Earlier this evening I was rooting through my file draw to file away some bills and random tax forms (since it just dawned on me that April 15th is rapidly approaching) and I came across a file that I hadn’t seen in a while marked simply: Funny.
Even though I’ve breezed over this file literally thousands of times, tonight I was intrigued. I pulled it out and started leafing through it. And what I found was a serious blast from the past.
The file was filled with printouts of old Chain Email letters from the late 90s and early 2000s. To put this in perspective, of the 26 email addresses found on one of my printouts 11 were from AOL accounts, 11 were from Hotmail accounts, and 3 of the remaining 4 were OptOnline.net, SNET.net, and NetScape.net. Only one early adopter was found in the mix: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I rifled through these, it dawned on me that I was holding a piece of history. The history of viral content. Back in the late 90s before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Gmail…we had the chain letter. Even though most of us have sullied memories of chain letters thanks to that one Aunt who was convinced the threat of death was truly there if she did not forward to 15 people, these emails could come in all shapes and sizes. In my folder alone I found the Family Lineage of Jack Schitt, a look at midlife and what it means to get older (I think that one came from my Dad), and more than a few math jokes (As you can tell I was super cool back in Junior High). I found a list of rejected State mottos, something called The Boob Poem, and what can only be a primitive draft of The Bro Code.
This was were viral content originated. This was linkbait before there was Google. With no real accurate way to track engagement or any tangible benefit to forwarding it along, it was really nothing more than a social dispersal of content. This audience was using the most advanced social network of the time, email, to share content online. Fast forward to today
I’ve copied some of the content I saved below. Juvenile though they may be, these original content marketing “campaigns” remind us that even though the mediums and outlets may change over time, it really comes down to social sharing and understanding who your audience is and what they’re interested in. For these examples, the audience was a teenage boy in the late 90s…so lower your expectations 🙂
All this talk of chain emails making you nostalgic? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Welcome! My name is Brett Snyder and I am the owner of Knucklepuck, a digital marketing agency based outside Washington D.C.
When I'm not studying and practicing SEO, you can find me hanging out with our dogs Lemon and Hippo, going to concerts, catching up with friends, exploring new hobbies, or spending time with my son Colin.