Harlem Shake hits 1.2bn views – but annoying meme is slowing to a shimmy

4 Apr 2013

Even Newstalk presenter George Hook recorded a Harlem Shake video

The Harlem Shake viral video craze has attracted more than 1.2bn views 40 days after it began afflicting our online lives.

In recent weeks, we reported on an infographic that reckoned a whopping 2,782 years of time had been spent by internet users watching Harlem Shake videos. This is time that could have been better spent earning more than 50,000 bachelor’s degrees, travelling to the sun and back more than 2,000 times, or watching every episode of Law and Order more than 33,000 times.

According to the Visible Measures blog, the meme from hell, from the day that the first video was uploaded – 12 February – had been attracting 20m views a day and reached 1bn views on 24 March.

“To put it in context, that’s half the time Gangnam Style took hit 1bn views and almost a sixth of the time that it took Call Me Maybe,” the blog noted.

The quick rise to the billion-view mark may have something to do with the more than 500 Harlem Shake clips that Visible Measures measured. While many of them just have a few million views, the top 10 versions generated a True Reach of more than 336m views.

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The Harlem Shimmy

However, the Harlem Shake is losing steam and may become a mere shimmy.

Total views per week have dropped since the viral video hit its peak in week 3 (26 February) when it accumulated almost 300m views.

Last week, the Harlem Shake garnered less than 75m views.

“And looking at the average daily views week over week paints a similar picture. At the top of its game in week 3, the viral was gaining more than 40m views a day. This last week, that average was down to about 9m views a day,” Visible Measures said.


“Accumulating around 75m views in a week or an average of about 9m views a day is still huge for any viral. But as the trend for the Harlem Shake is a downward one, it seems unlikely that it will overtake the king of the virals, Gangnam Style, any time soon. However, it is close to sneaking by some other fan favourites that have also surpassed 1bn views.

The Harlem Shake is the fifth most viewed viral video ever. PSY’s Gangnam Style tops the list with a True Reach of more than 3.8bn views, which is more than double the number of views of the next viral on the list, Justin Bieber’s Baby, which has a True Reach of 1.6bn views. Filling out the rest of the top 5 virals of more than 1bn views are Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe (1.3bn views) and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep (1.22bn views).

Actions speak louder than words

Visible Measures opines that the popularity of the craze was helped by the fact it wasn’t dependent on language, relying on physical humour instead of language.

“And while the meme can be annoying – mostly because that song has a way of getting stuck in your head – there is anticipation built into it that makes viewers curious to watch each edition. You never know what a person or group is going to think up for the dance section after the jump cut. It’s fun to see what costumes, settings, and themes the creators will come up with.

“For marketers, the Harlem Shake phenomenon is a lesson in how to get users to engage with branded content. If you want your meme to go viral, make it simple and easy for viewers to reproduce. And if you can make it funny, that never hurts!”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years