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The Viral Strategy

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Viral Video Strategy: A summary

  • What is viral marketing
  • Viral Video best practice
  • Our viral video activities
  • How to launch a viral (with help from Dan Ackerman Greenberg)
  • The golden rules of viral video
  • Challenges for us

What is viral marketing? (According to Wikipedia)

Viral marketing …[ed]…refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.[1] Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages.

Viral Video Best Practice (aka what makes a good viral video)

  • Make it short: 15-30 seconds is ideal; longer formats can work but the shorter the better, break down long stories into bite-sized clips.
  • Don’t make an outright ad or a promo: if a video feels like an ad, viewers won’t share it unless it’s really amazing.
  • Have a great thumbnail: This is your number 1 selling point, this is your poster, this alone will get you views. Particularly in YouTube.
  • Have a compelling title: This is your number 2 selling point. Make the viewer say, “Holy shit, did that actually happen?!” Ex: “Stolen Nascar”
  • Make the viewer question the content from the title: give a viewer no choice but to investigate further. Ex: David Stratton attacks ABC colleague

Trends in viral video content

What is real? What’s not? (too real to be true)

Humour & Odd

Tests, games & puzzles

Fake News reports

VFX driven videos

BBC Penguins could also fit under this category

Leaks, exclusives & behind the scenes

  • Underbelly2 – ‘unofficially’ leaked clip pulled down prior to early reviews
  • The Lenovo Tapes – Lenovo laptops branding exercise

Banned promos (where they really?)

How does one spread a viral in YouTube?

In November of 2007, Dan Ackerman Greenberg, the co-founder of a clandestine video marketing company, was the subject of a guest interview in Techcrunch. His article, entitled The Secret Strategies behind many “Viral” videos, received a barrage of criticism. Mostly due to the perceived dubious techniques he claimed to employ in order to rack up views for his clients. In his defence, Dan responded with another article in which he attempts to clarify some of the points he made. I have summarised all of his points and added a few of my own…

Getting onto the “Most Viewed” page in YouTube

The core concept of video marketing on YouTube is to harness the power of the site’s traffic. …something like 80 million videos are watched each day on YouTube, and a significant number of those views come from people clicking the “Videos” tab at the top. The goal is to get a video on that Videos page, which lists the Daily Most Viewed videos.

Firstly, Viral Video key points (based on Dan Ackerman Greenberg’s article)

  • Make it short: 15-30 seconds is ideal; longer formats can work but the shorter the better, break down long stories into bite-sized clips
  • Optimise your Thumbnail: YouTube gives you 3 thumbnail choices. Use the most provocative image you can – or embed a specific thumbnail into the timeline using the YouTube thumbnail caculator or read more about the ratio rule at Techcrunch.
  • Optimise your Title: Titles can be changed a limitless number of times, so we sometimes have a catchy (and somewhat misleading) title for the first few days, then later switch to something more relevant to the brand.
  • If uploading ONE video – optimise your Tags for ‘Related Videos’. Find the most relevant and popular videos in YouTube, analyse it’s Keywords and align yourself with this video by using as many of the relevant tags you can.
  • If uploading MULTIPLE videos: See Strategic Tagging below…
  • Design for remixing/responding: create a video that is simple enough to be remixed or responded to over and over again. Ex: “Dramatic Hamster” , “Star Wars Kid”
  • Don’t make an outright ad: if a video feels like an ad, viewers won’t share it unless it’s really amazing. Ex: Sony Bravia
  • Make Comments: Encourage others to comment, generally the more controversial the comments the better. If you have mulitple logins, login and make your own comments.
  • Make the video a Favourite: Encourage viewers to add it to their favourite videos list.
  • Rate the video: Encourage viewers to rate your video.
  • Make YouTube Annotations in your videos: These can be notes or URLs to other sites or other videos.
  • Add Captions and subtitles: Allow people to enjoy your video in other languages.
  • Add Video Responses: Or encourage others to Respond to your video with one of their own.
  • Get Subscribers: Encourage your audience to subscribe to your videos.
  • Make it shocking: give a viewer no choice but to investigate further. Ex: “UFO Haiti”
  • Use fake headlines: make the viewer say, “Holy shit, did that actually happen?!” Ex: “Stolen Nascar”
  • Appeal to sex: if all else fails, hire the most attractive women available to be in the video. Ex: “Yoga 4 Dudes”

Upload all videos at once…then Rinse and Repeat

When our first video [ has reached the Most Viewed page], we delete our second video then re-upload it and using Strategic Tagging (see below) we have another 48-hour window to push it and our other videos to the Most Viewed page. Rinse and repeat. Using this strategy, we give our most interested viewers the chance to fully engage with a campaign without compromising the opportunity to individually release and market each consecutive video.

Strategic Tagging: Leading viewers down the rabbit hole

YouTube allows you to tag your videos with keywords that make your videos show up in relevant searches. For the first week that our video is online, we don’t use keyword tags to optimize the video for searches on YouTube. Instead, we’ve discovered that you can use tags to control the videos that show up in the Related Videos box. So how do we strategically tag? We choose three or four unique tags and use only these tags for all of the videos we post. I’m not talking about obscure tags; I’m talking about unique tags, tags that are not used by any other YouTube videos. Done correctly, this will allow us to have full control over the videos that show up as “Related Videos.” When views start trailing off after a few days to a week, it’s time to add some more generic tags, tags that draw out the long tail of a video as it starts to appear in search results on YouTube and Google.

How to make it onto the Most Viewed Page

  • Blogs: We reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos. Sounds a little bit like cheating/PayPerPost, but it’s effective and it’s not against any rules.
  • Forums: We start new threads and embed our videos. Sometimes, this means kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users. Yes, it’s tedious and time-consuming, but if we get enough people working on it, it can have a tremendous effect.
  • MySpace: Plenty of users allow you to embed YouTube videos right in the comments section of their MySpace pages. We take advantage of this.
  • Facebook: Share, share, share. We’ve taken Dave McClure’s advice and built a sizeable presence on Facebook, so sharing a video with our entire friends list can have a real impact. Other ideas include creating an event that announces the video launch and inviting friends, writing a note and tagging friends, or posting the video on Facebook Video with a link back to the original YouTube video.
  • Email lists: Send the video to an email list. Depending on the size of the list (and the recipients’ willingness to receive links to YouTube videos), this can be a very effective strategy.
  • Friends: Make sure everyone we know watches the video and try to get them to email it out to their friends, or at least share it on Facebook.

Each video has a shelf life of 48 hours before it’s moved from the Daily Most Viewed list to the Weekly Most Viewed list, so it’s important that this happens quickly. As I mentioned before, when done right, this is a tremendously successful strategy.

Metrics/Tracking: How we measure effectiveness

The following is how we measure the success of our viral videos. For one, we tweak the links put up on YouTube (whether in a YouTube channel or in a video description) by adding “?video=1” to the end of each URL. This makes it much easier to track inbound links using Google Analytics or another metrics tool. TubeMogul and VidMetrix also track views/comments/ratings on each individual video and draw out nice graphs that can be shared with the team. Additionally, these tools follow the viral spread of a video outside of YouTube and throughout other social media sites and blogs.

The golden rules of viral

1. Don’t patronise your audience – they bite

Viral marketing is a great way of targetting the media savvy 20-35 y.o. market, AKA the ‘entertain me or f@#k off’ generation. This generation don’t mind advertising & clever marketing as long as it’s entertaining. Take a look at some of the comments left by the YouTube audience in response to the video David Stratton attacks ABC colleague that was part of the campaign to promote Review with Myles Barlow. While you’re at it, take a look at Myles’ video response – Myles Barlow attacks David Stratton.

I think it’s cool that David would lend his public persona to promote Review. It says a lot for the show!
He is joking. It is clever promotion.
Very clever marketing? Well, not too clever, because everyone’s realised it’s marketing. Haven’t they??
lol I don’t think the ABC are expecting people to believe that it’s real. It’s fun…ride with it.
As you can see… they were onto us within the first 24 hours – but they liked it…

2. Viral videos are not TV promos

It won’t always work to plonk a TV promo on the interweb and hope that it finds an audience. It’s an entirely different medium and people are less likely to promote your promo if its an obvious promo. There are of course exceptional excetptions to this rule and the Penguins – BBC did manage to pull it off, with the help of Terry Jones, some penguins, some VFX and a rather expensive Advertising Agency.

3. Make it interesting, make it engaging, make it debatable…give it TALKABILITY

The authenticity of the video’s content  is one of the biggest issues of debate when it comes to viral videos. The more comments and lively debate your video has, the more it will be promoted by the recommendation engine within YouTube.

Useful References

The top 10 virals of 2008 (according to Campaign / Brand Republic)

The top 5 Chinese language virals of 2008 (according to China)

Written by shootstreet

January 16, 2009 at 3:36 am

Posted in Viral