We are all total voyeurs, eavesdroppers! That’s what makes YouTube so popular. Flickr photographs, blogs (web logs or on-line diaries) are what people love to share and sneak a peak at.
When you overhear something you think you shouldn’t, or when you see pictures of that long lost girl friend, or even pictures of yourself at you last conference, you get a little high on drugs; endorphin and serotonin. They are feel good drugs that satiate, reduce pain, calm, make you feel better, and have even been linked to curing cancer.
What makes an video or email go viral is the distribution of those drugs. We get the rush and feel better and we want to share that feeling with our friends, family, and colleagues. We become drug dealers; distributors. And, we know that the recipients are now psychologically indebted to us for those drugs. We know the next time they get something that will give them a rush, they will reciprocate and send it back to me and I’ll experience the rush. It’s this repetitious dispensing of these drugs that cause a video and other marketing to go “viral”.
You know yourself, what is the most common type of email that you forward to friends, family and colleagues? “Funny!” And, if you continually send someone funny emails and you never get anything in return, a response, or thank you, your feelings get hurt a little and you stop sending them your drugs (I mean emails).
It’s these drugs and feelings that have fueled the Facebook phenomenon with more than 500 million users spending more than 700 million minutes every month reading other people’s thoughts and feelings, looking at other peoples photos and videos, and taking part in other peoples lives. The same is true for Twitter, blogging, and all of the other social networks.
It’s also about herd mentality, community, and the need to be part of a larger group. Every since we walked out of the savanna’s of Africa 2 million years ago, it was always in our best interest to travel in groups, clans, tribes, herds, schools, pods, or flocks. People of the same clan were “like-minded” people within a trusted network. They knew each other, had something in common, and would protect each other from that next lion attack. While there are far less more lions and the threat is significantly lower today, we still have that psychological need to bond, find common elements, and become part of larger trusted networks. Simply by becoming part of Facebook, Twitter, eCademy, Plaxo, Fastpitch, YouTube, or Flickr, you instantly have that community in common and the basis to begin forming your relationship of trust with individuals and other members of that tribe.
Lon Safko is the author of The Social Media Bible, Second Edition.