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Viral Trends: When to Hop on Board and When to Stay Put

The Mannequin Challenge. Easy, right? Gather the whole office, stand in a cool pose, post to social media, done. Not so fast.

If you don’t know, the Mannequin Challenge is the latest internet craze. Groups of people stand very, very still in intriguing positions while the camera pans through the frozen scene. A song plays, usually Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” and everyone shows off their hipness.

Like most internet trends, the Mannequin Challenge started with teenagers. The earliest known upload is rumored to have come from high school students in Jacksonville, Florida, in which they stand motionless in a classroom engaged in very teenage poses, like the Dab.

The youth of the internet caught on. Then, the bar was raised when athletes joined in. Because of their physical ability to hold incredible poses, these videos started to go crazy viral.

After Millennials did everything they could with it, the Mannequin Challenge was left to the older generation to continue the trend. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Paul McCartney stood still for the sake of engagement. They can get away with it because they’re, well, they’re them. But how far away from the source is too far?

Similar to the Harlem Shake, another viral dance trend that rose to fame in 2013, the origins of the Mannequin Challenge are found in the young, hip hop-loving generation. When a group attempts to join in on the trend that they’re too far removed from, it may come off as out-of-touch. Just when you think you’ve finally tapped into the demographic with your silly video, you’ve actually moved yourself further away.

As an organization, you have to ask yourself, Am I on the front end of this trend? Or the back end? Do I have something new and different to offer to this craze? Does this fit with my brand image and voice?

If you learn about the trend from your teenage daughter, then you’re probably on the back end. Targeting young people takes more than just posting a video – you need a strategy that appeals to them, instead of inserting yourself in their online space.

If your brand couldn’t be further from the trend’s origin, or if you are unable to offer something new, it may not be the best fit, and your organization could risk coming off passé.

Yet, it may be worth hopping on board with some viral trends. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that took over news feeds in 2014 had everyone soaked in freezing cold water to help bring awareness to Lou Gehrig’s disease. While many social media users no doubt were fatigued by the countless videos, the challenge raised more than $115 million for ALS research, which led to huge breakthroughs in treatment of the disease.

So, the next time a viral internet trend surfaces, and you can be sure it will any day now, make sure your contribution as an organization makes sense. If it’s relevant to your team and your mission and you feel that you’re adding something new, go for it! If not, let’s find another way to get your name out there.

Brooke is a Jr. Account Executive at the DeBerry Group. With a background in journalism and social media, she enjoys using her passion and talent for writing to help her clients reach their goals. Brooke went to St. Edward's University and received a B.A. in English Writing and Rhetoric.