What gets people sharing stuff online? And why do ad folks have so much trouble explaining why it’s not easy?
I like to explain it by talking about jeans.
I’ve been talking about jeans quite a lot since the summer of 2008.
Because I’m 6”4, over 30 and this skinny fit business just isn’t fair.
But there will be a new denim trend soon – there always is. And it’ll happen in exactly the same way something takes off online…
It starts with the pioneers: in fashion, the buyers. Online, the nerds.
They really earn it too – through an endless mire of mediocrity they plunge themselves, wading through their respective runways and cat videos until their patience pays off and they find that one piece of wonderful they’ve been searching for.
Once this happens, everything else begins.
Along come the fashionistas. They notice the pioneers’ new jeans and like what they see.
Online, this is like when a Redditor finds something brilliant and shares it with the rest of the community.
This is the point at which the trendies pick it up and put those jeans straight on, no questions asked (there’s a lot of trendy kids around as well - you’ll find them all over Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest).
Which brings us to the point when the rest of us jump on the bus.
This is when your dad starts wearing the same jeans as you.
This is end times. #gameover
But the point here is that in both cases, it’s always the pioneers – the innovators – who give the thing its legitimacy.
And they do this by realising its value, and telling the rest of us what that is.
The web, you see, is all about reputations.
Social relationships, after all, are built entirely on reputations.
So when a respected connoisseur in a given field starts talking about something, that ripple grows. To roughly the same size as their reputation reaches.
The point in both cases is this - whether it’s a well-structured pair of jeans, or a little film for your brand on YouTube – it has to be good.
Because the innovators aren’t easy to please, you see. And they know what ‘good’ is.
The way I see it is that in a world built around reputations instead of messages machine-gunned through TV screens, the hoi-polloi don’t matter anymore.
Which means we need to be setting our sights higher if we want to get people sharing our stuff.