Binod, Virality, and the Third Factor – The Psychology of Viral Content

If you spend time online, especially on Youtube/Twitter, you have already encountered the ubiquitous Binod.

Why do Binods trend? The science of virality. A cartoon image of a confused man.

Binod might’ve begun as an honest mistake (someone writing a comment and then signing off with his name – when by some quirk of technology, the comment got deleted and only the name remained) but now it’s being seen as a symbol of mindless trolling, and everyone, including brands such as PayTM and AirTel are getting on the Binod B(r)andwagon.

And yet, something is driving the Binod fever. Some of the memes are too good to pass. For instance, this tweet by YouTube:

and this one by AirTel:

So what makes a viral trend?

What is it about Vinod that caught the fancy of the net-nuts?

This interesting Business Insider article

presents two psychological theories to explain virality.

1. Novelty: When the brain finds something new, it gets interested in it.

2. Information Gap: If the brain finds a gap it wants to fill it (Explained beautifully by the Gestalt Theory as well as curiosity arousal of ARCS.)

We can say Binod had both – it was a new to see someone posting his name on a Youtube stream and it made those who saw it wonder who Binod was.

And yet, the trend might not have picked up or died an early death, if the right kind of people (who were intrigued by “Binod” and wanted to share it) were not there, there would have been no trend.

So, I’d like to introduce the third factor called “Luck.”

This changes the whole virality thing into a game of poker – skill and luck. The skill part of it, I believe can be learned and perfected, but whether or not the content be served to the right audience at the right time on the right platform, is something that would eventually decide whether it goes viral or not. However, if we create content that’s old-run-of-the-mill kind and doesn’t arouse any curiosity, it won’t gain any traction in the best of conditions (and sometimes viral content does get created by fluke. “Binod” is a fabulous example.)