Have you taken the Florida Man Challenge? For those not familiar, this simple online “challenge” simply involves searching online for the phrase “Florida Man” plus your month and day of your birthday (such as “Florida Man January 1”) and observing the peculiar – and often humorous – results, such as:
According to the meme research website Know Your Meme, this phenomenon has its origins in the Twitter account @_FloridaMan which was created back in 2013 and began chronicling the misadventures of Florida’s denizens. Earlier this month, its popularity exploded when Twitter user @g_pratimaaa encouraged everyone to search for Florida Man in it’s current iteration:
Why do crazy things (and people) tend to happen in Florida? For one, it’s a populous state with approximately 22 million people, thus providing lots of people for which to conduct mischief. For another, the state’s Sunshine Law provides for open inspection of all government public document, which allows reporters easy access to criminal history (including humorous crime). You’ll note a recurring theme in most every “Flordia Man” headline – it involves someone getting arrested or charged with a crime, or some other interaction with police.
What makes a post or meme go viral? While there are some well studied reasons for why something goes viral, I might submit another two more notes: weirdness (or more broadly, uniqueness), as well as providing something salient and specific to entice your audience with.
For example, @g_pratimaaa was not the first social media user to promote the current version of the Florida Man Challenge. Approximately one week prior to their post, a Tumbr user posted essentially the same challenge:
Interestingly, gandalfsoda did not include a specific example of a Florida Man result like g_pratimaaa did. In 10 days, the Tumblr post generated 44k notes, whereas the Twitter post generated over 101k likes within 48 hours. While some of this may be due to the user’s respective friend networks and the relative popularity of each platform, it also points to the benefits of specificity of outcome, particularly when you ask your audience to do something.
While some of Florida’s most interesting citizens may have a bit to learn about life, we can use the Florida Man Challenge to learn a little bit more about social media and how we can better use it to capture an audience’s attention.