A “Scary” Lesson in Going Viral

On the internet, everything has a chance of going viral. Social media makes this easier than ever, but so does the transparent sharing of ideas. If you’re having trouble getting your content to go viral, you may be trying too hard.

A great example of how simplicity can help something reach viral proportions can be seen in the Slender Man phenomenon. So if you want some inspiration to keep plugging along, enjoy this quick brief on Slender Man and its rise to fame.

slendermanThe Slender Man got its/his start on the Something Awful forums in 2009 where users were having a contest that had them submitting Photoshopped paranormal pictures. Many people entered the contest but it came to a screeching halt when one user posted images of what quickly become known as the Slender Man. For reasons that still aren’t quite clear, Slender Man became a huge hit—users became obsessed with the images and the contest quickly grew into a Slender Man thread.

Word of the Slender Man hit other internet hotspots such as YouTube and a variety of meme topics. In the four years since the original contest, that simple contest entry has resulted in several YouTube series on the subject, at least three computer games (including mobile), independent films and another film to be released theatrically.

The question is why did Slender Man take off the way it did? What can you learn from this? Well here are a few reasons that may explain it.

  • When the creator of the Slender Man entry saw that his idea was being used by others in such dramatic ways, he didn’t complain. He embraced it and didn’t interfere in any way. This allowed the Slender Man “legend” to grow without any negativity around it. This also gave the stories room to grow and expand to other mediums.
  • The entry was spontaneous. It did not borrow from anything else and was original. Of course, successful spontaneity comes down to lucky timing as well and that’s just something you can’t control.
  • It resonated with its audience (users on the Something Awful forums). These are people that enjoy horror and bizarre things. The creator of the original Slender Man images didn’t go overboard and also played to the basic staples of horror tales. Slender Man itself is scary without being overly done.

Can you adapt any of your current content to these three principles? If not, how can you simplify it without diluting your brand?

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