If the subject matter of this blog was insignificant...if I didn’t believe in its extreme relevance and importance...I would’ve tossed in the towel a couple dozen posts ago.
But every now and then, something comes along to inject a new dose of adrenalin into my veins and make me realize that perhaps this whole Surprise thing is bigger than even I suspect.
In other words, Vindication File, open wide and say “Ahhhhhhhh!”
A few days ago, Mark Goren turned me onto authors Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba (hey, I try to know ‘em all, but what are bloggers for?), for the possibility of bringing them to town for a book bash/conference. Spent much of the week leafing through their new book “Citizen Marketers: When People Are The Message,” and had my cranium crunched by their captivating theories and anecdotes.
The secret, it seems, is Surprise. The mechanics of most everything we share virally throughout the social media depends on it. They explain in a succint, five-point plan:
- Bloggers spread a story that has a surprising development
- The story is filled with numerous and concrete details
- The story documents a tangible form of injustice
- The story reaches a plateau of recognition among a number of well-known blogs
- The story reaches a worldwide plateau
Obviously, Ben and Jackie explain this in greater detail and pepper their explanations with examples (come on folks, there’s only so much of their book I should give out for free). But as well-documented and well-formed as their plan is, you don’t get to #5 without passing through #1.
Put another way, you don’t go worldwide without Surprise.
Yes, the authors talk about “stories” (like the “Dirty Secret” iPod battery scandal video or the sleeping Comcast technician), but think for a second about just about every email or video you received from—or sent to—a friend.
They’re about blenders that turn marbles to dust.
Or mints that convert Diet Coke bottles into geysers.
Or unknown artists who perform four-minute histories of dance or choreographed routines on treadmills.
Or some sort of rumour about the insidious behavior of our favorite multinational.
Or seemingly impossible photos that reveal conspiratory secrets.
What they’re NOT about is the mundane, the usual, the expected. A photo of my dog Shaydee (see below), no matter how cute, will spread about as fast and as easily as frozen peanut butter. A video of my son Hayes playing goalie for his Midget “A” hockey team will perhaps delight his grandparents. Unless, of course, he makes an impossible save lying down after a mid-air dive and somersault. Then it becomes a Pow!, and a candidate for sharing.
How important is Surprise? Well, it goes way beyond Citizen Marketing. In fact, without Surprise, I’d venture to say there’d be no YouTube. Without Surprise, MySpace would be the ramblings of that boring kid you do your damndest to avoid. And without Surprise, North Korean kook Kim Jong II would be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year instead of us.
Surprise is what makes viral, well…viral! Without it, the Internet as we know it would be spinning its wheels, stuck in neutral.
My dog Shaydee: Adorable yes, but not exactly viral (unless she licks you).