It’s Going Viral People!

viral-marketing

When I first started researching for this blog post I found a couple articles outside of the reading. The author of one of those articles said: “I admit it, the term viral marketing is offensive”. I just don’t think that’s true at all and it’s kinda silly to think so nowadays. It’s because nowadays everyone is already aware of what viral videos and campaigns do and what they were designed to do.

I’m a visual learner so here’s a video and a pretty good info-graphic about how to go about viral marketing.


viral-marketing-cheat-sheet-sm

Source KISSmetrics

Because the real point of a viral campaign is to market your product, gain awareness, and ultimately increase revenue. There’s even been a bit of viral marketing done right here within the RTVF walls. We’ve all seen the extremely popular video Gangnam Style by Psy. A Korean pop star that now has over 900,000,000 views on YouTube.


But maybe you havent seen the video done by North Texas Television to promote their late night talk show. I think it’s extremely cool. The producers saw the success of the original and decided to make their own in attempts that it will go viral, to gain more viewers. Now this video isn’t in the millions of views, but it’s nearing 2,000 and that is something to be proud of.

When my group presented we talked about viral marketing and one of the most successful viral campaigns is the “Will It Blend” videos by Blendtec. We posed the question in class of why we thought it was viral and we came up with shock value. Who would ever expect someone to blend a $600.00 iPad? But it’s because of that shock value that has gained awareness to the brand. I’m sure if I was in the buying a blender market I’d go out for a Blendtec.

One of my absolute favorite viral videos and video series are the Ken Block Gymkhana videos. If you’re asking yourself, “what in the world is gymkhana and how do I pronounce that?”. Well one thing at a time. Check this out.

What was originally meant as just a cool infomercial for gear heads like myself turned into a  hugely viral video with almost 40 million views. It’s because of this video, that MILLIONS of people now know his name and support him in his current racing series. So not only does it bring in revenue for DC Shoes but the World Rallycross Championship also has a lot more publicity because of these videos.

This last one is simply because I’m a car guy. If you found the first Gymkhana video interesting, here is his latest where he drifts through the streets of San Francisco.

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A Look at Viral Marketing

Viral marketing has always fascinated me. When executed effectively, viral marketing generates positive word-of-mouth about an upcoming product and can make ultimately purchasing the product, whether it be a film or a pair of sneakers, that much more exciting.

Curtis Silver’s article Organized Chaos: Viral Marketing, Meet Social Media begins by citing the success of cult show Mystery Science Theater 3000 and BMW’s The Hire – a collection of short films featuring Clive Owen driving awesomely in a BMW – as an example of pre-YouTube viral marketing, but there are plenty of other great examples of viral marketing campaigns. Take for instance Microsoft’s search engine Bing’s campaign to promote rapper Jay Z’s upcoming autobiography, Decoded. Check out this cool video detailing their approach to the project.

Clearly, this was an ambitious project, but telling by the end of the video, both Jay Z and Bing benefited greatly from this endeavor. This viral marketing campaign got fans and others excited about a product that normally a movie trailer or a billboard ad just couldn’t do. Allowing the audience to become involved with your product creates the feeling that they are a part of something in history, that they are connected to this one moment in time with others all around the world. That’s an incredible emotion to invoke in a person, and for Jay Z and Bing, it paid off. Oh, and just keep in mind what this huge project spanning multiple continents and potentially costing a hefty wad of dough to pull off was all for: A BOOK! Wow, I didn’t even know people read anymore…

So we’ve established that viral marketing can be a grossly beneficial tool to create buzz about a product, but just like other forms of advertising, like the online crowd-funding site Kickstarter, it is not for everyone. Just because it worked for one person does not mean it will work for you. Take, for example, the recently released video game Hitman: Absolution. Absolution is the latest installment in the long-running Hitman franchise in which you play an assassin-for-hire, and publisher Square Enix wanted to capitalize on its release by, wait for it, creating an app that lets you place death threats on your Facebook friends! Yes, that’s exactly what I just wrote. Let it sink in. Video game website Rock, Paper, Shotgun was able to document the horribly insulting site before it was quickly taken down by the publishers. In the app, you can create a contract in which the game’s protagonist will seek out your friend, based on bullying remarks like “her small tits”, and kill them. Then, the app creates a video and sends it to your friend!

This is not what I wanted to wake up to!

This is not what I wanted to wake up to!

A great viral marketing campaign can create an event that gets people out of their chairs and creates positive promotion for a product, but a horrible campaign can put a black eye on its reputation just as quickly, even if the product is of high quality. This becomes even more evident with the advent of social media such as YouTube and Twitter. With the touch of a button, one little message, one little app about killing your friends, can be sent across the globe, through a number of channels, instantly.

Viral marketing is a scary and risky proposition: letting your baby that you’ve worked so hard on into the wild and watch how the masses react. It’s risky because at some point, it’s in the peoples’ hands, and all you can do is sit back and watch. But it can also be incredibly effective in the end, creating anticipation for something hopefully worthy of the hype.

Nothing Beats a Good Pure Peer Promotion

My group presented during the “Advertising, Branding, & Viral Marketing” week and while reading Goodman’s article “Peer Promotions and False Advertising Law” I came to the conclusion that I don’t think anything beats a really solid pure peer promotion. I mean, come on. How cool would it be to have developed or be working for a company that has a product that people are that excited to talk about and promote on their own? Goodman defines a pure peer promotion as “… a spontaneous celebration, or denigration, or a brand produced by parties unrelated to, and not in competition with, the brand owner.” Plus, the Coke/Mentos example was just so full of joy it’s next to impossible to watch it with a straight face. Confession: I watched it 3 times in a row.

Goodman described two other types of peer promotion in the article.

FAKE PEER

Fake peer is about as terrible as pure peer is awesome. At least in this example:

It reminds me of the uncanny valley theory. It’s just too… not real.

450px-Mori_Uncanny_Valley.svg

Have you fallen for any better-produced fake peer promotions?

MIXED PEER

Goodman defines Mixed peer promotions as “… mixed with sponsorship when a brand owner solicits or adopts a pure peer promotion for its own publicity purposes” and describes them in two different categories, manifest sponsor involvement and hidden sponsor involvement.

1. Manifest Sponsor Involvement

As an unknown film student, it’s really easy for me to view mixed peer promotional opportunities as a win/win for companies and participants. Publicity and brand-awareness for companies and the potential for project recognition and prizes for participants.

A University of North Texas team was a finalist in this year’s Doritos Crash The Super Bowl contest:

https://apps.facebook.com/crashthesuperbowl/?page=watch&video=1154

2. Hidden Sponsor Involvement

I’m a huge fan of transparency, so this type of promotion rubs me the wrong way a little bit. The example listed in the text was the blog “Walmarting Across America.” Basically, a family didn’t explicitly state that they were getting compensated for a blog they were writing about the store.

wal-marting_across_america

Have you ever made a pure peer promotion? What do you think is the most effective?

Are We the Best Advertisers?

I remember when I was in high school, I would base my wardrobe on my friends and other students around me and I would get the video games that my friends said were “The best game ever!” When Kanye West wore those window blinds glasses, everyone had to get them (well at least I did..). And how did Member’s Only jackets become popular in the 80s? Or Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyle on Friends? For the most part they were self promoted by your peers. Ellen P. Goodman’s reading “Peer Promotions and False Advertising Law” uses the term “peer promotion”. Peer promotion is basically the advertising of commercial products by the consumer. How often does a friend upload a photo of the new Halo or Call of Duty on Twitter or Facebook the first day of their release? How often do you see a status update on Facebook about the thoughts of one of the new movies that came out? If you think about it, it is amazing what “tremendous communicative power that individuals can wield through digital networks and the impact of this power on industrial economies.”, as Goodman says in the reading.

All the “peer generated” material posted on blog sites like Blogger or WordPress, and video sites like YouTube or Vimeo, are some of the strongest forms of advertising. These sites were made for the people, so the people can create the content. We read and watch what our own peers create. People have more trust in their peers’ “non-commercial” speech than the actual producer of the product. This proposes the question, is the consumer the best advertiser? Do your peers advertise the product better than the company?

I believe the consumer is the best advertisers. As stated before, social media has become the main proponent for consumer advertising and non-commercial speech.  The article “Social Media and the Power of Peer Influence” says that 70% of consumer’s buying decisions are influenced by suggestions from a friend or family member online. For the most part, on Facebook. One of the earliest examples of great consumer advertising through social media is one we looked at in class, the Diet Coke and Mentos video. Due to that video, the sales of Mentos increased tremendously. Mentos did not have to spend a dime. A more recent example is the Doritos commercial campaign. People could submit their own created Doritos commercials and the winner would have their commercial played during the Super Bowl. This is peer promotion because Doritos did not spend any money on the commercials. The consumers created the commercial, which made you go buy Doritos, and you may even watch the other submitted commercials on YouTube. More free advertising for Doritos.

The Goodman article says that Advertising Agency magazine, in 2006, named the consumer “agency of the year”. This is even truer today as social media continues to grow. More and more people are posting their opinions on blogs, creating wikis, and making YouTube videos and even more are listening. We trust each other more than we trust the company pushing the product. Some companies do not even have to engage in social media very much because of peer promotion. So, how are you going to base your next purchase? On what the advertiser says or on what the consumer says?

Social Media: Everybody’s Doing It

Here in the United States we tend to think of ourselves as the leaders in social-networking.  After all, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn all started here in the good old U. S. of A. But as it turns out, we are only a fraction of the users of social media sites. According to the article on USA Today Social-Networking Sites Going Global by Jon Swartz http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2008-02-10-social-networking-global_N.htm about 80% of social media users are outside of the United States. This means that less than a fourth of social media users are located in the United States. These are intriguing statistics considering how the biggest social media sites were developed in the United States. Upon finding out that the United States was not the largest portion of users engaged in social-networking I started to wonder how and why other users in other countries were utilizing social-networking. Is the rest of world on par with the U.S. when it comes to which sites are the biggest or most used? I have decided to compare and contrast U.S. use of social-networking with that of the rest of the world.

Picture from http://www.peoplesearchesblog.com/tag/social-networking/

In an article posted July 2012 on the site http://itechwik.com/ entitled Top 10 Most Popular Social Networking Sites In The World 2012 the top five were reported to be:

1. Facebook

2. Twitter

3. Pinterest

4. Linkedin

5. Google+

According to U.S. Social Networking Rankings http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/usa-social-networking-ran.html the top five social-networking sites in the U.S. are as follows:

1. Facebook

2. YouTube

3. Twitter

4. Yahoo Answers

5. Pinterest

It seems that the U.S. is following the world-wide trend with more people using Facebook than any other site. Part of the reason for this could be that Facebook has been expanding the number of languages it can be translated to. The USA Today article stated that “Facebook has developed an application to translate words on the site from English into other languages. On Thursday, Facebook said a Spanish translation is available. Anyone who wants to view Facebook in Spanish can change their language preference from their account settings. German and French versions are expected in coming weeks.” The article was from 2008. Today Facebook can be translated into “97 options. Which includes dialects like English (Pirate).” http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_languages_is_Facebook_translated_into

The reason for Facebook’s popularity around the world seems to be the fact that it is accessible to many people who speak different languages.

Globally Twitter is number two, but in the United States that spot belongs to YouTube. There are some slight variations, but mostly the same sites are popular with globe as they are with America. It is interesting that Yahoo Answers is number four in the US. I would have thought that it would be Pinterest or Google+ (sites that are talked about more and are higher  up on the global top five list).

The world seems to basically be in sync with the United States when it comes to what sites are popular with Facebook coming in the lead with the top spot. This analyis leads me to raise the question: Are social-networking sites that are popular in the United States bond to become top sites for the rest of the world? What do you think?

Self-Regulation vs. the Internet

The Internet is a bustling community constantly adding new content with the click of the mouse. The idea of regulation within cyberspace seems almost unreachable and downright impossible. Waldman’s article, Harmful content on the Internet: Self-Regulation is the best way forward, aids my theory that self-regulation is the key to censoring the Internet. By censoring, however, I do not mean having a Big Brother figure monitoring every page accessed by user. My idea of self-regulation and censoring depicts the notion of individuals flagging something as inappropriate or offensive, thereby driving such an article/post/video to the attention of sites hosting user-generated content. Doing such actions will bring forth the consequences to the author of the offensive material. Facebook and Twitter, among other social networking sites, follow this same procedure in weeding out offensive material, like the notoriously controversial Facebook page, Aboriginal Memes, which spawned lots of negative feedback.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08/09/facebook-removes-racist-aboriginal-memes-page_n_1759891.html

People have argued that pages, like Aboriginal Memes, will only keep spawning unless regulation from some overseer is unleashed onto the Internet. Myspace claims that they monitor the videos, for example, that are published onto their site. It becomes irritable when looking at bigger video hosting sites, like YouTube, however, that have an undeniably growing community that spits out hundreds of videos daily. Monitoring such a site would require many people and lots of patience, as the videos will only keep growing and growing. With sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, I strongly believe that self-regulation would be the obvious answer to people’s complaints. Otherwise, how would the guys in uniform choose to censor? Who would be the priority ones to protect from offensive material? Self-regulation works for all classes, races, and sexualities. youtube_logo

Within the dark alleyways of sites, like YouTube, there are videos that go beyond offensive and reveal themselves to be disturbing to innocent eyes. Videos like rape, pornography, and gang-related displays (among others) have made their way onto YouTube and other websites. A simple Google search could grant one access to a daily dose of violence, if one desired. Many people strive for a monitored, regulated Internet for the sake of the younger generation of children. I would like to counter this argument by stating that parents can download control software to block sites from children. In class, we even discussed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (CIPA)/Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which blocked certain sites (pornography, violence, language, etc.) within the public school systems of the US.

net_nanny_boxshot

Having the government regulate the Internet to a full extent for users seems unjust, as it tampers with many ethical issues of privacy and freedom of speech, among others. Censoring the Internet will stifle both creative and commercial innovation and make way for product placement and favoritism with providers, in my opinion. Censorship has been witnessed in other forms of media, like newspaper, radio, film, and television. Before they were censored, these mediums were self-regulated. Today, they consist of the same traits that I have specified above. Having a censored and controlled Internet could most surely lead the Internet down a similar path. I can almost guarantee it.

In conclusion, I believe that keeping the Internet self-regulated would be a fantastic road to travel. It keeps creative minds flowing, as it allows users to share music, chat openly on public forums, and watch videos without much censorship or intervention. One has always had the opportunity to intervene when offensive material is posted by flagging as inappropriate. Gang videos, pornography, and other offensive material will be hovering around the Web, but one can always use software to block these sites to protect younger individuals. The Internet is not a utopian society where our troubles from the outside world have been forgotten. Whether government censorship occurs or not, these troubles will still surface online, meaning this hope for a paradise will never be achieved. Just self-regulate!

Editing Citizen Journalism?

In a digital realm where social media serves to connect people from disparate locations, cultures, and backgrounds, the old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” may not mean the same thing as it once did. But the same digital tools used to network also make it difficult to gain attention. The ease with which an individual can self-publish material on social media such as blogs means it is sometimes hard to be heard over the noise of the crowd. In fact, in a medium that relies heavily on sharing links from others, being connected to the right individuals (or not) can play a vital role in your success. Online publication without gatekeepers can also mean the dissemination of raw, informal, biased, or factually inaccurate writing.

OhmyNews
The South Korean news website OhmyNews seems interested in alleviating some of these problems with online citizen journalism. The website allows any person to join and submit their own “citizen reports” to be published. Paid staff editors then review the submissions and decide which articles to promote (and by extension which articles to hide). Though the schema has changed, OhmyNews also paid writers small amounts for each story posted and had rewards for the more popular posts. Bringing together all the amateur writers into a single, professional style publication surely boosted the credibility and attention received than had they published individually. It also served to build a community to support citizen journalism as a whole.

OhmyNews is very popular, with over 70,000 citizen journalists and 2.5 million page views a day, but seems doomed to fail financially. As a free website, OhmyNews relies on advertising to generate enough income. Though it did report early profits, the website has had financial struggles since 2008. Their well-funded venture into Japanese media was a complete failure after only two years in operation. OhmyNews International, the English language version, now seems almost abandoned.

What went wrong?
OhmyNews represents an interesting hybridization between traditional mass media journalism and online citizen journalism. By establishing a “gate” through editors and a single publication space, they seemed to alleviate some of the inherent problems with amateur reporting. But what went wrong? Perhaps their sales staff has done a poor job finding suitable advertisers. The small staff had difficulty editing a huge (and growing) number of submissions each day. Though (our class guest speaker) Terry Heaton, writing in his blog in 2004, believed that OhmyNews was no longer an experiment – the website was a “stunning success by any measure” – it is clear that the verdict is still out. It also begs the question – should “professional” journalism have anything to do with “grassroots” journalism? Is this hybrid model suitable for the future of journalism, or will we have to rely on social folksonomy and aggregators to collect our news from various sources (blogs)?