Recently I created an interactive SVG animation called Egg Toggle. Click the egg to flip it!
In terms of visibility I did my usual thing - made a GIF out of it, posted it on Twitter along with a link to the proper interactive version on CodePen. Nothing new - same old, same old.
I live in the UK so often I try to time my Twitter posts to coincide with the US waking up (East coast first at around 2pm GMT). I do this because a lot of the people who follow my updates on Twitter are in the States) and that day was no exception.
I then took my dog for a walk. During that time I got a few retweets and likes for which I am always very grateful - getting even one retweet from someone makes my day because even though a 'like' can be a bit throw away (I've been guilty of liking something more to bookmark it than anything), a retweet says 'I like this enough for my friends and anyone else to know'.
Then someone with a lot of followers retweeted it and sure enough, activity went bananas for a while. Again this is nothing particularly new - it happens sometimes (and usually only once per tweet).
But then someone else with a lot of followers retweeted it - then another and another. Pretty quickly there was a relative tsunami of retweets and likes and comments. I say relative tsunami because for me, the most popular thing I've ever put out on Twitter received about 400 likes and about 150 retweets so for me this was huge.
At this point I just want to note that retweets and likes on social media should not be used as a barometer for how good something is. If you enjoyed doing something and you learnt something from it then that is a success whether other people agree or not. Social media acceptance is not a barometer for the validity of an idea or opinion.
And before I receive a swathe of comments pointing out the irony (hypocrisy?) of this post please note that this post is purely an autopsy of a blip in my social media timeline - a blip that many people are chasing - a blip that is the V word (ok, viral, there I said it).
1,200 likes and 320 retweets is not viral!
Well it is for me and it's got me thinking about why it was well received. And there are several clues that I want to highlight as potential contributors because one thing I am certain about is that it's not one thing.
So these are my thoughts:
- It's an egg. Eggs are pretty much universal - most people know what an egg is, they've probably eaten one and when they conceived they are actually were one (not the chickeny one though). Eggs are familiar and familiar is good. Or as the kids say, it's relatable.
- It does one thing only. You click it - it flips. Simple. No thinking required.
- It remains as true to life as it can. When I was making it I considered making it turn into bacon or a coffee when you clicked it - I struggled with the idea of having the under side of the egg becoming visible because, let's face it, the underside of a fried egg is boring and not nearly as pretty as the yolk side. But I went along with it because even though it wasn't aesthetically pleasing it felt like that's what it should do.
- It was timed right. I had some great comments (DMs and tweets) from people saying that their timeline was full of doom and gloom and that this was a lovely escape - a bit of fun in an otherwise unhappy time. I'd love to tell you that I planned it this way but of course I didn't - although picking a time when the news is depressing isn't that hard these days. In fact any day will do.
- It's not trying to be clever and it's not trying to be something it's not. It's just an egg toggle.
- It doesn't make complete sense. I appreciate that this somewhat contradicts several points above but what I mean is that whilst it's obvious what it does and it's obvious what it is, it's not obvious what it's for. Why have an egg that toggles from yolk side to flipped side? What for? Who would use it? Why would they use it? This sense of open-endedness allows for personal projections about its possible use. I had lots of people sending me ideas as to where it would work, who might use it and why from games, apps and restaurants to people with specific egg preferences (!).
- It looks nice. The egg is nicely drawn (though I say so myself - I was very pleased with it). The colours work well (I matched the background with the yolk using Coolors) and even the dull back side looks as realistic as I could get it. The action rings true and the design rings true.
- One final thing and this speaks to something bigger than all of us - I didn't set out for it to be popular. I just made it and bunged it on the Internet. When I worked for an agency we'd have clients come to us with a brief whose title was 'Viral Game' or 'Viral Animation'. Suffice to say the things we created never went viral because when the intent is for something become viral, it just won't. Full stop.
Now I really don't want this to come across as self-indulgent and I can assure you it isn't. Those of you who know me in real life know that I am a serial analyser. I get a kick out of working stuff out and trying to see things from different angles. Nothing gives me more pleasure than dissecting the intangible, hunting for meaning, trying to quantify the unquantifiable. And with this post I simply want to highlight my own findings and thoughts on the subject of virality and what makes something popular, albeit in a small way.
So to summarise, and this won't come as a shock to some of you, in order to create something that resonates with an audience or becomes hugely shareable across social media there needs to be several things in place none of which can be orchestrated because the higher powers will know what you're trying to do and stop you.
If you like toggles I've put together a small selection on Behance.