eRecords Conference 2013: What does it mean to go viral?

erecordsslogo-300x261This is the seventh post in a multi-part recap of the 2013 e-Records Conference. Some presentation materials from the e-Records Conference are available on the e-Records 2013 website. Video of this presentation is available on the TSLAC YouTube Channel. Scroll to the bottom of this post to view the video.

By Erica Wilson, Government Information Analyst

At the 2013 e-Records Conference, Texas Department of Information Resources Senior Policy Analyst Jon Lee opened with a question for the audience:


No one seemed to know who this bespectacled, shrugging man was.  Lee gave some hints: he’s been connected to the Miami Heat basketball team, NASA engineers, the Norwegian army, the University of Texas, the gang from the Peanuts comics, U.S. budget experts Alice Rivlin and David Walker, and thousands of others.  Any guesses yet?

His name is George Miller and he is the person responsible for the viral video phenomenon, the Harlem Shake.  For those unfamiliar, the Harlem Shake is an approximately half-minute video of a previously unknown song playing over some silly dancing in a dorm room that was posted by Miller on YouTube earlier this year.  The video received a huge number of views, was imitated endlessly, and was reported on extensively.  In fact, the term “Harlem Shake” was the second fastest term to surge on Google.  This video is pretty much the definition of “viral video.”  But how did it go viral?

In essence, it wasn’t Miller or his friends or any of us ordinary Internet users who made the video go viral.  With marketers and advertisers always looking for the next big thing, they’ve found that it is easier to manufacture, rather than find, the next big thing.  Corporations are responsible for making the Harlem Shake go viral, and here’s how it happened.

On January 30, 2013, Miller uploaded his video to YouTube.  A week later, a large studio in Los Angeles made its own version.  Notably, this studio is partly owned by Time Warner, specializes in YouTube videos, and does extensive promotion.  Within three days, major media sites like Buzzfeed, College Humor, and the Huffington Post had picked up the story.  In one week, the video garnered 7.4 million views.  Within five weeks, it had over 1 billion views (to give you some perspective, it took the popular video Gangnam Style six months to reach the same number).

So why was Lee bringing up this phenomenon?  Lee wants people to adjust their perception of what it means to go viral.  Going viral is rarely an accident – a lot of work, time, and luck are needed to go viral with anything on the internet.  Okay, but what does that have to do with those of us in Texas government?  After all, we’re not really in the business of going viral with our various outlets of social media.  However, we can change how we use social media.  The use should be strategic, methodical, calculated, and deliberate.

Lee closed by directing the audience to the updated Social Media Resource Guide that was released by DIR in February 2013.  The updated guide utilized the efforts of over 50 volunteers from 34 Texas agencies and institutions of higher education.  Their goal was to produce a comprehensive resource guide for agencies to implement and improve their social media efforts.  There are three sections of the guide:

  • Strategy: what to do before creating a social media account.  Things must be considered before an agency jumps into social media, like considering how topics and divisions (web, communications, legal, accessibility, security, privacy, human resources, and records management) will work together to handle the rapidly evolving nature of social media, the certain lack of control over engagements with the public, and the currently insubstantial federal and state laws providing direct regulation of the media.  How will you manage these records?  How long do you retain a tweet?
  • Guidelines: how to stay compliant with existing rules, statutes, and policies.  This section delves into considerations such as privacy notification, moderation policy, linking policy, the Public Information Act, third-party website policies, and intellectual property rights and ownership.  For example, how are you going to let the public know about what is and isn’t acceptable in posts on the website?  What do you do if someone posts personally identifiable or sensitive information?  What parts of the Texas Administrative Code do you need to follow for accessibility?
  • Content: how to create valuable content for customers.  This section gives ideas on how to most effectively communicate through social media.  An agency will need to think about who their audience is and what the agency’s message to them should look like.  Is the information posted only applicable until a certain date?  If so, does it need to be removed once that date has expired?  Who will moderate any engagement from commenters?  What content needs to be preserved for records management considerations?

With some planning, your agency can create social media that will truly benefit the agency and the citizens it serves.

View Jon Lee’s presentation below, or go here to view it on YouTube.

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