Building your personal reputation online

This was a talk I delivered to some digital apprentices at Brighton City College.

They’ve got some interesting projects in the pipeline around helping young people get more exposure to things like coding and social media – which are subjects currently excluded from the curriculum. Watch this space.


How Tweets Go Viral

I’ve tweeted on behalf of many big brands. In doing so, I’ve noticed an interesting thing happen in the way tweets take off and become viral.

This is demonstrated in the diagram below:

how tweets go viral

Essentially, the diagram illustrates that when something is tweeted, it doesn’t always gain traction within the first couple of hours.

Suddenly, however, you’ll get an influx of activity – retweets, favourites and follows.

This window of intense activity is not always sustained and, most of the time, brands will attract followers with large campaigns, a product launch or a big news story. In return, you’ll see large spikes in follower numbers and engagement over time in conjunction with these.

I was watching YouTube trends manager, Kevin Allocca’s, Ted talk on ‘why videos go viral’ and he talks about something similar with the way videos behave on YouTube.

Kevin says that there is 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute but only a tiny percent of those videos have more than 1million views. So how does that happen?

Essentially, Kevin says there are three drivers:

1. Tastemakers (I refer to these as ‘influencers’ in the diagram above)

2. Communities of participation

3. Unexpectedness

Kevin uses the example of Yosemitebear’s Double Rainbow video, which you may be familiar with.

This video, which now has 36,811,802 views on YouTube, received hardly any views for the first few months after it was uploaded. Then, in July, comedian Jimmy Kimmel tweeted it and well,the graph says the rest:

double rainbow

This goes hand-in-hand with my diagram above showing the virality of tweets.

Kevin also talks about Rebecca Black’s Friday song.

As you can see from the graph below, a similar thing happened – a tastemaker, or group of tastemakers, acted as a catalyst for the virality of the video.

However, you can also see that views peaked every Friday (illustrated by the arrows):


Kevin suggests that a community of people who shared this inside joke was formed. These people started talking about the video and doing stuff with it – there are now over 10,000 parodies of the video on YouTube.

This is where ‘participation’ comes in to it.

Things trend, or become part of popular culture, when people start spreading and doing something new with them. This is part of the phenomenon of the 21st Century.

In summary, Kevin says:

“Tastemakers, participation and unexpectedness are all characteristics of a new type of culture whereby anyone has access and the audience defines the new popularity.”

The blurry line & evolving habits

There’s a blurry line evolving in my day-to-day life. And it’s getting bigger.


Technology means that everything is becoming connected.

This has many benefits of course..

– It means we get to do things like work from home and, therefore, less office space is needed.

– It means we can access information wherever we need it, whenever we need it. This means that knowledge is becoming less top- heavy and more evenly distributed between all the classes and demographics in society.

– It means we can communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime. This means that the whole world is essentially the new ‘local’.

Essentially it means that there is less room for structure in every day life. I’ve noticed this in my personal behaviour:

  • I write blog posts in the bath.
  • I tweet about them on the bus.
  • I send emails from the gym changing room.
  • I arrange my weekend from my office desk.
  • I finish proposals over breakfast.
  • I check my emails when I get into bed.

Workplaces are reflecting this with the importance of growing trends such as flexi-time and ‘bring your own device to work’. Personally, my life – which once was divided into very distinct areas – is now a blurred mist of interconnected ‘things’.

In direct correlation with this, I’ve noticed my behaviour changing on Facebook. Initially a place for organising nights out with friends and tagging drunk photos at university – I’m now connected with family, my grandma(!), my parents, colleagues and even clients.

So, when is it OK to switch off?


Since writing this, I’ve come across this post by Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, Danah Boyd, who has communicated my thoughts on this much better than I have. Well worth a read.

(Updated 07/05/2013)