Monday, April 26, 2010

Viral Campaigns Exposed. Other Ethical Options on Low Budget.

(To see this post as a video you can visit the iAM Facebook Page)

What does Viral Marketing mean?
Viral marketing refers to tactics used in marketing that encourage people to pass on your message who will then forward it to their friends and your message spreads like a virus, with obviously positive outcomes like increasing your brand presence and popularity.

You may have seen some YouTube videos with more than 100,000 hits and that’s an example of a viral campaign. Now, you may have thought like most do that these videos got so many hits because of their cool content. Apparently that’s not what gets them to become viral. According to this article by Dan Greenberg, companies like his are hired to put in time, money, and people to make such videos go viral. A direct quote from him, “good content is not necessary to get 100,000 views if you follow these strategies.” Some of the strategies he talks about: “Make it shocking, Have fake headlines, and appeal to sex.”

Now, I will be launching AWEtv, a local TV show about being authentic and thriving, very soon. So, I am interested in learning everything there is about making YouTube videos go viral. When I read the article by Dan, I was a bit surprised because I had not thought about this before and yet it is not surprising that businesses would resort to these measures. But I am interested in finding alternative ways that are organic and more authentic to who I am in getting the message out. So, I started my investigation online and speaking to people that I know in my social networks about what they are doing.

Summary of 5 different categories of viral marketing

1. Appeal to sex: According to Dan, “if all else fails, hire the most attractive women available to be in the video” And yes this works. If you check out this video on peak oil with the title, “Porn. Peak Oil. Enjoy” and a sexy dance video on the side, it got more than 2,63,000 views and the clean version of the same video, “Oily Cassandra gets clean,” got only about 2,100 views.

2. Hired Bloggers and comments: Getting influencers and popular Bloggers to share and speak about your videos is another tactic discussed. Also, posting comments using multiple accounts is another way to stimulate action on your channel or site.

3. Affiliate marketing: This is a little more organic than other forms discussed in Dan’s article. I have found this tactic used a lot by coaches graduating from a common program. In many cases we don’t know that and it feels like people are promoting each other because they have used their services but it is only because they are actively promoting each other because of some un/spoken agreement. So again, be cautious of using this because if consumers find out they can become skeptical of your integrity.

4. Coupons and rewards: A common way to get people to share the message is by offering them an incentive. E.g. A free report is a good way to capture people’s email information (this tip was offered by Satish Jalan) so they can be part of your email list. But a not so good tactic is like the one on Facebook and for which I actually fell. The one that says become a fan of Ikea and you will get $1000 coupon from Ikea and to be eligible they ask you to share the message with all your fb friends. You can offer coupons etc but do not have hidden agendas like getting people to sign up and sell their information to telemarketing companies.

5. You are a celebrity: Celebrities draw a lot of attention, so if you are one, it will be fairly easy for you to get the attention online. If you have expertise in an area you can earn a celebrity status but it takes time and a lot of hard work. I asked Danny Brown on twitter what he thought about viral campaigns. He was really nice and answered back, unlike many celebrities who don’t. His reply, “Viral is very hit and miss. Needs to be mix of right product/service, timing and luck and skill together :)” It took him “Almost 2 years and just being yourself :)” to get to where he is now with a following of 21,463 followers. You can also watch Chris Brogan’s video on what it takes to become an overnight success to find out it is not overnight but a lot of hard work.

I believe we can make our ideas, good ideas go viral. Below is a list I will continue to add to as I learn more about viral marketing on small budgets with integrity:

1. Use social networks
Use all your social networks like Blogs, Facebook and events to launch your campaign or video, Friends, Twitter, and email lists. And don't be afraid to post duplicates as people are busy and may miss it the first time.
I asked David Pakman from the midweek politics show and in addition to all social networks he talked about forums: “Lately we’ve also been starting to post strategically to certain forums where we know that the combination of traffic level and visitor interests would drive traffic to our videos and also create interesting discussion.”

2. Title and Tags
Create a unique tag, use it everywhere, and use #tags on twitter. We know that using sex in titles works as we saw in Cassandra’s videos, In contrast, Kris B. has been consistently producing good content that is intelligent and with a very fun unique style on her show, KrisCan. She shares her views on tags she uses for her show on peak oil, “Tags get hits. There's no doubt. The question is, is one willing to go that route to achieve the desired effect? I have thought long and hard about this for myself, but since the kriscan show is me and I am the show, I don't wish to be associated with that type of marketing. I'd rather take my chances with the family friendly tags, such as renewable energy, fossil fuels, peak oil, resource depletion, etc. This is more in harmony with who I am.”

3. Thumbnail:
YouTube picks the 3 images from your video including the middle one for your thumbnail. So make sure the middle image in your video is a good one. You can also change the thumbnails to keep it fresh.

4. Easy to share:
Make sure that viewers have options to share the content easily by allowing them to email it to their friends or share it with one click on their social networks like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter.

5. Worthy of sharing:
Ensure that people get some benefit from watching and sharing. E.g. entertainment, inspiration, good cause, free information and as David Pakman said, "an advance/preview/exclusive opportunity before it’s on our program" can be special benefits being offered.

6. Build a community:
Build an on line and offline community around your cause, brand, and message.

7. Add caption:
To make your video accessible to an under served population comprising hard of hearing people you can add captions to your videos.

8. Strategic Alliances:
Another good suggestion by David, "We do strategic trades/partnership with other YouTube channels, exchanging their posting of our videos with links directly to our channel/website for us providing a 30 second advertisement for their channel or website on our radio program."

9. Social Bookmarks:
Using social bookmarks like Delicious and Digg also helps.

And remember to be patient (it took Danny Brown almost 2 years to get to where he is now), be yourself, and be smart - learn about the new technologies and ways to market effectively.

What suggestions do you have for viral campaigns with small budgets and integrity?

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