How Viral Works: Tracing the Take-off of Erato's "Call Your Girlfriend"

On Facebook Sunday, I came across a video shared by a friend whose musical taste I respect, so I gave it a click, and had that wonderful experience of discovering something great and unexpected. It's three members of a female Swedish choral group named Erato singing -- beautifully -- a cover of "Call Your Girlfriend", by Robyn. The young women are sitting in underlit gloom around a kitchen table, accompanying themselves by using cottage cheese tubs as percussion instruments, with amazing, deadpan skill.

This, I realized, has "viral" written all over it, so I thought I'd see what was happening on that front:
  • The singers, Amanda Wikström, Petra Brohäll and Ebba Lovisa, recorded the video to share on Facebook with the other members of Erato.
  • A stranger saw it and asked if he could post it on YouTube, which she did on October 20.
  • Within a couple of days, about 100,000 other people had seen it.
  • Robyn herself liked it. (These details via the English-language Swedish website The Local.)
  • Checking YouTube on October 30, I found 528,073 views.
  • Looking at SocialMention (see below), I see that as of October 20 the word "Erato" suddenly blows up, and its connotation of "Swedish singers" blows away all others, such as "classical record label".
  • Other celebrities are starting to notice, including Richard Marx, who tweeted about Erato two days ago, the same day Perez Hilton raved about them.

That story is pretty much the recipe for viral success, which boils down to this:

  1. Do something great (these women can really sing -- and keep time).
  2. Make sure it's different (they're also the best cottage cheese tub players I've ever encountered).
  3. Make it authentic: if it's home-made and looks it, that's good (nothing Hollywood about that lighting, or the set).
  4. Do not promote it, share it (the Erato members told The Local they didn't know how to post to YouTube, just Facebook).
  5. Hope influencers like it.
The very simplicity of this recipe shows why viral success always looks so easy, but remains so rare. In a world of oceans of content, "great," "different" and "authentic" become more and more precious.

Here's the video:

Here's Social Mention's report on a search for "Erato" (including my enthusiastic tweet):

Social Mention report on Erato