Guest Post 10: The DIY Viralist - Omid Scheybani

Omid Scheybani is a friend and colleague of mine from Google. He is a man about town and always on top of the latest coolest trends. He recently caught the Harlem Shake bug and decided to make his own version with some. Here is his story of going from zero to viral at breakneck speed...! 

"I’d like to share with you the story of my very own Harlem Shake video and how it got me to over half a million views, press “fame” and a funny encounter with Internet Activist Wael Ghonim. 

It was a Friday morning, February 8th and I was about to head from San Francisco to Los Angeles when I stumbled upon my first Harlem Shake video on my Facebook feed. I remember exactly that my initial reaction was that I would want to do a similar video with my team. I emailed them right away and within minutes the first confirmations came back. Only problem was that we had to wait out the weekend before we could get started! Once back in office it took us a couple more planning days until we were actually ready to shoot our own version on February 13th - 9 days after the first video was posted and 5 days after I had come across it. 

Having chosen the Android Statues as the perfect background for our video, I was slightly anxious that some other teams at Google might have already realized the idea and thus gotten a first-mover advantage - later we learned that we were by far the first group of Googlers to do the shake! I happened to get about 30 colleagues together and after a few minutes of discussing how to shoot (angle, dance moves, costumes), we were ready to rumble. Surprisingly, the actual effort of shooting the video was minimal. We had the song running as playback, but that would have not been required. Just an hour after the shoot we had the video edited and uploaded to YouTube. 

The video didn’t get much traction first. In fact, a few hours later I saw Sheryl Sandberg posting the very first Facebook version and since TechCrunch had written a dedicated post about the Facebook Harlem Shake a few hours after it was posted, I had given up any hopes that our Google version would have a chance to go viral. After a short night of rest, I woke up and had a handful of Emails from friends pointing me to an article on The Verge called “Death of a meme: Facebook and Google do the Harlem Shake”. So there I was, wanting to create a viral video, but accidently killing a meme!

Later that day my colleagues and I saw more and more articles popping up on the internet in which people from the US, Spain, France, etc. were talking about our video - many of them Android-focused blogs that assumed that the video was performed by the Android team. It didn’t take too long for my Director to find out about it and asking me for more information. While I was fearing criticism first, I found out that he was tremendously delighted and just curious to learn more. We got to about 60k views the first day and then to 250k views just 4 days later. It was quite some fun to watch more and more articles and reviews popping up while keeping an eye on the YouTube view counter. 

Let’s be honest, our video can not compete with the UGA Swim Team Version or those crazy guys who did it on an airplane, but with 500k Views after about 2 weeks, we are all very happy by the feedback we got. 

In general, the reason why the Harlem Shake has become such a phenomenon is pretty simple: It’s an easy video to make (from content production perspective), it’s very quick to consume (from a viewer perspective) and there is a certain sense of competition from a community perspective to do it even funnier and crazier. Also, people feel they want to be part of this crazy movement and just jump on it with the hopes of being (part of) an internet sensation. We were lucky enough to post ours right at the beginning before it hit mainstream. Looking back, I think a day later would have not given us the traction we have seen. 

Probably the funniest experience I had throughout the last two weeks was during a Google Partner Conference in California where I happened to sit next to Internet Activist and Noble Prize Nominee Wael Ghonim. Not knowing what I should say to him (I admire him for his role/efforts during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011), he actually struck up a conversation with me after recognizing me as the producer of the video!"