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What the Harlem Shake Teaches us About Viral Videos

What the Harlem Shake Taught us About Viral Videos


The Harlem Shake is the latest viral video to grab the internet’s attention. Just 30 seconds long and horribly addictive, the Harlem Shake videos are everywhere. Now it seems there’s a formula which anyone can use to create their own viral Harlem Shake vid.

If you’re one of the few humans left who haven’t seen one, check out this website that displays randomly chosen Harlem Shake videos. If you’re curious about how it started, here’s the original Harlem Shake vid:

Since then, it’s evolved into (my personal favourite):

The Formula for Harlem Shake Virals

Now, according to an interesting article in TechCrunch entitled “What Makes the Harlem Shake so Popular“, we even have a formula for the Harlem Shake meme:

[14T x (A1 + V1)] => Δ => [14T x (A2 + V2)] => [2T x (A3+V3)]

You’ll have to read the article to see how the formula works, but the most interesting observation for marketers is that the beauty of the Harlem Shake video lies in its simplicity.

The videos are capped at 30 seconds, which makes them eminently shareable. There’s a clear and simple format, which encourages people to make their own. Best of all, they fit the trend for really short videos which apps like Viddy and Vine are making popular (although I would argue that they’re just responding to a change in public taste for shorter videos). They also have that essential WTF factor that makes videos shareable.

The Next Step

The lesson is clear: if you want to create videos that have viral potential, make them short, simple to emulate, and fun to watch.

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