I just read a brilliant piece on ‘Talent imitates, genius steals’ (TIGS) about those who set out to create ‘a viral’. He rightly points out that the word ‘viral’ (when used in the context of communication) refers to a process by which people pass on to their friends stuff they like, find interesting and generally want other people to see. In TIGS’s words “Viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is. If people pass your communication on, it’s viral. If they don’t, it’s not.”
This is a lesson UK political parties badly need to learn. Political parties seem to think that if they stick a standard party political broadcast on YouTube then it will become viral. It won’t, because if you send someone a dry, dull broadcast your friends will think that you are dry and dull. Social communication is a currency, people have a personal stake in what they choose to send on – it says something about them.
It is for this reason, as TIGS points out, that if you let people get involved with your content, personalise it and generally mess around with it, more people will send it on. The more it says about the individual who sends something, the more likely that person is to send it on.
The above Tony Blair / The Clash remix has over 20 times as many views as the most popular video on the UK Labour Party’s official YouTube Channel. Political parties need to encourage this sort of creative expression as much as possible in order to reach and engage with a mass audience.
The question is, will political parties in the UK have the guts (as well as creative capabilities) to allow the electorate to get involved in their oh so precious ‘message’? If they don’t, they will carry on “making virals” that about 5 people watch.