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#PRWIN: How the Harlem Shake Shook its Way into a Social Media Craze

Instead of being an accidental internet meme driven by chance because of “community” or viral advertising, the Harlem Shake phenomenon was directed by financial interests.

After seeing the initial Harlem Shake videos, Maker Studios, a Los Angeles company that specializes in making money from YouTube, recognized the potential and chose to capitalize on the burgeoning sensation. A Maker employee uploaded an imitation of the Harlem Shake video with Maker Studios staff dancing in the Maker Studios office. Maker promoted the video across its many YouTube channels as well as on Twitter.

Subsequently, advertising agencies looking for the next big thing in social media PR spent the weekend after the Super Bowl believing they had found it: they began posting and promoting their own “Harlem Shake” videos. These companies included College Humor, a website owned by IAC, a publicly traded company that also owns Newsweek; Vimeo, a YouTube rival also owned by IAC; and BuzzFeed, a viral content website. Thousands of “Harlem Shake” videos were uploaded during the week of Feb. 11, 2013, many of them from businesses with something to sell (1).

PR Moral of the Story

While the Harlem Shake originated as an amateur video, its rapid replication was driven by PR and marketing professionals.

1. “You Didn’t Make the Harlem Shake Go Viral — Corporations Did.” Mashable.com. Mashable, 30 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 June 2013. mashable.com/2013/03/30/harlem-shake-corporations/?utm_medium=twitter.


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