2016 was…quite a year in every sense of the word. But today I want to talk about social media. In 2016 there was one trend that caught the world by storm and that was the release of Pokemon Go. In a recent poll on PRWeek US, Pokemon Go beat out Harambe, the election, Michael Phelps, Chewbacca Mom AND the mannequin challenge as the top social media trend of 2016. It is hard to pinpoint the exact formula for a social media phenom, but I’ve observed a few characteristics that make things like Pokemon Go so successful.
- It hits a nerve with people. Part of the reason Pokemon Go was so successful, I think, was the fact that it was essentially a resurrection of something that used to be very popular. For lovers of Pokemon, it re-ignites the affinity. It’s the same concept as filming and releasing new Gilmore Girls episodes on Netflix. People love “reunions” and Pokemon Go was able to cash in on that.
- A sense of community/peer pressure. One evening in August before school started my roommate and I were walking our college campus. Campus was actually a little busy and Pokemon Go was at hitting its popularity peak around this time. There were huge groups of people out playing the game and it seemed like we were the only ones who weren’t looking at our phones like a treasure map. Not all of these people grew up Pokemon lovers and according to gonintendo.com, 35% of people had never played Pokemon before Pokemon Go. Community and peer pressure are undoubtedly factors in the success of viral activities, challenges, etc. It’s like if your friend challenged you to do the Ice Bucket Challenge. You accept the challenge because then you get to challenge people to do it, thus, continuing the challenge within your community. Whether we know it or not, social media impacts our own ideas, motivations, tastes and perceptions.
- Anyone can do it. In journalism school they teach you to write at an 8th grade reading level so you can appeal to more audiences. Social media trends are the same way. Even your parents can take a video and upload it to Facebook or download the app and create a username. There isn’t a lot of brain power involved in these trends, so it isn’t limiting to who can participate. These trends remind me of the Geico commercial: So easy a caveman could do it.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are), social media trends will come to an end. We aren’t doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge any more or even thinking about the Harlem Shake. Like a shooting star these trends flash across our news feed. The trick and biggest challenge for the companies and groups behind each viral game, challenge and activity is to continue the impact. I really like fashion, so I’m going to use a metaphor for all my fashionistas out there. Social media trends are thigh-high boots, not black pumps.
The end of 2016 means the beginning of a new year of social media trends. I can’t wait to see what the Internet comes up with next and if anyone ever figures out the formula to going viral, send me an email!
Holly Hoehner is a public relations senior at the University of Oklahoma. She considers herself more of a Russell Westbrook than a Kevin Durant and enjoys learning about and participating in the digital age, blogging about anything that comes to her mind and creating witty Instagram captions. Holly was raised a die-hard Sooner fan in Edmond, OK.