The 7 Principles of Wildly Successful Social Media Challenges

The #tenyearchallenge swept the Internet in January 2019, clocking up 2.5 million hashtag mentions over the month as celebrities and atypical customers posted present and previous footage of themselves on-line.

Journalists initially explored how the problem reached again to the daybreak of social media, good telephones and the selfie. Then the media protection developed to incorporate a controversial suggestion that the problem was truly engineered by Facebook in an effort to sharpen up its facial recognition know-how (which Facebook denied).

And so the problem unfold in a traditional wave sample, earlier than fading away, as anticipated. But what’s actually occurring when a social media problem blows up? Why will we reply so enthusiastically to some ideas, however to not others? And why achieve this many challenges appear to skirt the bounds of rational behaviour?

We gathered the collective insights of entrepreneurs, lecturers and journalists to determine seven components that outline the success of so-called Viral Challenge Memes (VCMs).

1. Successful challenges naturally accommodate incremental change

The #Neknomnation problem began in New Zealand in late 2013, and hit the Internet in early 2014. Participants had been required to movie themselves downing a pint of alcoholic beverage in a single gulp. The problem unfold rapidly, and is broadly thought of to be one of many world’s pioneering VCM’s.

top social media challenges

Crucially, every #Neknomination participant was ready so as to add a private, modern contact by altering both the liquid consumed or the style of consumption. The idea was constant, but open to incremental personalisation, which is without doubt one of the most vital structural options required for efficient viral uptake. In the primary two months of 2014 alone, #neknomination was talked about 800 000 instances on the Internet.

Later in 2014 the ALS ICE Bucket Challenge arrived in our lives, and have become maybe probably the most broadly recognised and understood social media problem of all. Its construction was additionally suited to small modifications by members, however that wasn’t the one issue underpinning its success.

2. Celebrity involvement drives uptake

The ALS Ice Bucket problem noticed a surprising 19 million hashtag mentions from the start of July to the tip of August 2014. The ALS a part of the title refers to an organisation that helps analysis into and help providers for folks affected by Motor Neuron Disease. Donations ensuing from the problem are reported to have reached as a lot as $115 million.

The worthiness of the trigger was an vital issue driving intensive celeb involvement, and the participation of Barak Obama, Bill Gates, Rene Zellwegger and lots of, many extra celeb heavyweights is often recognised as one of many causes the Ice Bucket Challenge simply stored on going.

Other good causes have tried to duplicate the Ice Bucket Challenge, with various levels of success, whereas the far more frivolous however nonetheless celeb fuelled Kylie Jenner Challenge (which concerned sucking the air from a shot glass to create friction and a Kylie Jenner-like pout) reached greater than 15 million mentions in April and May 2015 alone.

Clearly, celeb presence can add rocket gas to the problem fireplace. Sometimes a charitable construction can push celebrities to change into concerned, and generally they’ll take part off their very own bat. Regardless, when the influencers settle for a nomination or are concerned within the idea, circumstances are good for viral unfold.

three. No one needs to ‘arrive late’

Social science researchers on the University of Kent explored the social media problem phenomenon in a 2017 paper, Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes, [1] which included a survey of the opinions of social media problem participators. One of the paper’s extra intriguing propositions is that after a VCM has hit full steam its reputation means nominees more and more really feel they may truly lose social credibility by collaborating.

Take the Kiki problem, for instance, which noticed 6.2 million hashtag mentions from 1 June – 31 August 2018, at a median of roughly 2 million mentions per thirty days. Also often called the In My Feelings Challenge, Kiki concerned leaping from a shifting car and dancing within the highway to the tune of Drake’s “In My Feelings”. It all began when American comic Shiggy posted an Instagram video (which didn’t truly contain a automobile – this solely turned a characteristic of the problem after his buddy, Odell Beckham Jr, danced in entrance of a car). With celeb participation and the power so as to add incremental modifications just about baked into the format, #Kiki was destined to outperform 2013’s The Harlem Shake (5.5 million mentions in February / March 2013). By October 2018, nonetheless, Kiki mentions had been nonetheless all the best way all the way down to 500 000, and falling.


The rule is easy: as a problem hits peak reputation we begin to see participation in it as merely following the group – the other of cool. And so the wave breaks, and loses energy.

four. Social teams are excited by dangerous behaviour

Many social media challenges contain stunts that may trigger bodily hurt. Wired Magazine examined why bodily danger might be so compelling in a 2018 article that cites Damon Centola, affiliate professor of communication on the University of Pennsylvania and the creator of How Behaviour Spreads.

“Adopting dangerous behaviours is usually triggered by emotional excitement, which is amplified in crowds,” he says. On social media, mass feedback, likes and shares simply set off this state of group pleasure, encouraging participation. Thus, if a problem has simply sufficient danger to create emotional pleasure and participation, however not sufficient hazard to make it implausible, it’s prone to faucet into our group intuition to be a bit of thrilled by hazard.

It’s no accident, then (pun meant), that lots of the greatest VCMs of the latest previous check the bounds of human security. In reality, danger is a part of what makes a problem interesting to inherently excitable on-line teams.

5. Self identification issues greater than fame

Somewhat counter intuitively, most problem members don’t truly need to break the Internet with unimaginable Harlem Shake or Kiki dance strikes. Instead, our precedence is extra on connecting with friends by demonstrating a contact of private model.

Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes raises the concept VCM members really feel some stress to indicate their ‘skills’ by posting one thing ‘good enough’. This is a vital notion that means most members don’t need to stand out an excessive amount of. Rather, they take pleasure in following the foundations to speak elements of their private identification throughout the social context of their peer group.

The Mannequin Challenge, which acquired 20 million mentions within the final two months of 2016, illustrates this dynamic. Started by college students at Ed White High School in Jacksonville, USA, the problem concerned adopting sudden model poses – basically repeating the formulation of the ‘Planking’ phenomenon of 2013. Sports groups and professional athletes liked the idea, and delivered a litany of Mannequin poses that bolstered enjoyable and modern elements of their identification throughout the nuanced and localised social rituals of sport, associates and followers.



6. The media all the time performs a job – and generally takes over

The Tide Pod phenomenon took off in early 2018, difficult folks to actually eat vibrant laundry detergent pods. The idea is claimed to have arisen from an ironic article initially posted a number of years earlier within the satirical publication, The Onion. Soon after the Tide Pod Challenge appeared on-line, articles highlighting the toxic nature of the detergent throughout the pods and warning of extreme damage additionally appeared, together with calls from related associations and stakeholders for members – mainly kids, tweens and youngsters – not to reply to nominations.

However, as this text on Mashable explains, whereas instances of pod associated poisoning rose dramatically within the USA, the numbers had been nonetheless very low. Statistics from the American Association of Poison Control Centres present that 39 such instances had been reported within the first 15 days of 2015. Yes, there have been solely 53 instances in the whole previous 12 months, however finally 39 instances from 40 million teenage Americans stays a small quantity.

Nonetheless, the Tide Pod hashtag gained 2 million mentions within the first two weeks of 2018. In this case, although, the mentions relate principally to discussions across the concept of the problem, reasonably than executions of the problem itself. Also, the warning nature of intensive media protection noticed most websites taking down movies of Tide Pod consumption. When you seek for Tide Pod Challenge movies right now, the returns are nearly all the time fakes – movies purporting to be Tide Pod Challenges that really find yourself being a warning to not do take part.

7. We love driving the problem wave as a result of its social

VCM members typically have a robust really feel for what the ‘range’ for his or her effort ought to be, together with an instinctive sense of the status dangers that include pushing the boat out too far. This ingrained social intuition permits us to take pleasure in via the method whilst we obey ingrained social guidelines. The authors of Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes provide a neat abstract:

“For most of the participants, negotiating these boundaries and tensions produced an enjoyable, creative and fleetingly shared moment. The latter point suggests another important feature of participation, namely an overarching desire to be part of the social.”

It’s this perception which, finally, defines why challenges are destined to stay a robust characteristic of social media. Despite all our nicely based anxiousness concerning the modifications our new digital life have wrought, most of us nonetheless relish the chance to share enjoyable with family and friends. And that’s most likely a very good factor.

To be taught how one can keep on high of trending memes and model alternatives, chat to the Meltwater crew about our vary of social media listening instruments.