PR/PR is a full-service boutique publicity agency specializing in professional speakers, consultants, and non-fiction authors. We place our clients in front of their target audience through print media and online sources.

Viral Makeup: The Anatomy of the Harlem Shake’s Success

If you’re like me, you find yourself getting sucked down the Internet rabbit hole from time to time. Sometimes it’s Wikipedia, where I begin reading about World War II to somehow ending up researching the impact Chernobyl’s radiation had on surrounding wildlife; and sometimes it’s YouTube, which this week led to flooding my brain with Harlem Shake videos. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten days, you’re familiar with the Harlem Shake – the video trend involving goofy outfits, a dub-step song and losing your mind in the form of dancing.

The trend began when a group of college students filmed the video below and uploaded it to YouTube, setting off a firestorm of others providing their own take on the Harlem Shake, and starting an Internet craze that rivals Gangnam Style in popularity.


Since February 15th, over 40,000 Harlem Shake videos have been uploaded to YouTube, Baauer’s Harlem Shake (the electronic artist who created the track) has reached #1 on iTunes, and countless universities, companies and sports teams have recorded their own versions. A Harlem Shake subreddit (a Reddit community dedicated to a particular topic) has already eclipsed one million page views. It’s official: everyone loves this ridiculous dance.

The logic behind a certain video going viral is not an exact science. While audio of Alec Baldwin losing his mind in a voicemail is guaranteed to circulate the Web, no one could predict four bored guys goofing off in their dorm room would spark a worldwide craze. In the case of the Harlem Shake, it revolves strictly around having a blast and encouraging others to offer their own interpretation in a battle to make it as over-the-top as possible.

Corporations, specifically online businesses, have found a comfortable niche with this particular trend. Companies like Buzzfeed, Facebook and Vimeo have all recorded their own in-office Harlem Shakes, and are enjoying the hits to their YouTube channels as a result. Participating in trends likes this shows two things: you’re aware of what’s relevant and you like to have fun. I mean – who wouldn’t want to frequent a business after they’ve seen their employees enjoying their jobs?

There is no concrete formula for going viral. Many times it’s just dumb-luck borne of a quirky idea that others found interesting enough to view or circulate. Continue engaging with your audience online, and you never know what may come of it.

Added Bonus: My Alma Mater doing the Harlem Shake. Go Knights.


-Carter Breazeale

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *