We live in an era of flashes in the pan. Something pops up one day, we all go haha wow look at that, and then we wait for the next interesting thing to come along.
In fact, you probably haven’t thought about Sharknado in a while. Remember Sharknado? How innocent we were three months ago.
In case you lived under a social media rock, Sharknado was all the rage on Twitter in July, the eminently mockable tongue-in-cheek ultimate disaster movie title. Lots of people made Sharknado jokes, there was a vote conducted for the title Sharknado sequel (Sharknado 2: The Second One), and it was pretty much the definition of virality.
But here’s the thing: Despite all the hype, no one actually watched Sharknado.
Well, some people did. About as many people as watched the un-Twitter-hyped Chupacabra vs. the Alamo a few months prior. (Update: An anon points out that subsequent airings received more viewers, peaking at 2.1 million. That’s not nothing, but it’s still not as much as, say, re-runs of the Family Guy.)
Eliza Kern wrote that this shows the extent to which reach on Twitter is a misleading gauge of popularity. And that’s true, but I think this goes deeper.
There are things you people can do to get a lot of attention in the social media era. You can start a massive flame war, for instance, and gain a lot of notoriety for saying unpopular things and all of a sudden you may have a ton of pageviews and Twitter followers and it feels like you’re famous. People will absolutely tune in for a train wreck.
That works for a little while. But you lose people’s respect in the long run, and when the next shiny thing comes along people will leave. There’s no long term value in it.
Substance still matters. If there’s not something people genuinely like underneath the hype, you may as well get eaten by the Sharknado.