What We Can Learn From The Splendiferous Barfing Cup

Two of the questions most often asked by clients of their agencies within the field of social media are: Who are the influencers, and how can we create a viral video?

Recently my colleague Tracy Shea shared with me this video, delightfully titled, The Splendiferous Barfing Cup:

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As I write this, the video has just over 1,200,000 views. When I first saw it the last week it had just about 118,000 views. Clearly something happened recently to shoot this video into the pop culture. But before we get into that, here’s another piece of the puzzle. Take a look again at that video and you’ll see that it was originally uploaded more than four months ago. Now, this isn’t a branded video so it’s not as if there was a big marketing campaign behind it, but the quality of the content hasn’t changed. Would an agency have gotten it in front of the “right” people sooner? Hard to say.

So how did this video suddenly add about 1 million views in a week after lying relatively dormant for several months? It doesn’t appear to have been through the channels you would expect, at least not directly.

I did a little detective work and here’s what I found:

  • After four months, the video turns up on JimmyR.com, and bounces around to some other sites, picking up a couple of hundred views along the way.
  • The Hockey Stick moment comes when it gets on Reddit.com racking up 47,000 views
  • Reddit user Nabby posts a link under the title, “I can’t stop watching this.” It gets more than 1,300 votes
  • From Reddit, it also gets picked up on the DailyWhat
  • The video is then picked up by the Tosh.0 blog and airs on G4’s Attack of the Show

Now, if you are a Malcolm Gladwell ‘influencer’ disciple, this is troubling, and most agencies (and brand managers) are Gladwell disciples.  This video certainly was propelled by ‘influencers’ like Tosh.0 and AOTS, but who were they influenced by? Raise your hand if DailyWhat is on you “must engage” list. Step forward if Reddit user Nabby is at the top of your “must call” list.

At this point, the Duncan Watts disciples are smiling and nodding knowingly. They understand that yes, there are indeed influencers, but it’s virtually impossible to figure out who those influencers are going to be for a given idea or piece of content.

So, what should brand managers and agencies do? There has to be an understanding that throwing all your eggs (and by eggs I mean money) in one basket is risky and expensive. Clearly high production values are no guarantee, nor apparently needed, and spending on paid media won’t help crummy content. Better to spread your bets on many small pieces of content.