The Cool Kids
Sometimes I like to think about the Internet as one big high school. A high school that has every imaginable clique or type of group, from the nerds, to jocks, to stoners, to cheer leaders, to political enthusiasts, to goths… Each of these groups comes with a certain amount of social pull, a level of ability to sway general perceptions and spread ideas. In a real high school, the group of students with the most influence are usually known as “the cool kids.”
Online, the cool kids are not the jocks or the cheerleaders the, they are actually the geeks, nerds, and techies. They are the people who live and breathe the Internet, who contribute to the creation and spread of content, ideas, and culture.
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” these Internet “Cool Kids” are considered CONNECTORS. Individuals with large social networks, motivation for sharing amongst each other, and producers of content. Gladwell states in his book that
“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”
I call them the “cool kids”, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz called them “Linkerati.” They are bloggers, forum posters, web news writers, content creators, viral connectors, and journalist, but most of all, simply VERY active participants.
For the cool kids, the 80/20 Principle applies. 80 percent of the work (spreading of ideas online) is done by 20 percent of the participants (the cool kids).
Where the Cool Kids Hang Out
So where does this 20%, these “cool kids”, the “Connectors”, hang out? Well, everywhere, but there are several “Hubs” where they all come to compare notes. It’s in these hubs where the real magic happens, where the power of the “Cool Kids” is shown. It is where Internet Culture is dictated, it is where memes are born, and learning to influence it is the holy grail of all those looking to spread viral content and gain notoriety. The following are the places you should know and understand as a good Internet Marketer.
1. Social News Sites
Reddit is a social news site where users submit content (articles, images, videos, comments, etc.) and the submissions are ranked by popularity based on the total number of votes given to the content. The largest demographic on reddit are males between the ages of 18-35. Topics redditors care about include: atheism, marijuana legalization, science/technology, programming, net neutrality, Jon Stewart, gay rights, and hating Glenn Beck.
Digg is similar to reddit but somewhat more popular. It’s demographics are similar to reddit but tend to be more moderate and more focused on gaming/news/and pop culture. There are what are called “power users” on digg who have high success rates with promoting content to the front page of the site where it is seen by millions.
Something Awful Forum
Something awful is a very large paid forum. Members have developed a unique community with its own specific subculture. In many ways it is similar to 4chan in that it’s main visitors are young males with raunchy/gross out type senses of humor. Many memes have originated there including “all your base are belong to us” and goatse.ce.
IGN forum is the companion forum to IGN.com, one of the largest gaming sites on the Internet with over 6 million unique visitors per month. The demographics of the forum are similar to the site itself, mostly young males. Content on the forums is similar to what you will find at 4chan or Something Awful consisting of picture posts, offbeat news, contests, pop culture, geek culture, gaming talk, hot chicks talk, and obscure Internet references/memes.
4chan.org is the web’s most popular image board. It was created in 2003 by a 15 year old from NYC who called himself “moot”. Before starting 4chan, moot was an avid somethingawful forum member. The boards started as primarily a place to discuss anime and manga, but has since become a hub of Internet culture that has been responsible for starting and spreading TONS of viral content and spawning dozens of memes.
4chans’s most popular board is /b/ which allows “random” content to posted. 4chan is 100% anonymous, which has led to a sense of anarchy among members, an anything goes attitude and sensibility. The /b/ section is now a wasteland of bizarre content full of nudity, shock content, memes, and “funny content”. The humor of /b/’s many users, who refer to themselves as “/b/tards” is often incomprehensible to newcomers and outsiders, and is characterized by intricate inside jokes and black comedy.
4chan, and the /b/ board in particular are responsible for the following virals/memes: Rickrolling, Chocolate Rain, Chuck Norris Love, the words “Lulz, epic fail/win, zomg” and many others, ffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuu, Over 9,000, Peanut Butter Jelly Time, an hero, pedobear, Lolcats (this meme spawned icanhascheeseburger.com, which sees more than 1,000,000 unique visitors per month. It was sold recently for $2,000,000) and dozens of others.
Understanding each of these communities can help you gain at least a top level understanding of popular Internet subculture among those most responsible for influencing others online. The communities mentioned, in addition to several others listed below, are an underground driving force in what is and what will be popular online. Their effects are seen across the Internet, and by understanding the trends starting in these communities, you can often find great opportunity to use these trends to your advantage, to piggyback your own viral content on a growing meme.
Additional Places You Should Understand/Know About:
3. Facebook/Myspace/Twitter (You should already be intimately familiar with these)