Suggested course level
Lower or upper level undergraduate
- Students will analyze an audience and a context to try to come up with a message that could go viral.
- This activity works well towards the end of the semester in a discussion of online communication, remixing or meme culture.
- Begin by looking at some recent pieces of viral content. Ask students who the audience is and why they think the piece went viral.
- You can also have students share viral content they’ve seen, which helps to illustrate different algorithm bubbles. (Students will often show content that’s been seen by millions of people that you’ll never come across in your own newsfeed.)
- Next, students will be asked to work in groups of 4 – 5 to create a piece of viral content. You can do this one of two ways:
- If students are working on a research project or report, ask them to try to remix their research report into an image macro or meme. The challenge here is to find something in the report that would be interesting to an audience, then find an engaging way to share that information. For example, a student writing a report on how universities can reduce failure rates might come up with an image macro that offers “one weird trick to passing your classes.”
- Challenge students to create a piece of content that would go viral among students at the university. The challenge here is to think about the audience and come up with a creative way to reach this audience with the message.
- Depending on the time allocated for this activity, you can have groups/students share their memes. For bonus points, I challenge students to share their content on social media and report back about what happened (as long as the content is ethical/truthful).
Debrief questions / activities
- What was the hardest part of this activity?
- How did you come up with your viral content?
- Why do you think your audience would share/like your content?
- How did you use humour?
- What piece of content has the greatest chance of going viral? Why?
- How did you edit your piece?
- How did you use visuals?
Tags: audience analysis / context analysis, routine messages, persuasive messages, writing mechanics, grammar, style, tone, concision, remix, discussion, individual, small group, creating a product or document, online communication, social media, memes, visual communication, remix culture