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On 9 April the Museum of English Rural Life tweeted a picture of a big woolly ram.  It was a Twitter sensation, with over 100K likes and 30K retweets to date.

It’s easy in retrospect to see why the tweet went viral.  Just look!  A striking picture of an animal plus a very popular catchphrase/meme.

However, you don’t get this sort of engagement without investment.  To get to the stage of sharing the beast, the Museum has had to acquire his image, store it, care for it, catalogue it, digitise it, research it and do all the many things needed to keep it safe and accessible.  Then they had to have the funding (and confidence) to appoint their splendid social media people and empower them to have fun.

The creator of this Twitter phenomenon, Adam Koszary, wrote an article in which he explained how he made this great tweet into a viral phenomenon.

“So, I talked to people. I encouraged punsI played deadpanI sassed a little bitand I got a bit creative. I was honestly a little worried about having time to eat my curry that evening, so I tweeted about that in the first person — figuring that the meta would fit the mood. Because I thought maybe being self-aware is ‘in’ now, and it turns out it is most definitely in.  The result is that the tweets got collected into a Moment by Twitter and broadcast to the world, exposing not just the original tweet but a whole host of them.”

Note too that Adam was building on previous ‘semi-viral’ experiences.  Going viral may have elements of chance, of course: who sees and shares early, and what else is going on to distract those eyeballs.  It is not however a happy accident, but the result of months or years of thought, planning and creativity.

The initial excitement has been followed up in many interesting ways.  I must show you the lovely smock collection!

and the blog post explaining just why MERL has so many pictures of humungous livestock …   There is also merchandise!

It has been a joy to watch this beastly tale unfold and clearly MERL will find new audiences and opportunities as a result.  Congratulations to Adam and his colleagues for a fantastic lesson in using social media to promote heritage collections.

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