How a Tweet went viral
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From hated broadcasters to an endangered bird, how a Tweet went viral.

Let’s assume for a second that you know Portuguese and dislike a loud mouth named Galvao and wish to say “Shut your mouth, Galvao”! Not only do you wish to say it loud and clear, you wish to circulate it to the millions of Brazilian brethren who also hate Galvao with a passion. The three words in Portuguese are Cala Boca Galvao.

You strategize that Tweeting it will create a huge momentum that will, hopefully, help shut Galvao’s mouth.

And why is Galvao so despised?

His football commentary is annoying. So annoying that he has been compared to a lepata (a stadium horn a.k.a. the vuvuzela which produces a loud, distinctive monotone note). It is reported that Galvao’s commentary results in Brazilians tearing their hair, flipping channels, muting their TVs and the like, no pun intended.

You execute your tweet with a flourish and sit back, monitoring the results with hope in your heart. However, the results startle you.

Instead of Galvao getting the message and shutting up, something else entirely different happens.

A baffled English speaking world innocently wonders what the three words “Cala Boca Galvão” in the tweet mean. This results in a huge number of Google searches for these three words.

An enterprising SEO savvy guy spots an opportunity. He puts up a website overnight and optimizes it for the phrase Cala Boca Galvão. This Google-watcher also knows that if the page has video, Google will index it almost instantly. An appropriate video is shot and inserted ASAP and lo and behold, the site is indexed by Google! People searching for “Cala Boca Galvão” immediately start landing up on his home page. The message that they see there? That every time someone tweets “Cala Boca Galvão”, 10 cents would be donated to a foundation to save the endangered bird of Brazil, the Galvao.

The tweets skyrocket. “Cala Boca Galvão” goes viral. A million people see the video. No one, not even the media, realizes that it is a hoax, that there is no such endangered bird!

The New York Times finally wises up to the hoax and lets people know that they have been had. However, whilst all this is happening, Galvao is still going on and on further irritating millions of Brazilians.

The moral of the story? You tell me. I’d love to hear from you.

14 Responses

  1. September 7, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Twitter is the best available tool today to spread your story in few words to the entire world..!

  2. June 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Guys, i think this is one of history’s most successful cyberpranks and in my opinion Brazil is very creative! CALA BOCA GALVAO should get into the Guiness book of records for fooling entire world..:)

  3. Dina
    June 25, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Two of them.

    1. The weak have become mighty with their words and images.

    2. To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.
    Twitter is now testing advertising and promotional models; it’s headed towards making money out of user eyeballs. So, be prepared for clutter here. And clutter in the world wide web.

    1. June 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Dina. I just checked out the meaning of the phrase “flash in the pan” and it is: “Something which disappoints by failing to deliver anything of value, despite a showy beginning.”. Seems to be exactly what the Cala Boca Galvão is. This, in turn, leads to the phrase “‘it didn’t pan out’” , which is probably also what will happen to the Cala Boca Galvão viral campaign. But just imagine how many millions of man-hours were lost! Such campaigns will make the web a great time waster and one could, possibly in the future, spend many hours viewing such viral campaigns and spend time learning nothing about nothing. A sobering thought!

  4. Shankha
    June 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    “Knowing is not enough; we must apply…” and
    “I feel the need… the need for speed”…

    The first part of German playwright von Goethe’s and Maverick in Top Gun… What’s the connect?

    Well, with the overflow of information on the Web, its the application and the speed with which it is implemented that matters… what say Prakash? Am I remotely close?

    1. Jyothi
      June 25, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Now that Shank brought in the playwrights, allow me to quote Matthew Arnold who said Journalism is literature in a hurry, to which I say, the web is literature on the run. May God speed the web!

      1. June 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm

        And to continue the Matthew Arnold thread……“And we forget because we must And not because we will”. This is the insanity the net (sometimes) imposes on us.

    2. June 26, 2010 at 3:31 pm

      Continuing the same thread……. the second part of Goethe’s saying is “Willing is not enough; we must do.” And another quote from Top Gun is “And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong! ” Put the two together and we have a nice philosophy! :-)

  5. Vivek
    June 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    The web is misleading in many ways specially when it comes to the latest trends. Cala boca falls into this trap and a lot of misleading facts appear on googling the same. This scenario holds good for similar trends on the world wide web that miss the factual mark completely while providing some colourful literature that makes for a good pass time read.

    1. June 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Vivek,

      There is this Persian apothegm that goes:

      He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; avoid him.
      He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student; teach him.
      He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him.
      He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man; follow him.

      But what about the author of the Cala Boca Galvão hoax? Could he be the (undefined in the above poem) case of: he who knows that he knows that he knows not”?

  6. Ambili
    June 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I would agree with Jyo, however there’s another angle attached to this.

    I would call it as an innovation, a new thought, a new outlook to take things and grab attention.

    Moral of the story is:
    Think with innovation and do something that could initiate minds.

    1. June 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Ambili – in synch with your thought in mind I have suggested that PSQ try and create a viral campaign about a new and non existent strain of pepper that is square in shape. It will be (a) novel (b) a great learnign experience (c) something that we can use to break the ice with potential clients (d) may be written about by the world medie etc etc. :-)

  7. Jyothi
    June 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    We need Twitter for its speed, and we need print for its so called credibility but insiders know how to manufacture speed as well as truth.

    1. June 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      So just like “Made in USA” or “Made in EU” we need a small “Made on the Internet” for such stories.

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