The ‘Harlem Shake’ viral meme

Social media marketing is a fairly new but powerful medium to communicate a message to a target audience. Its success depends mainly on the virality factor, that is, the ability to pass the message to another person in real-time speed. The content may be in the form of a video, photo, or a simple text message, but if the content is interesting and compelling enough, other users create their own versions of it — spawning what is called a meme.

Power of Social Media Marketing

In recent years, social media marketing has been successful thanks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all other social networking tools that make content creation easy, even for the average person, and content sharing convenient to those with access to social media.

It is so powerful that it has turned some unknown personalities into instant celebrities. International pop celebrities Justin Bieber and Greyson Chance, for example, can credit their rise to fame to YouTube after their videos became popular, first, among social media users, then ultimately in mainstream media.

Most recently, Korean singer Psy arguably became the hottest breakout artist last year, due primarily to his “Gangnam Style” song that went on to become the most-watched video on YouTube (with 1.3 billion views and counting). The song spawned thousands of viral memes from users who — despite the fact that majority did not understand the song since its lyrics were in Korean — created their own version, amused partly by the song’s trademark horseback-riding dance.

“Harlem Shake” internet meme

The explosive potential, yet cost-effectiveness, of social media marketing is perhaps the reason why businesses and brands have consistently tried to crack the code. In the past weeks, we have seen a new viral meme on social media — this time, it’s another “crazy” dance-song video called Harlem Shake — with big brands joining the bandwagon in real-time speed.

First, a background on the “Harlem Shake.” The original video, posted on February 2, is said to be this one: five Australian teens hanging out in a room, with one helmet-wearing person dancing crazily to the song “Harlem Shake” by American music producer Baauer. Fifteen-or-so seconds into the song, the rest of the gang join in, doing crazy moves like dancing naked, head-banging in the air, or facing the wall while dancing.

The original Harlem Shake video


In a few days’ time, the video became popular on YouTube and social media, spawning other versions from other users but retaining the elements of the original video. Here’s how to do the “Harlem Shake”:

How to do the “Harlem Shake”

1. Use the first 30 seconds of Baauer’s song “Harlem Shake.” (YouTube link)

2. Have one person in the group wear a helmet, mask, or anything to cover the face then dance crazily for the first 15-or-so-seconds. Let the other members of the group ignore the dancer as they continue to do their “normal” routine.

3. Halfway through the song, abruptly switch to everyone dancing crazily ’till the end of the 30-second slice. Here is where the creativity starts. Some may dance on top of tables, crawl on the floor, wear outrageous costumes, etc.

For more ideas on how to do your own “Harlem Shake,” here are some of the videos spawned by the original. In just two weeks, thousands of versions have appeared on YouTube, reaching a combined total of 175 million views, according to a YouTube Trends blog post.

Harlem Shake compilation 1


Harlem Shake compilation 2


Like what we have seen in previous memes, brands would start riding on the internet meme in the hopes of cashing in on the internet phenomenon. Here are some examples of mainstream brands and businesses responding with real-time speed to the “Harlem Shake” craze. In just a week or so, these brands and businesses have created their own spoof version but whether they are successful in generating positive image for the brand deserves a separate analysis posts in the future.

For the meantime, enjoy the Harlem Shake phenomenon while it lasts!

Harlem Shake – Pepsi Cans edition


Harlem Shake – Google Office edition


Harlem Shake – Late Night Jimmy Fallon version


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