On Virality and the Privilege of “Taking” Someone’s Time.

I just finished a vacation from social networks. I was almost 100% unplugged. Yep, “gone fishin’.” Literally. I took my two youngest boys on what I now refer to as “Camp Mom” whereby we fished every dock, ocean, river, lake possible in the course of 10 days of free lodging we’d been provided.

On occasion, I’d check email – but that was it.

Kind of.

You see, I was reading a book while my 12 year old slept. He’d been fighting a terrible stomach flu and was on day three of sleepless nights (which meant I, too, was on day three of sleepless nights!) I decided to check my email when I noticed the tagline of one email:

vineyard vines Design a Tie for Dad.

I opened the email. This is what it said:

“Hi John,
Congratulations! Your “Burger Crossbone” tie design has made the Top 10 in our Design a Tie for Dad contest! Shep & Ian really liked your design! We’ve posted the top 10 on our Facebook page for voting, which will go until 11:59pm ET on July 12th. The design with the most amount of votes at that time will be our winner and have their tie design made into a real vineyard vines tie! Here is the direct link to the voting page:”and so on. [I had forgotten all about the contest three of our kids entered several weeks prior whereby they had mailed in a tie design in hopes of being selected as one that might eventually be turned into a real live Vineyard Vines tie! Our family of seven happens to love that brand and thought it would be pretty cool to have a design made.]

HOW cool? I was thrilled for my son…but not thrilled. My son is not even of age to HAVE Facebook..so he’d need to rely on others to really spread the word. Moreover, where were my three teenagers when I needed them? EACH one of them was out of town OR were in situations where they literally had no access to THEIR social networks! The burden of making this voting contest go viral was on me.  Hmm. (Background: When I left Plum District I vowed one thing to myself: I did not ever want to be in that daily deal/offer
do-this-buy-this frenzy again – yet here I was in a position of seeking votes on someone else’s behalf!)
I really was in a quandary. Do I: 1) beg, borrow and steal on social networks asking for people to vote for my son’s “Burger Crossbone” design 2) post a few times, send  a few emails and be done with it, OR, 3) do nothing?
To make a long story short, my son will not have his tie design made – which is too bad, because the “Burger Crossbone” pattern (a “take” on skull and crossbone with a burger and grill tongs) is quite clever. [If you are wondering, at first I sent out a few emails, posted a few times on Facebook, but then basically stopped…] Nonetheless, I got to thinking…
Virality? How does one “get” it? Push? Pull? How important are demographics (e.g.age)? WHO has the advantage? WHO has the disadvantage? In the world of sales – where I have much experience – how does “social” fit in when one has an “arm’s length” request (please do this for my child!)? Can the system be “gamed”? Is it even reasonable to “take” someone’s time..by “asking” them to stop what they’re doing, go to Facebook, Like a page, then vote for my child? The question, “Why should I?” keeps coming to mind.

The future of the internet will continue to be PRIVILEGE. The privilege of asking for someone’s time. Each of us is busy. So, going forward, I will try my best to really contemplate the question: “Is is really worthy of asking someone to take HIS or HER time on this?”
If you’ve read this far, I have taken your time.
Thank you.