Social media challenges and why they matter

When Paul Anka released Put Your Head on My Shoulder in 1959, could he have foreseen this? That some 42 years from then, it would become a TikTok sensation? What was TikTok in 1959? What was social media? What was this enormous miracle called the internet? We are privileged, aren’t we? To be living in today, connected via mobile phones; able to display, communicate and sell to the entire world from the comfort of our homes.

Or is it bathrooms? We are standing in front of our cameras, swaying our heads from side to side, walking to a door frame, to turn around, to shoot one final look. Before the lights go red. Before we are barely clothed. Before we are swinging and dancing, seductively. It is divisive, isn’t it? This silhouette challenge. Some are cheering, some are jeering. It is another clash between this dying sense of public morality and this futuristic right to freedom of expression.

Well, Daily Intelligence is not here to take sides. We are minding our business. So should you. Look, the United Bank of Africa is minding theirs. They sent an email to customers on 31st January with the title, “Put your head on our shoulder”. This email began with “Imagine having a reliable buddy or friend. Someone that always comes through for you especially at crucial times.” UBA went on to reintroduce its services, its chat buddy Leo, and a new Target Savings Account. The call to action provided a link to open a savings account.

We have a story to tell. About this new rave of social media challenges and their enormous impact on brands. To tell this story, we have to begin from the beginning.

Enter, pandemic.

2020 was peculiar, wasn’t it? Covid-19 was born in China’s Wuhan in December 2019. On January 30, it was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By March 11, a pandemic was announced. In seven months, coronavirus had spread to 188 countries, infected 13.5 million people and killed 584,000 (according to data by John Hopkins University in the United States). Nigeria’s index case of Covid-19 arrived in Italian packaging on February 28, 2020. On 24th March, Lagos State declared a lockdown after 30 cases in the city and 46 cases nationwide. A national lockdown followed on 30th March.

The outbreak and proliferation of this disease has had acute implications for the world. At the peak of the pandemic, schools, businesses and airports were closed; restrictions on movement and large gatherings were enforced. Nigeria’s young people were mandatorily home. And what did they do? Use the internet, of course. In unique, unprecedented ways.

Enter, challenges.

Read slowly, don’t rush.

Don’t Rush and Bop Daddy

On March 22, days before Nigeria’s total lockdown, 20-year old Business student Toluwalase Asolo posted the first #DontRushChallenge. She featured seven of her friends, all from the University of Hull, UK. In a month, the video was viewed over two million times.

In November 2019, Young T & Bugsey had released Don’t Rush as the second single from the duo’s debut mixtape, Plead the 5th. While other trends fizzled out, DontRush stayed popular. People transformed their domestic clothes and bare faces to glammed up looks after a flick of a makeup brush, while this song played in the background.

Weeks later, Nigeria’s Falz altered this challenge, converted it into a #BopDaddyChallenge for men. His challenge was named after his single, Bop Daddy, released in March and featuring British rapper Mz Banks. This very challenge was not gratuitous. Falz promised a million naira so the numbers quickened. Bop Daddy rose to number one on the iTunes Chart. It became one of the most popular songs of 2020 and has now been nominated for Best Rap Single at the Headies Awards.

But Nigerians weren’t done yet.

Don’t Leave Me! And international acclaim

On 24th March, Nigerian comedian @Josh2Funny posted a video on Instagram. One where he hilariously punned around with the word “leaf” while @bellokreb, his hype man, egged him on. By June, the #DontLeaveMeChallenge erupted, globally. By July, videos of the challenge had been viewed more than 6 million times on his Instagram page. Videos on TikTok had gained more than 2 billion views. Yes, 2 billion.

By 2nd July, a TheGuardian headline read ‘Don’t leave me’ challenge makes Nigerian comedy go viral. Oh, Josh Alfred had to be interviewed. “Comedy is my life, it’s what I love,” the 29-year-old said. “Seeing my videos be shared and people all over the world doing their versions, it’s incredible.”

Then, Tik Tok flipped the switch

Oh, 2020 came with many challenges. Too many to mention. There was a #SavageChallenge, #PoopChallange, #HesGotTheWholeWorldChallenge, #SomethingNewChallenge, #BoredInTheHouseChallenge. There were different challengers, songs and styles. One thing was consistent throughout though – TikTok.The viral #FlipTheSwitchChallenge, for instance, originated on the social-networking app. It involved two people instantly switching outfits to Drake’s song Nonstop. According to Time, the original clip began from a TikTok account, with the handle @dallinxbella.

Tik Tok, a video-sharing social networking service is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It has been perfect for challenges – it simply lets you make videos that last three seconds to one minute. Although originally released in 2016, it only became available worldwide in 2018. In 2020 however, Tik Tok had its breakout year.

In August however, U.S. President Donald Trump sought to ban Tik Tok unless it was sold by ByteDance. Many said it was the latest ploy in the US-America trade war. In the following weeks, TikTok seemingly considered selling the American portion of its business, and held talks with Microsoft, Walmart and Oracle. On September 18 however, it filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, asking a U.S. judge to block Trump’s order. This restriction was granted, and although a series of court cases are still on, so is TikTok.

Speaking about staying on…

Simi, Know You and Duduke

Most of 2020, Simisola Kosoko was pregnant. A quiet year would have been forgivable, expected. Before childbirth and Restless II (her EP that was released in October), pregnant Simi was already doing serious numbers. Her first solo track of the year, Duduke dropped in April.

In the first week of May, Simi posted a video of herself dancing to Duduke while effortlessly rocking a surprising baby bump. She tagged it the #DudukeChallenge and encouraged fans to do their versions, baby bump or not. Oh, the fans responded. Expecting mothers danced. Men with pot bellies too. Others fit a towel under their shirts and ta-dah. By the end of May, Duduke had garnered 26 million hashtag mentions on Tik-Tok. It was #2 on Apple Music charts and #1 on Youtube weekly index.

The music video for this song has now been viewed 31 million times on Youtube. Duduke may just be Nigeria’s song of the year. It has been nominated for this award by The Headies, as well as MTV Africa Music. In May, Duduke was the most played song in the country, topping the charts on every DSP and radio station. Across the Nigerian charts, Simi occupied the top 2 spots. The other song on this list is one you know – Know You, her collaboration with rapper Ladipoe.

Know You had its own challenge, that trended on Tik Tok and Instagram. It allowed random people to record their own response to a lip sync video as if they were in romantic dialogue with the original creator. Ladipoe was online to trend his biggest release till date. By the end of May, the #KnowYouChallenge had 2.8 Million views on Tik Tok.

The Slow mo challenge and Instagram reels

Throughout the year, social media challenges ruled. While TikTok wrestled with Trump, Instagram launched Reels in August. Without a doubt, Reels is Tik Tok’s clone. It is a familiar move, similar to the launch of Instagram stories to rival Snapchat in 2016. Well, Instagram reels coincided with the slow-mo challenge. Users walked in pretend slow motion while music played in the background. The #SlowMoChallenge is fun – impressive when it is done properly and hilarious when it is done wrongly. Several songs and artists have been on slow-mo. Yemi Alade’s Single and Searching, Olamide’s Infinity, Blaqbonez’s BBC and T-Classic’s La Cream are some of the releases made more popular by the slow-mo challenge.

Why they matter.

Steady chasing on my grind, dem ah looking for me.

They keep calling me.

But I no dey pick!

You know the viral moves for these lines. Don’t you?

Because the point of this post is this – challenges will come and go. You may discuss them, debate the style, or morality. Instead, you may create them, to popularise your own product. You may hijack and modify them in interesting ways to suit your brand’s purposes. The latter options are more beneficial, aren’t they? One thing is certain though – even when the pandemic is history, social media challenges will increase in popularity. Perhaps you should mind your business. 


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