Popularity – Digging Deeper than Dancing and Viral Videos

Gangnam Style
YouTube     Lyrics

Even though many authors enjoy a sort of famous anonymity, much of our success in business depends on being well liked. For instance, I immediately recognize the name Tom Clancy, but doubt that I would recognize the man if I bumped into him on the street. An author’s name sells books. Even with advances in modern communication technologies, word-of-mouth is still one of the most important advertising mechanisms for writers. Strong branding and having a good image is essential to business success.

There is an enormous amount of power and money to be had in the tides of public opinion. Because of this, countless hours of research has been invested by scientists and marketing staffs, trying to crack the secret of what makes a person or product popular. There are as many answers to this question as there are researchers. In the end, popularity seems to be an expression of value. Determine what your audience values and give it to them. It seems simple, but isn’t.

Let’s take as an example the artist Psy, whose single Gangnam Style went viral on an international scale in August 2012. As of March 30, 2014, that single video has had over 1.939 billion views on YouTube. Several world leaders have mimicked his dance moves, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations hailed the song as a “force for world peace.” As a writer, I am also an entertainer. So what then can I learn from this success to apply to my own career?

I believe that the average person will gravitate towards an individual who is A) someone they admire, B) someone with whom they empathize, or C) someone who lets them forget themselves.

First and foremost, Gangnam Style is entertaining. You don’t need to speak a word of Korean to appreciate or participate in the catchy lyrics, simple dance moves or entertaining silliness. The song is meant to be comedic, and has an air of shameless joy that is apparent across language barriers. It is easy to lose oneself in the entertainment, even if just for a few minutes.

Next, most everyone has had self-confidence issues. Therefore, many people admire someone with such blatant confidence and charisma. Though writers have the audacity to believe that the ideas we have in our heads are worth paying for, we are arguably more susceptible to this than most. The image of confidence translates to competence in our audience’s mind however. It is essential to act like we are in control, even if we don’t feel it.

Finally, Psy moved to the United States to study business administration, but gave up that path in favor of his love of music, a passion he pursued until Gangnam Style broke records twelve years later. People love success stories. We admire individuals who work hard at their passions, especially when pursued at the expense of a wiser and safer course of action. It gives us hope for our own dreams.


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