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Five of SA’s best social media moments of 2010

It’s been a year of highlights for South African social media, and for the first time our online trends have made a real impact on the world at large. Here are my top five picks for the funniest, most popular and most bizarre viral messages of 2010.

5. Cell C wants you to tell Trevor

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At number five, we have Cell C’s sometimes controversial, always intriguing marketing campaign. The mobile operator co-opted comedian Trevor Noah to become its customer experience officer (glibly named the CEO), and after a rocky start amid allegations of faking their viral campaign, it has captured the attention of the South African audience.

The campaign was followed up strongly with the Nando’s CEO rip-off.

4. Julius Malema versus Twitter

We all had a good chuckle when Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League campaigned to close down Twitter. Their badly written press release called for the “closer” of the social network because it allowed users to create fake, parody accounts using the name of President Julius. It remains unclear whether agents with revolutionary tendencies were involved.

3. Vuvuzela blows the world away

The first Twitter trending topic related to the World Cup was “vuvuzela”, the infamous plastic trumpet that is loved and loathed in equal measure. South Africans brought the instrument to the global stage by organising co-ordinated vuvuzela-blowing events over social networks in the weeks leading up to kick-off. The physical vuvuzela spread just as quickly overseas, selling out in record time and causing controversy around the globe.

2. Phillip is here!

In second place is another World Cup topic. “Phillip” came into being when a puzzled radio listener (mishearing the “Feel it – It is here” catchphrase) called in and ask who this Phillip fellow was, and why we should care that he had arrived. Phillip quickly because the unofficial World Cup mascot, and we were all sad to see him go after the final. But if one viral story caught the South African imagination, it had to be…

1. Touching on the studio

A potentially dangerous encounter turned into a moment of national hilarity when TV news anchor Chris Maroleng stepped in to prevent a physical altercation between AWB stalwart Andre Visagie and political analyst Lebohang Pheko. Aside from other gems like “you don’t interrupting me”, the highlight of the clip was Maroleng’s insistent, “Don’t touch me on my studio”, and Visagie’s equally adamant, “I will touch you on your studio”.

The video became an overnight YouTube sensation and South Africans debated for weeks where exactly one’s “studio” was and how inappropriate it would be to touch someone there.

Those were some of my highlights. What were your favourite viral media moments of 2010?

To find out more about viral marketing, consider the UCT Internet Marketing course, which starts on 28 February 2011.

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