Earlier this year, a poorly lit photograph of a dress completely broke the internet. You probably recall all of your social media feeds being filled with the world weighing in on the garment’s colors. (It’s totally periwinkle and beige, by the way.)
In a new podcast from FiveThirtyEight, BuzzFeed’s social media manager Samir Mezrahi tells the story of how he singlehandedly sent the internet into a full-on schism. “It was a Thursday, late afternoon, and I overheard people in the office talking about this post, in a heated argument,” explains Mezrahi. “So naturally I knew there was some controversy, and I tweeted it out from @buzzfeed. We look at live analytics a lot, just to see how tweets are doing and what kind of response they are getting, and this was off the charts. People were clicking to look at it, and they were retweeting, and they were talking about it. So it was like, ‘Whoa.’”
How long did it take before everyone was debating the colors? “Instantly,” he claims. “Depending on [the post], people will either be really click-heavy and go to it, or [it] gets a lot of retweets but not a lot of clicks. But this had both, and it was a huge surge. It was pretty continuous. Celebrities can retweet and it doesn’t get [that] kind of engagement. Twitter is a great place to try new content and see how it goes, so naturally the next place to put it on was Facebook.”
He later adds, “I wanted to post it to Facebook as a photo… but I wasn’t sure what kind of experience you needed to get it. So I posted it as a full photo, and there was engagement, but [not like] that surge from Twitter. I was like, ‘We’re missing out on some traffic here.’ So I [decided] we should post it as a link. And I sat on that for a couple minutes.”
I suppose you could say that after he did, the rest was history.