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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.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=384IUU43bfQ[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVkr5Lm8IZs[/youtube]

-Carter Breazeale

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