Are We Saying Goodbye To Viral Trends?

In a world where everyone is trying to go viral – does anyone really?
In a world where everyone is trying to go viral – does anyone really?

In a world where everyone is trying to go viral – does anyone really?

There was a time not too long ago when even the most bizarre thing could go viral globally and stay that way for a good few months. 

The Harlem Shake, which turned 10 just a few days ago, is one of the many bizarre trends in recent years that have cemented themselves in pop culture history. The 2010s also saw the rise of the mannequin challenge, the Ice Bucket challenge, the whip/nae nae, Gangnam Style, and many more. And they all had one thing today’s trends don’t: longevity.

The meaning of viriality has changed over the years. In today’s heavily curated and algorithmic trends climate, there is no way something like “Charlie bit my finger” would ever go viral. 

If a trend or a challenge does indeed go viral, it is lucky if it stays relevant for two weeks at most. 10 years ago, viral challenges and trends had longevity. But today, no challenge sticks and no trend lasts too long.

Back when Instagram had just launched and Facebook was for dumping embarrassing photo albums with no context, the only way a trend could go viral was through word of mouth or YouTube because social media was not that big. 

Today, anything can go viral with a bunch of clicks. But at the same time, it has become increasingly difficult for anything to achieve “viral” status because it is so difficult to achieve that in the world of social media.

“In the past, viral trends were often fuelled by word-of-mouth and shared organically across social networks. Today, many trends are intentionally manufactured and promoted by brands or influencers, often in the form of sponsored content or hashtag challenges. While this can lead to more immediate virality, it can also contribute to a lack of longevity and staying power,” says Dr. Contrecia T. Tharpe, chief storyteller and strategist at FayeVaughn.

Trends are now curated. There is an algorithm deciding what goes viral and what doesn’t. TikTok has people deciding what content goes viral on that platform.

Companies treat people’s attention as a commodity, and the rise of social media has only caused people’s attention spans to reduce.

Back then, things that went viral didn’t take themselves seriously. Today, it is a goal to make something go viral.

“Algorithms have become more advanced, where niche content is displayed more commonly. So the things that used to get a lot of “likes″ and “shares” now end up in specific feeds as opposed to just being considered popular enough for everyone’s feed,” says Joseph Karasin, DigitalWill’s chief marketing officer.

“TikTok curates content based on the individual user, and Snapchat is more of a closed network. So the usual way of getting millions upon millions of views has changed dramatically. Also, with the sheer volume of content that is produced, there can only be so much of it that gets consumed,” he adds.

So does this mean we’re finally saying goodbye to the concept of viral trends?

“The content volume and use of different social platforms has been the main reason the trends don’t last. The fact that most have a preferred social platform is also a major reason the trends aren’t hanging around,” says Joseph.

Viral trends have evolved significantly in recent years. With the rise of curated algorithms on social media platforms and the loss of spontaneity in the creation of viral trends, their longevity has been significantly reduced.

But change is inevitable, and the best way to combat the lack of longevity is to adapt to it.

“While some may lament the loss of the days when a trend could dominate social media for months on end, it’s important to remember that change is a natural part of the digital landscape.

“As content creators and consumers, it’s up to us to adapt to these changes and find new ways to engage and connect with our audiences,” adds Dr. Tharpe.