The Most Viral Social Media Moments of February 2016

The meme machine ran in a state of overdrive for most of February. It seemed that a new wave of virulent conversation struck the Web every few days; driving consumers into tweeting frenzies and giving attentive marketers a treasure trove of empirical insights into the nature of Internet memes. Indeed, each of these viral moments were, in effect, concentrated nuggets of potential marketing inspiration.

Here, we’ve tracked some of the social discourse around February’s most viral social media moments, with special attention to the implications each moment presents for savvy marketers.

Black History Month

Social conversation surrounding Black History Month remained prolific throughout February, and will likely percolate throughout much of the year. Interestingly, this year’s #BHM included a portion of Twitter talk leveled directly at marketers. Some tweeters felt that marketers too often enter conversations about Black History with a shallow or pedantic tone, and those users weren’t shy about conveying this sentiment directly to marketers.

The Super Bowl

A shoo-in for one of the most viral moments of the year, the Super Bowl was the talk of many a town, before, during, and after. Indeed, the Super Bowl is well established as both a sporting event and a marketing tradition, at this point. Marketers at large firms spend millions of dollars on half-minute ads during the game and other marketers the world over draw inspiration for their own efforts from these big-budget spots. But some marketers who didn’t advertise during the game instead used guerrilla marketing tactics to distract consumers from the TV spots and focus them on their brands’ social activities instead.

The Release of “Deadpool”

The runaway success of Marvel and Fox’s (not to be confused with Marvel and Disney) R-rated superhero slapstick “Deadpool” wasn’t nearly as surprising to some consumers as it was for mainstream audiences. Nevertheless, “Deadpool” stands as the biggest blockbuster of the year to date, but the movie’s true triumph lies in its meticulous marketing. Marketers and fans alike took notice of the outlandish, highly self-aware marketing of the film months before it graced silver screens. Time will tell, but Fox’s marketers’ commitment to marrying the Deadpool brand with the work of the film’s star, Ryan Reynolds, may serve as a blueprint for future Hollywood marketing endeavors.

The Grammys

Just when it seemed music awards shows were going the way of the 8-track, this year’s Grammys came around and pulled a comeback not unlike that of the vinyl record, at least on social media. Social networks—especially Twitter—were awash in Grammys hubbub. This remains the case as of this writing, as music fans continue to debate upsets and compare performances. This isn’t an especially shocking fact. After all, music is one of people’s main avenues for catharsis, and a deep well of inspiration for marketers to boot.

The Oscars

The Academy Awards faced a PR crisis in the weeks leading up to the event with the proliferation of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. It was the kind of vitriolic virility that brands such as Chipotle or Subway know all too well; the kind of brand damage that can make or break a marketer. The proverbial show went on, however, but the social outcry seems to have produced results.

Damn Daniel

Each year brings about a few pure, spontaneous moments of viral media. Last year it was a dress. This year there’s a good chance it’ll be Damn Daniel. Collected in a series of Snapchat posts called “stories,” Damn Daniel features California teen Josh Holz spotlighting the attire of his friend Daniel Lara, exclaiming “Damn Daniel” each time he records Lara. The snaps sprouted legs overnight, and amassed some 40 million views within days.

In an exemplary display of agility, Vans, the sneaker brand prominently featured in the videos, jumped on the craze by offering the teens a lifetime supply of shoes during a recent segment on Ellen. Stock of the white sneakers is apparently running scarce in the wake of the meme.

Kanye West’s Album Rollout

Though probably not quite as polarizing as a Donald Trump or Martin Shkreli, Kanye West ranks high on the list of social media’s most notorious figures–yet also touted as one of the greatest entertainers of the day. But unlike other celebrity superstars, West has proven himself a definitive master at social media marketing.

The rollout for his latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” was one of the most break-the-Internet moments of the month. Fans flooded the virtual gates to tune in to West’s Madison Square Garden spectacle of a listening party, and piled on Twitter in anticipation of the album’s release, the title, content, and timing of which remained a mystery up until the moment of its release.

Marketers watched in awe as the emcee repeatedly changed the album title and the release window, added or edited songs from the album in real time, and quibbled with fellow musicians and celebrities.

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