Last night, for an hour or two, most of our Twitter streams got overwhelmed with a meme called #LessAmbitiousMovies. It started with a tweet by Toronto artist @Rob_McCallum and spread virally, generating tens of thousands of tweets. The “game” was pretty simple – come up with a play on a movie title, and yielded results like Saving Private Benjamin or Last Tango in Parsippany.
That led to a Twitter debate this morning over whether that demonstrated that Twitter was a community, sparked by this All Things D blog post by @lizgannes. Her premise was that the meme Shows Twitter Can Still Be Community, Not Just a Tool".
My answer is that no, going viral does not constitute a community. To me, a community consists of people with a common interest, interacting and/or sharing information around that interest. There are communities on Twitter – StockTwits is one that springs to mind, but there are other communities around health, sports and other areas. More importantly, there are many, many informal communities of users that spring up around numerous topics. But that is quite different than a random group of people interacting around a viral meme.
While there were tens of thousands of tweets, there was only a modest level of retweeting. According to the Liz Gannes post, the most heavily RTd one was the clever Being John Stamos with 225 retweets. More importantly, it seems highly unlikely that any of those people will continue to interact with one another around this or any other meme going forward.
To me, #LessAmbitiousMovies is akin to people watching an awards show or the Super Bowl or all shouting “Happy New Year” at midnight. Or perhaps trying the “Elf Yourself” viral marketing effort from Office Depot. There was common interest in a very general topic (humor) generating a lot of participation but little interaction and no sustained impact. Internet and Twitter memes are interesting but they don’t constitute a community.