Working at a press agency means I’m constantly surrounded by creative, passionate people in an office buzzing with ideas. Every morning my colleagues scour the news pages and sites to see if their stories made. Hours are spent every week brainstorming ideas for clients and writing witty, compelling copy. They deliberate headlines, by-lines and always push themselves creatively. In a competitive market, they are constantly asking themselves the age old advertising question: What sells?
In my role as OnePoll’s online community manager, it is my job to interact with our OnePoll panelists. Whether it’s competitions, answering member queries or just posting an image that I think they might like – the latter of which I like to do on a Friday to cheer everyone up for the weekend. A while back, I posted a picture of a dog. A picture of a wet dog if you want to be specific. Why I hear you ask. Well it had been a long week so work so I decided to Google ‘frazzled dog’, as one does. I saw the picture and loved it. I decided to add a few words to it, to really drive home my message. It turns out that this dog was no ordinary dog. It was internet gold. The image has so far reached 22 million people, been shared by more than 350,000 and has over 50,000 likes.
Who knew those words and that image would resonate with so many people! People have shared stories about their stresses at work, their lives in general and have told me about their beloved pets. They tagged people and those people tagged other people. At first we had a few likes and shares, then those likes and shares doubled, then tripled.
After a week we reached nearly 500,000 people (the most likes a post had got before was 819, and the post was boosted, so beating that was my original goal). I kept refreshing the page until it crashed and refused to update. I left work on Friday feeling super successful….just like Dave from Money Supermarket.
It was pretty surreal seeing my post pop up on my newsfeed because someone I know has shared it, without knowing who I work for, and colleagues (yes you Rick Maughan), telling me their friends are also sharing it. It was just plain odd.
I post on the OnePoll members Facebook page every day, it’s my job, and never before has anything taken off in such a way. So what is so special about this post?
Obviously we need to make something clear. The OnePoll Facebook page is a B2C. This gives it the freedom to feature light hearted, jovial content whether it be memes, YouTube videos, dogs, cats, goats …anything really. It’s the go to page for our panel; it’s the home of OnePoll’s online community. Being a Facebook page for our OnePoll community means therefore that follower numbers are considerably more substantial that other B2B accounts, which means the impression rate is automatically more impressive.
These things don’t automatically mean that content will go viral – an overused buzzword for the 21st century – but they do obviously lend a hand in making them popular.
In the serious world of journalism and B2B marketing there were mixed feelings about the success of the image, or ‘cognitive dissonance’ if you want to be smart (Jay Williams, our Content Director!). On one hand, as Jay puts it, there is a sense of frustration that a picture of a soapy dog has done so well. But, on the other hand, and I’m quoting Jay directly here for maximum embarrassment, ‘Look! It’s a soapy dog! That’s soooooo cute!’ (Yes, he did over extend ‘so’. That really happened).
So why has the image done so well? Obviously no-one can predict what’s going to go viral (there’s that word again, sorry), but in an article for the Guardian in 2014 Buzzfeed’s editorial director, Jack Shepherd, gave the world some insight in to what makes it more likely.
His first piece of advice was to avoid the term ‘viral content’ like the plague, hence my overly apologetic use of the phrase earlier on. Shepherd described the term as sounding ‘like a vomit bag’. Lovely.
His second piece of advice was to share things that people can relate to, or in other words ‘things people share the most are things about themselves’. Shepherd commented that in the modern online world ‘your readers are your publishers’ – sentiments that relate strongly to our own findings from our Generation Editor report. ‘They are more likely to do that if the act of sharing helps them to make a strong statement about who they are.’ That doesn’t mean that the thousands of people who shared our dog image think of themselves as wet dogs, although some of them might and who are we to judge? What it means is that something about this image related to them on a personal level. Maybe it was the sentiments of the text. Maybe all 381, 839 shares were from people who had had the week from hell.
Shepherd’s third piece of advice was that people are more likely to engage with a something if they have ‘a strong, positive emotional response to it’. The guardian article refers to findings of a 2010 study into the New York Times’ “Most emailed” list (an early form of viral content, before social shares) which found that items on the list fell into one of four categories:
Ok, so the soapy dog isn’t awe-inspiring, emotional or surprising but it is positive. The dog has had a rough week and come out fighting! (I know I sound crazy, but please suspend your disbelief for a bit longer).
Last and by no-means least, and this isn’t Shepherds insight, it’s a cute dog. Animal posts do well. It’s an unexplained phenomenon. You just have to look at the rise to fame of the host of internet cat celebrities….wow, there’s a phrase we never thought we’d hear. Since the early days of the internet cat posts have always done well, starting with email and chatroom images, then to the rise of LOLCats (which now has over 100 million views a month), right through to Keyboard cat, grumpy cat and Nyan (who isn’t even a real cat). One of our panelists even commented on a later post featuring a dog, that it’s nice to have a break from cat pictures.
Truth be told, we will never know for certain why this image was so popular. In my own personal opinion, as OnePoll’s online community manager I have come to realise that people take an interest in your post when it’s either humorous or potentially offensive. Also it was a Thursday and people were feeling tired and stressed out. The dog in the picture also reminds them of their own pet, which invokes a multitude of emotions. It’s relatable, both on a personal and professional level and who doesn’t love a photogenic dog! Turns out, from further investigation that it’s a famous dog, called Tusk. You can visit his Instagram and Twitter accounts. Bottom line though…everyone loves pictures of cute animals. It’s human nature and sometimes that’s all it takes.
Written by Jade Easton and Ruth Davison
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