January 20, 2013

Social Media Lessons from Sandy Hook Viral Video

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Written by: Ross Quintana
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Social Media Lessons from Sandy Hook Viral Video

Social Media Lessons from Sandy Hook Viral Video



Last night I went on Twitter and noticed the term Sandy Hook trending. I clicked it wondering what new information was out or what everyone was talking about. I found out there had been a video made called Sandy Hook – Exposed. As a social media guy who is online most of the time, I see tons of stuff and pop culture or social pop culture items always intrigue me. Why people love posting pictures of cats, or how Gangnam style got so popular, or Angry Birds. From a marketing standpoint and social science standpoint I am curious about pop culture and how things go viral. Enter Sandy Hook viral video.

The video is 30 minutes long and when I heard it hit 10 million views, I wondered what the hype was all about. I watched the video and though you may go in thinking what have the crazy people come up with now, the fact is that one of the reasons the video is going viral instead of just being a blip on the screen is that there are some compelling points made in the video. As someone who has dealt with the death of children and helped others who have lost children, I can honestly say, the two videos of the parents who lost children were troubling. People are sharply divided on this and when you mix in the powerful emotions involved, we know why it is all over the internet and media right now. I will let you like millions of others decide what you think for yourself. Regardless of what you think, here are the lessons about social media we can learn from the Sandy Hook viral video.

1. High emotions spill into conversations. Simon Sinek in his book, “Start with Why” talks about how powerful products and services sell when there is a reason or cause behind it. Politics use this by sparking high emotion around issues and imparting ad hominem or personal vilification to the opponents views. The Sandy Hook hoax video has both. Some who think the Sandy Hook conspiracy is false tend to vilify the people who promote it. The people who promote it, think the other people are simply ignorant and naive. Either way, one thing is for sure. High emotional responses cause people to both comment and talk to others about it. Bland is the enemy of viral messaging.

2. Controversy. We have all been taught and told stories of good and evil, of the struggle. This draws us in. This has been so woven into the fabric of our minds that after 1000’s of stories of good and evil we have become addicted to controversy. The news gives people a dose of it every day. Reality TV started by putting people in a house that won’t get along and filmed them fighting. Special mention to Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake that helped ignite the obsession of watching controversy. Much like when I took on the topic of Instagram’s new Terms of Service which created a firestorm of negative press and account deletions, topics that are controversial stand out in the noise of social media.

3. Transparency. Politics have changed forever thanks to social media. No more can a politician say one thing in one place and another somewhere else. Society now has a memory that is broadcast without filtration. Society also has millions of eyeballs examining the evidence. The days of one person coming and giving expert advice are gone. Now experts from all over the globe can look at a situation and give their two cents to large audiences. The days of keeping things quiet or putting the hush on things is over. Good or bad, the sources of information are vast and it is getting much harder to hide in the shadows in a social media world where everything is shared, and nothing is out of reach. Transparency has changed the world forever.

So what can we learn from the conspiracy theories, and political issues? People are no longer subject to making decisions by limited information or even mis-information. With the Gun control issues tied to these events, there are people fired up on both sides. The internet is the greatest research tool the world has ever known. Everyone is giving their opinions, and their take on events and there is wisdom in examining more evidence. I am overwhelmed by the change in society that social media has brought. Countries are overthrown, politicians are chose, corruption is exposed, and yes cats are glorified :] We are all part of a large conversation and yes we get to add our two cents into the greater conversation. This has never happened to this extent in the history of time and I am excited to be a part of this moment in history. As for the Sandy Hook viral video. Like hundreds of other issues we will face, I will let you be the judge of this global conversation.

About the Author

Ross Quintana
Founder of SocialMagnets, I am passionate about social media, influence, innovation, strategy, and marketing. I love to help people learn and understand the digital world. I stretch people's thinking and share my analysis of information, tools, and strategies in social media. Let's connect


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