How Rebecca Black’s Friday Went Viral

“It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend.”

Those lyrics are from what many have called one of the worst songs ever.

Released in 2011, Friday by Rebecca Black tells the story of a girl who loves Friday. You only have to watch a few seconds of the music video to realize that it isn’t very good. The signing is shoddy, the lyrics are lame and the acting is awful.

But despite all that (or maybe because of it) the song has been seen and sung by millions of people.

At the time of this writing, the music video has over 67 million views on YouTube. That is over 60 million more views than Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, which Rolling Stone Magazine called the greatest song of all time.

So how did this particular music video become one of the most viral videos of all time? Many songs are bad, what made this one different?

Author Jonah Berger has the answer in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Berger explains that at any given moment, there are some thoughts that are on the top of your mind. For instance, you may be thinking about the NBA Playoffs or what you will do after work.

There are certain stimuli in the environment that help determine which topics are found at the forefront of your brain.

If you smell good food while walking on the street, you may think about what you want for dinner. If you drive by a mother walking her baby in a stroller it might remind you to call your sister who has a young child.

These are what Berger calls triggers. He says, “Sights, smells, and sounds can trigger related thoughts and ideas, making them more top of mind.”

When I say “peanut butter”, what do you think of?

Probably jelly.

Peanut butter is a trigger for jelly. It almost acts as an advertisement for its pal jelly.

Triggers help explain why Mars bars saw an increase in sales when NASA sent its Pathfinder mission to Mars in 1997.

And just like jelly or Mars bars, Rebecca Black’s song has one very powerful trigger.

If you look at a graph of when people were searching for Ms. Black’s song you will see something very interesting.

Friday StatsImage & stats from YouTube Trends

A jump in viewers happened once every week. Can you guess which day the jump occurred?

That’s right, “It’s Friday, Friday.”

Berger says, that “while the song was equally bad every day of the week, each Friday it received a strong trigger that contributed to its success.”

The day Friday was on the top of mind for many people and that led them to search for the song that shared the same name.

People talk about whatever is on their mind. Triggers help products and ideas jump passed all the clutter to get to the front of your mind.

Despite what you may think about Rebecca Black and her song, you can’t dispute the powerful trigger. And that is why you have probably shared it with someone you know and while I was more likely to post this story on a Friday.

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