Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s Head of Culture & Trends, dropped by Tumblr Global HQ on Monday to talk about how content goes viral and how creators are using technology to reshape the media landscape. Definitely check out his TED Talk Why Videos Go Viral.
Marketr: YouTube and Tumblr are arguably the most creative networks on the internet. What would you say are the most defining characteristics of these communities?
Kevin Allocca: These platforms are enabling a generation for which creation, curation, connection, and community are defining elements of their usage of the web. […] For them, pop culture is a malleable concept that they don’t just observe, but shape themselves. Technology is about empowering and connecting in life-affecting ways.
Marketr: People have access to more tools than ever before with which they can express their creativity, but they also have more exposure to the creativity of others. Which of those do you think is more responsible for the explosion of content we’re seeing on the internet today?
KA: What we’re almost asking here is: is it the technology or the people using it? They’re inextricably linked, you can’t have one without the other. At the end of the day, though, simplicity is a very powerful thing and these tools have quietly taken hundreds of years of cumbersome infrastructure and forced the question: “OK, what will you do now?”
Marketr: You talk about the new kind of media culture where the audience doesn’t just enjoy, they also participate. How do you think that has changed the way traditional content creators approach their work?
KA: More and more creators are building expertise in audience engagement. The top channels on YouTube have mastered this. They don’t just provide content, they connect directly with the people who watch and share their videos in a very authentic way and value that connection above everything else. They think about the audience as an integral part of the experience and not as just a passive consumer.
Marketr: With a handful of exceptions, it’s almost impossible to engineer a viral video—or any kind of internet phenomenon. What advice would you give to brands or agencies trying to “crack the code” to meme-dom?
KA: 1) You need to provide something for your viewer to actually connect with/react to/identify with 2) you have to be surprising 3) you must have clear plan to help people find it.
Take a look at what Red Bull (3M subscribers) is doing, or what the team behind the Carrie prank did (50M views). These are two very different approaches that coexist on the same successful spectrum.
Marketr: Thanks for taking the time today. Before you go, would you mind sharing what’s currently in your Watch Later queue?
KA: Sure. I usually just save longer-form nonfiction stuff. Ever since we started working on YouTube Nation (which is a great way to find cool stuff to watch on YouTube), my Watch Later feed ballooned.