If you have not been on the Internet for the last few weeks (pfft! Who can live without it?), then you will have seen or even partaken in the #TheDress debate (take a look at the science behind the dress colour debate).
A poorly shot photograph shared on Instagram of a blue and black dress started an online debate, with everybody joining in, from Mavis at no. 32 to Kim Kardashian. Some saw a ‘white and gold’ dress and others saw ‘blue and black’.
Whether you joined in or not, unless you are not on any kind of social media, don’t watch TV and basically switch off from all society, then you cannot have failed to have heard about the #TheDress debate.
And this is our very point. The discussions, the engagement and the coverage of this dress and its colour combination, had the nation talking – and beyond – about the product, the company, the psychology and the inner workings of the eye ball.
Of course, Roman Originals, the company behind the dress are now reaping the rewards – and why not? Their website hits have shot up by 500% (yup, you read that right), their phone calls have significantly increased and their sales are doing very nicely indeed, thank you. Drill in to this analysis, and you will see that people are not buying only this particular dress, but all kinds of others products too.
All this got us thinking…
In pensive mood, we hunkered down with the kettle and the chocolate digestives, and took a moment to ponder the power of #TheDress. What ingredients make for a viral episode on social media?
We came up with 5 factors, including a sprinkling of magic fairy dust…
Use of photos
We have said it before and we’ll say it again, photos really make a difference. They can be the source of conversation, repulsion, attraction and confusion. Adding photos of your products and asking or inciting debate is a great way to get attention to your posts and products.
In this case, the original photo was unfiltered and used on Instagram; the comments that then ensued all questioned the original posting that said #TheDress was black and blue. Some say the dress as white and gold, thus the comments started rolling.
Good quality photos are always best, and this photo was not intentionally posted to provoke debate; in fact, the user was quite clear was the colour of the dress was…
Use of #hashtag
Once the momentum started to build around #TheDress and the ensuing debate, the hashtag came in to being. Every time someone commented and the various social media streams, the use of the hashtag ensured that the comment found its way in to the forum.
Get people talking, sharing and communicating
Social media is about making connections, creating discussion and sharing ideas. This online debate is a perfect example of this, but on a gargantuan, global scale. Simply because your viral debate does not measure up in the same reach and magnitude of #TheDress, does not mean it is not having an impact.
Some hashtags are in use for weeks, if not months and others are a mainstay of some of the groups that meet up on a regular basis on various social media platforms; there are various business groups, for example, who meet on Twitter and thus, any tweets that you want to be part of the stream of comments should contain this designated hashtag. Think of it as a call sign…
Magic fairy dust – the one comment, the stroke of luck
In this case, the photos posted on Instagram was a genuine one; it was posted with no more intention than a flash-in-the-pan photo of one of the many products sold at Roman Originals. But, there was a stroke a luck and sprinkling of fairy dust…
… there was one comment, by another Instagram user, that questioned the ‘blue and black’; they say, they saw white and gold… and then someone else joined in… and it started to roll and roll. Before you knew what others the dress came in, THE photo of #TheDress was bounced, shared and re-tweeted thousands and thousands of times.
There were comments and articles on the psychology of what people saw and why; there were debates on the street with the local junior reporter for the local TV catching their break by dangling a tablet in front of the eyes of many a Wednesday afternoon shopper, asking them what colours they saw… the debate was enormous. And, for a change, it was all good fun. We discussed it over our dinner table too; did you?
Cannot be contrived
And we think that this shows a fourth and important final point about the whole #TheDress thing. As hard as you try, some of the best viral exchanges cannot be contrived.
The photo was not posted to incite or excite comment; it was not posted to cogitate favour or stir ill-feeling. It was a photograph that was simply shared, then commented on… nothing more. Even though we try hard with the whole hashtag thing, photos and the like, sometimes something takes off.
Blessing… or curse?
The ‘taking off’ bit can be a blessing and a curse. Roman Originals are a company big enough to deal with the 500% jump in website visitors, the phone ringing off the hook (around 150 calls per hour in the days immediately following #TheDress explosion) and have enough staff to work the barricades and the tills.
For a small, online local business, this may not be the case but, should a social media campaign go viral – and this episode shows that it can, in a blink of an eye and when you least expect it – ride the crest of the wave, for it could be the making of you…
(And the dress…?
It is available in blue & black, and white & black, red & black, as well as pink and black… but not a white and gold option, just yet. But Roman Originals is planning to create one, allegedly.)