A viral hit, as it is typically understood, is a piece of content (typically a video, a captioned image commonly referred to as a meme, or some other type of multimedia file) that spreads like proverbial wildfire online. The use of the term viral to describe an epidemic-like spread of marketing messages in particular appears to have been cemented by 1996, with the publication of an article titled “The Virus of Marketing” in Fast Company by Jeffrey Rayport. In the article, Rayport likens the ideal marketing campaign to a virus—one that strikes quickly, costs little, and works effectively. However, viral content does not move around the Internet involuntarily; a viral meme cannot be passed along invisibly with someone’s sneeze, for example. Instead, virality requires ...

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