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Riding content waves in a post-viral world

November 29, 2023

Written by Simon Kearney | Graphics by Victor Goh

German TikTok researcher Marcus Bösch wrote earlier this month that we’ve stepped into a TikTok-first, video-first internet landscape, where the traditional notions of virality are getting a makeover. 

The TikTok algorithm — in stark contrast to Facebook’s approach — isn’t about chasing mass appeal that snowballs into global fame, he said. Instead, it pinpoints niches and feeds them precisely what they crave.

Enter the “Vapour Web” era, as he calls it. 

It’s a bit like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands. There’s more internet than ever, buzzing with activity and riddled with hefty geopolitical implications. Yet, it’s elusive, slipping through fingers just when you think you’ve got a grip. The big picture is fragmented, a jigsaw puzzle with ever-shifting pieces.

This is the essence of being ‘post-viral’. We’re no longer riding the wave of a single, all-consuming trend. Instead, we’re surfing a sea of micro-trends, each with its own ripple effect, never quite coalescing into a tidal wave. 

Instead the waves criss-cross and combine, as waves do, into peaks. Post-viral looks like rogue waves popping up here and there. You never know where one is going to show up or how it is going to be interpreted. 

A Tik-Tok-first creator mindset

Creators are using the modern TikTok-first internet to share their work and find their tribes in amazing ways that upturn the traditional pathways to fame and fortune.

In this Wired article, Ursus Magana, a talent manager for diverse online creators, challenges the traditional concept of virality. 

His take is that in today’s digital landscape, particularly on platforms like TikTok, success isn’t about mass appeal but about tapping into specific niches and the crossovers between niches to find those engaging intersections. 

Magana’s approach is to identify and promote unique music talents, often finding them when remixes of their beats take off in unrelated and overlooked subcultures. 

When he sees a snippet of music taking off in a particular niche, he’ll sign the artist (who might be a teenage high school student for example) and reach out to the community that is remixing the track to share links to the artist’s playlist. 

The two niches cross over and often lead to previously unimagined commercial success for the fledgling artist. But it does require relentless posting, seven days a week. Wired reports the fame and fortune this new generation seeks is traditional, lasting fame – not the momentary kind of today’s social media. 

But with this real but fleeting vibrancy and diversity, it does seem like a perfect cultural moment for interesting things to happen. 

Ben Smith, the ever-prescient media writer and editor-in-chief of Semafor hit the nail on the head this week. Fragmentation is the defining characteristic of media at the moment, he reckons.

“The world of a million podcasts, newsletters, group chats, and TikTok creators has opened the potential for the genuine surprise and delight that I associate with the early internet.”

What does this mean for brands? 

You have to double down and chase the audience where it is.

Here are some strategies for brands in the ‘post-viral’, TikTok-first era:

1. Niche Engagement: Instead of casting a wide net, brands should identify and engage with specific niches. This involves understanding and creating content that resonates with these distinct audiences.

2. Collaborate with Creators: Partnering with niche content creators can provide authenticity and direct access to engaged communities. Brands should look for creators who align with their values and audience.

3. Consistent Content Production: The fast-paced nature of platforms like TikTok demands regular content production to maintain visibility and relevance. TikTok’s platform really likes daily posts. 

4. Experiment with Formats: Brands should be open to experimenting with different content formats (e.g., short videos, interactive polls, behind-the-scenes clips) to see what resonates best with their audience.

5. Adapt to Platform Trends: Stay abreast of platform-specific trends and challenges, and participate in them to remain relevant and relatable.

6. Authenticity and Transparency: In a landscape where authenticity rules, brands should strive to be transparent and genuine in their interactions and content.

By adopting these strategies, brands can try and navigate the ‘post-viral’ landscape, connecting with audiences on a more personal and engaging level.


🔄 The internet game has changed. TikTok’s the new ruler, and going viral is old news. Watch more in Simon Says’ latest episode for the scoop. #postviral #TikTok

♬ original sound – Click2view.asia – Click2view.asia

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