By: Rebecca The anonymous street artist showed his face to a roomful of marketers at a country club meeting in late 2012. His audience was comprised of PR pros, advertising executives, graphic designers – creative engines who use their skills to spread awareness and grow business for clients. “Catlanta,” the artist who came out of hiding, not to grow his business, but to talk about viral marketing, has more than 5,000 fans on Facebook, more than 4,500 followers on Twitter, and scores of folks ready to scour the city of Atlanta in search of his work. The artist drops cat images – paintings, sculptures and other pieces – around the city, and then sends out location clues via social media. Collectors need to be fast to get their hands on a Catlanta piece. Image source Why have these little kitties become a pop phenomenon in Atlanta (and increasingly in other places Catlanta visits)? Bill Wasik's 2009 book, “And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture,” offers an explanation. Wasik, the creator of the first flash mobs that popped up in New York City in 2003, says that the Internet creates an invisible bandwagon, and we inevitably “get interested in the things we see others getting interested in.” Why did hundreds of people turn out in 2003 to applaud for 15 seconds in the lobby at the Grand Hyatt Hotel or to convene on the ninth floor of Macy's, where they told clerks they were members of a commune shopping for a giant love rug? Because, Wasik writes about his flash mob project, no one wants to be left out of the latest fad, and the Internet lets each of us participate in “nanostories” and “nanofame” – a thrill, even if a fleeting one. “And Then There's This” is skeptical that businesses can harness this theory successfully, and Catlanta seems loathe to monetize it, although he has periodically sold Catlanta T-shirts and has partnered with some organizations in Atlanta, including the Adult Swim cable network. But there's certainly a social media engagement lesson here for the non-artist. We all gravitate to the cool and trendy, and networks like Facebook and Twitter help us find the latest thing more easily.
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