taken at the exact

right moment when the officer was spraying the pepper spray into the  face of a protestor. The viewer can almost feel the pain of the protestor just by the reaction on her face and sense the unexpected response of the officer by the nonchalant audience. Through a single image, a powerful message is sent to the viewers.

Besides evoking an emotion, there are other elements that make an iconic image.

The image induces public opinion: Images are open for interpretation and may not have a single meaning from one person to the next. However, no matter what the image is representing, there is always some form of message. Depending on how the viewer takes the message, public opinion and action may be induced. Using the above image as an example, this photo from an occupy movement protest may either frustrate people and make them join the protestors or scare them. Either way, there has been some reaction and opinion made about the occupy protests.

The image is well-known: Most iconic images are well known.  Julia DeIuliis wrote, “For an image to be iconic, a lot of people need to have seen it and be familiar with it.” The Mona Lisa is a good example of a well known, iconic piece. Everyone has seen the painting and it is impossible to replicate it because most people know the original so well.

In order for an image to be iconic, it does not have to be taken from a shared experience. Some of the most powerful and well known images come from a shared experience or event, however, like September 11th. But an image can give power and awareness to a whole different experience even if it was not a shared event.

Audio Elements

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but if a viewer walks out of the room during a television commercial are they going to understand the message? Strong audio is an imperative element for advertisements. Audio can make or break a video.   If the audio does not present a clear message standing alone from the video, the ad will lose the audience who may have walked away from the television or navigated to another site online. Below are a few examples of video advertisements that have compelling audio:

Ford F150:
This Ford truck commercial has very strong audio that accompanies a motion typography approach to a commercial. The minute long ad has a narrative voice-over of a man describing the current economic situation and how the Ford F150 can help. There is quiet background music throughout the whole ad that is noticeable, but does not take away from the message. Sound effects are used to enforce some of the graphic elements of the commercial. For example, when the ad mentions bourbon, there is a graphic of ice falling into an empty glass and the clanging of the glass sound effect is used. These sound effects reinforce what the message is saying and also ads a more compelling argument for the advertisement.

Bud Light: Here We Go
This humorous commercial for Bud Light  has good use of audio, music, and sound effects. Without the video, it may be hard to understand the product of this commercial until the sound effects, if not the last voice-over. The clanking of the bottles, the sound of a bottle getting pulled out of ice, and the whining of the dog, helps paint the picture of what is going on in the video. The final voice over ties the whole commercial together and enforces the message. The use of Bud Light’s slogan, “It’s the sure sign of a good time” and the “Here we go” makes sure the viewer knows the advertisement is for Bud Light.

Taco Bell: Beefy Crunch Burrito
The voice over in this Taco Bell commercial is what makes it a strong audio example. Although it may be difficult to understand what is going on without the video, when the voice-over starts it is obvious the ad is for Taco Bell. The voice over helps illustrate what a Beefy Crunch Burrito is and does a good job at making the viewer salivate. The ringing of the bell and saying “Taco Bell” helps drive home the purpose of the ad. However, Taco Bell recently changed their slogan from “Think outside the Bun” to “Live Mas” and it may take a while for the new slogan to be recognizable with Taco Bell.

What makes good writing for the web?

There are a few generally understood guidelines when writing for the web. These guidelines include short, scannable pieces that are search engine optimized.

Keep it Short

The principle for short writing is to write 50% less text than you would on a hardcopy. Readers also don’t like to scroll or navigate to further pages and don’t have time to sit down and dedicate time they don’t have to long content. You do not want to bore readers.

Make it Scannable 

The fact that people’s attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter with web browsing, the reader wants to be able to scan documents. Writing for the web can be made scannable through structured headlines, the use of italics, bolding, & underlining to emphasis important words, and using hypertext. Hypertexts help keep the writing short and interactive for the reader.

SEO Optimized 

Search engine optimization is important for getting readers to the content. Most people find articles by Googling topics and keywords. The fundamental elements of SEO writing is keywords and phrases. Keyword density should be kept around 4%. Web writing should also be organized and simple being kept around 300-600 words.

For Longer Content 

On the other hand, the shorter the article, the more risk of not getting the point effectively conveyed. Sometimes content needs to be longer to get the point across, and other times readers want more because of the quality of the content. Good content is going to make readers want to keep reading, even if it is online. Longer content answers more questions and goes into more depth. People who are truly interested will keep reading. Here is an example of an interesting, compelling article about  conjoined twins that kept me interested even with the lack of traditional web writing elements.

Mexican Restaurants in Burlington, NC

Welcome to Elon University. Shortly after your arrival on campus, you will realize there are limited food options within walking distance of campus. In a week you will have tried all the restaurants in Elon and you may find yourself saying, “Yo quiero…Mexican food.” Fortunately for you, Burlington has many options for authentic Mexican food along with popular chain Mexican restaurants. After five years at Elon, I have had the opportunity to try these Mexican restaurants once or …ehh I can’t keep count… and know some of the tastiest and cheapest options. Below are reviews based on my own personal experiences and preferences.
La Cocina
309 Huffman Mill Rd.
La Cocina is located in the Holly Hill Mall off of Huffman Mill in Burlington, a short three miles from Elon University’s campus. The restaurant has a friendly and comfortable environment conducive to college students, large groups, and families. Before you even open your menu, warm tortilla chips and homemade salsa is placed on the table. If you are looking for a frugal meal, try the Grilled Chicken Soft Taco located under the ‘A La Carte’ section. This large taco filled with chicken, cheese, and lettuce along with unlimited chips and salsa is sure to fill you up for only $4 with tax. There are also daily drink specials including $1.99 margaritas on Monday and Tuesday and $0.99 draft beers on Wednesday and Thursdays. They also have special offers and coupons.
Food Recommendations: Cheese Dip (queso), Pollo Chipotle, Burrito Mexicano

La Fiesta
1824 S Church St
La Fiesta is located on South Church Street, about four miles from campus. The restaurant is located in a commercial house that has a small, comfy feel for diners. The bar is located in a separate room from the restaurant, but the smell and sound of sizzling fajitas fills the whole house. La Fiesta serves unlimited homemade chips and salsa and has daily food and drink specials. La Fiesta has been voted best Mexican restaurant every year since 1999 by readers of the Burlington Times News. A popular menu item is Arroz Con Pollo which is a combination of rice, queso, and grilled chicken. Birthdays are fun to celebrate at La Fiesta, complete with waiters placing a sombrero on the head of the birthday boy/girl, singing, and a shot of tequila for those of age.
Food Recommendations: Fiesta Burrito, Fajitas Nacho, Chimichangas
3153 Garden Rd
Cancun Restaurant is located on Garden Road, in the Walmart shopping plaza, three miles from campus. It is a newer Mexican restaurant in town, opening in August 2011. The space that Cancun is located used to be home to the popular restaurant that is now La Cocina. Cancun has yet to live up to the popularity of the predecessor, despite the same features of a Mexican restaurant. Cancun serves chips and salsa and has daily specials featured on their Facebook page.
Food Recommendations: Steak and Cheese Quesadilla, Enchiladas
El Palmar
3409 S Church St
El Palmar is the newest Mexican restaurant addition in Burlington, a quick two miles from Elon. They pride themselves on serving authentic Mexican dishes made fresh throughout the day. Lunch specials are offered Monday through Friday until 3pm and Tuesdays are designated Taco Tuesdays, serving $0.99 tacos all day. More specials can be found on their website, including a coupon for a free menu item.
Food Recommendations: Arroz Con Pollo, Chicken Tacos
Fast/Casual options:
3128 Waltham Blvd.
The popular ‘fast food’ restaurant, Qdoba is located in Alamance Crossing. You can sign up for a rewards card that earns members a free entree after the purchase of ten entrees. Qdoba also has a texting program that sends weekly deals to your phone such as $1 tacos (number is located within restaurant).
Moe’s Southwest Grill 
1449 University Dr.
Moe’s is located within the Target shopping plaza and is home to the college student’s favorite deal, Moe’s Monday. Every Monday, any burrito, chips & salsa, and a drink is for only $5.55. There are also other daily $5.55 deals throughout the week and specials provided through foursquare. (This month is $2 off a Joey burrito on Wednesdays when you check in!)
Panchero’s Mexican Grill 
210 Huffman Mill Rd.
Panchero’s is located across the street from the Holly Hill Mall. The burritos are the most popular menu item and everyone loves the free chips and salsa with any entree purchase. * Panchero’s has recently changed ownership and is now going to be called Pico’s Mexican Grill.

Social Media: How has the role of the professional communicator changed?

How to not sell something to my generation.

The role of the professional communicator has changed since the days of Mad Men in the 1960s. With about 80% of Americans who have access to the Internet, people have the resources to know as much if not more than the salesperson trying to sell us something. The consumer can figure out competitive prices and does not need a salesperson to try to deceit them with giving ‘deals.’ Our generation wants companies to be transparent with its products and sincere, helpful, and knowledgeable with what they are trying to sell. Back in the day before the Internet, people had to rely on the messages of the salesperson because they did not have the resources to know any better.

Twitter and Facebook have allowed followers to create a connection with companies through two-way communication. Followers become more aware of the functions of the company and learn valued content about products, deals, etc. Many companies use Twitter and Facebook accounts to post the following:

  • post company news/updates
  • offer customer service
  • offer deals
  • job information

People are motivated to become followers for the following reasons:

  • to receive discounts and promotions 31%
  • to get a “freebie” 28%
  • to get updates on future products 38%
  • to get updates on upcoming sales 30%
  • to stay informed about the activities of the company 32%
  • for fun and entertainment 26%
  • to show support for the company to others 23%
  • to learn about the company’s products and services 25%
  • to get access to exclusive content 25%
  • someone recommended it to me 14%
  • for education about company topics 14%
  • to interact (e.g. provide feedback) 20%

How to be successful on Twitter: Tips/Lessons

  • Have fun with followers (don’t take yourself too seriously- accelerate positive comments and embrace (and address) negative ones
  • Use contests and offers to drive excitement about your brand
  • Join Twitter chats using hashtags—consider starting and hosting your own chats on a regular basis
  • SEO – Google and Bing recently announced their search algorithms take into account the clout or reach of the social media profile that posts links to your website.  By building up your Twitter account with thousands of followers your tweets will help improve your website’s ranking.
  • Drive traffic to your website, blogs, Facebook
  • deliver insider information, respond directly to Tweets, provide access to personalities behind your brand
  • channel highlight: personal connection with influential consumers
  • key to success: provide insider access to fuel content creation



Shape Up NC: Social Media Campaign

Shape Up NC is a non-profit program that encourages residents of North Carolina to get more exercise and live a healthier lifestyle. The organization is receiving funding from the government with hopes of receiving industry support from corporate sponsors. The sponsors will be providing prizes that will be used for incentives for participants to meet their exercise goals. The participants register for teams and compete against other teams to together exercise effectively and earn the prizes.

Potential Tweets

Before coming up with potential tweets, it is important to establish a voice for Shape Up NC and create pillars. Pillars serve as topics for tweets and statuses that work to reach the objectives of the campaign. For this campaign it is important to create tweets based off of the following pillars:

  1. Health facts/statistics
  2. Health tips/advice

ex: how to eat healthy, exercises

  1. Motivation
  2. Participating corporations/prizes
  3. NC events/ community spotlights

By doing a wordle of the current Shape Up NC website and a similar organization (Be Active North Carolina) important words to use in conveying our message appeared.

The words that should be used in our campaign are the following: active, health, together, state, weight, healthier, lose, exercise, teams, physical, competition, healthy, and North Carolina

Potential Tweets

Health Facts

  1. Adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week. #ShapeUpNC
  2. Just by walking 20-25 mins per week, you can extend your life by several years. Check out other health benefits of walking: http://visual.ly/health-benefits-walking
  3. Your entire body benefits from #exercise, especially your heart and your brain. #ShapeUpNC
  4. Did you know #exercise releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energizes your spirits and makes you feel good? #ShapeUpNC

Health Tips

  1. Stuck sitting at a desk all day? Find time to get up and #walk around for a total of ten minutes a day– your body and mind will thank you.
  2. By eating small portions throughout the day you force your body into hav
    ing to continuously metabolize food resulting in more #fatburning!
  3. Your body needs water to eliminate waste and perform bodily functions such as the breakdown of fat. Did you drink 6 to 8 glasses of water today?
  4. Check out these easy exercise tips to make #exercise a part of your ever day life: http://helpguide.org/life/exercise.htm #ShapeUpNC
  5. Looking for ways to sate a salt craving? Or satisfy a sweet tooth? Check out this list of 50 #healthy snacks. http://www.self.com/fooddiet/2010/06/50-healthiest-snacks


  1. Unplug from technology this weekend. Get outside, enjoy the fresh #NorthCarolina air and get some #exercise. #ShapeUpNC
  2. Fitness is a state of mind. Who inspires you? #ShapeUpNC
  3. Hang in there #ShapeUpNC participants, and you’ll see solid results–along with great prizes from our corporate sponsors.
  4. Turn off the TV, get up off the couch, and get some #exercise. #ShapeUpNC
  5. How is everyone doing in keeping their 2012 New Year’s resolutions? Keep at it to achieve that #healthier lifestyle.
  6. Exercising with a friend is a good way to get encouragement to establish a #healthier lifestyle. Who do you like to exercise with?

NC Events

  1. Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out one of #NorthCarolina’s state parks! http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/main.php
  2. Dancing is a fun and easy way to burn calories. Anyone attending the 17th Annual Bluegrass First Class? http://www.bluegrassfirstclass.com/ #NCevents
  3. Deadlines for @GYRIG 5K run/walk in #Raleigh are coming up! Who is registered? Details here http://www.getyourrearingear.com/events/list/2012/raleigh-nc-2012


  1. Happy Valentine’s Day #NorthCarolina! Send your Valentine a #health e-card from @CDCgov http://www2c.cdc.gov/ecards/index.asp?category=216
  2. Yoga? Running? Walking the dog? No matter the method, send us a picture of you and your team exercising. We will RT our favorites! #ShapeUpNC

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