Viral Marketing

8

Feb 2011

One man’s struggle for digital greatness.

Posted in Social Media, Viral Marketing | 4 Comments »

It is the dawn of the heart-warming story all over again. The internet parades endless streaming videos in front of us of dogs being hit with footballs, high-scoring seven-year-old Guitar Hero players, and of course, people falling down the stairs. Where would we be without the people-falling-down-the-stairs videos? But of course, like all video media, it also allows for the odd story that will touch the heart of even the most die-hard fan of the aforementioned home injury clips.

Jason Fanelli is your typical 21st Century guy. His main source of communication is the internet, his interests include games, films and sports, and he works hard to make something of himself in an era where the smallest blog can make the biggest impact on the world view of millions, if not billions of people, overnight. But rather than constantly use this to promote his games journalism, he took to Twitter with a different idea in mind.

@BigManFanelli: Need your help Twitterverse. Vote so a poor couple can have a honeymoon! http://libertytravel.strutta.com/entry/102120.

When this popped up on my feed, I was happy for him – he’s an old colleague from a games news-and-reviews site that helped give me my start in freelance games journalism, years back. We podcasted together during the dawn of the site’s iTunes-distributed radio show, and I’ve always enjoyed his social commentary. So I clicked.

What I saw was a man touching the heart of his girlfriend of six years, and surprising her to the point where I sat, visibly moved, at my desk at work. I’ll say this much – that doesn’t happen often. I’m a sucker for romance, and then I noticed the main factor of the competition after the video finished – a Facebook voting system. Not having a personal Facebook account, my vote was lost, but to hell with it. I work at MoreDigital, and we live and breathe social media campaigns.

On to email I went, and began to organise a hash-tagged Twitter campaign. I love doing people favours, and the idea of sending this financially-impaired couple on a dream honeymoon sounded too good to miss. If you’re reading this and you’ve watched the video, please vote. As of 4th February, the winning video is at just under 500 votes. There’s only nine videos, and the top three get the holiday package. We can nail five hundred votes. We could nail five thousand.

So over the next two months, until the competition’s end date, I will show you how we’re going to be backing Jason and Stephanie here at MoreDigital, and outside it, too. Hopefully, we will be able to simultaneously demonstrate the raw power of social media campaigns, and send a man and his newly-wed wife off into the sunset. Congratulations on your engagement from all of us here at MoreDigital, and the best of luck. To the keyboards, ladies and gentlemen. To the keyboards.

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4

Feb 2011

SEO with humour – the Oatmeal.

Posted in Online PR, SEO, Viral Marketing, Web Design and Usability | 1 Comment »

Out in the wild digital wilderness that is the internet, there reside a wide variety of websites. Some are funny, some are serious, some appropriate, some not so, and of course, only a select few are huge. For a few it’s a phase – fad sites that will fade in time. But for most, they are content to suck in millions of hits per month, and of course they’re never going to die down due to the colossal communities that have built up behind them.

Here’s a video of Matthew Inman, owner and sole staff member at The Oatmeal (and also the sole creator of Mingle.com, one of the biggest dating websites in the USA), a site devoted to hilarious infographics about a variety of frustrations he comes across in life and thinks others may identify with, making a presentation to a conference about how to gain five million unique visitors a month. Enjoy it – it’s informative and if anything, hysterically funny.

Now, after you’ve recovered, think about what he said. You may need to watch the video again, his infographics are so funny it’s difficult to focus on what he’s saying, most of the time. But his point is a valid one – if you’re not writing, drawing, talking or even singing about a subject your audience can identify with, whether they’re laughing, crying or nodding seriously – then you’re going to fail at generating the ideal amount of traffic.

What Matthew does is simple. He finds an idea (the ever-updating iPhone model problem, for example), makes a short comic-infographic about it, then posts it up. Of course, his take on the subject is unique and his drawings are instantly recognisable, so they tend to go viral – but with an important difference. Because his work is unique in style and look, it’s still attributed to his site even if the source is a viral recommendation to you, by a friend. The Oatmeal still gets mentioned, and even better, people type in “the oatmeal”, find him on Google, and search a considerable portion of his site.

Bounce rates, in theory, should be lower when you’re hunting for a site you want to learn more about. Sure, you’re always going to land on the homepage, and while that makes no difference to you, the HLD (homepage linking domains) of that site will skyrocket if you decide it’s worth the link from your own domain to theirs. However, the disadvantage to this predictably lies in the fact that the owner/webmaster won’t know where people are talking about it, short of an ultra-delayed notification as Google Alerts slowly catches up.

I’ve got a fair few ideas for viral comedy sites like these and the absolutely mind-blowingly huge ICanHaz network. Looking at how well he’s done, it just might be worth giving it a shot – I’m sure anyone would be happy with a 5m-hits-a-month level of ad revenue, right? Enjoy the weekend!

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7

Jun 2010

Free speech

Posted in Social Media, Viral Marketing, Web 2.0 | 0 Comments

Today, a rather interesting development popped into my sphere of social media awareness – something pertaining to an ongoing that most will be aware of already. Recently, Bangladesh had banned FaceBook due to their outrage at satirical images of the Prophet Muhammad making their way onto the social network. In a show of consideration (and, let’s be honest, sound business sense), FaceBook have now since blocked all images from being accessed in that region, unless you happen to be reading this in Pakistan (in which case, feel free to browse all you like, I suppose).

It was all kick-started by the Muslim attack on South Park‘s depiction of the Prophet (though, interestingly, not their depiction of God as a cross between an orang-utan and a hippopotamus) and the FaceBook community’s response – by drawing him repeatedly. Where there are gods and religious icons, there are people wanting to put a face to a name, and this is where the “satire” mud-slinging begins.

Taking one for the team

It’s not really an issue of what is and what isn’t offensive – the case in point being a Muslim icon of worship – but more of how far across the line certain groups are willing to allow you to go. Many religions openly depict their deities – Jesus is everywhere, along with Ganesh and his various fellow gods. Religions have, for a long time, been the testing ground for many an amateur comic, and poking fun at the powers that be are simply a way of passing the time and being acceptably negative about something questionable. It’s a bizarre social exception – there are thousands of blogs criticising everything from Wal-Mart to George Bush, Jr., and yet religion seems to be the only hair trigger subject.

If you’re not offended, take a look at the FaceBook group that’s been one of the primary targets of anger from the Bangledeshi government. Loads of cartoons and cut-and-paste visual humour that all seem to say the same thing – “lighten up.” But what people are forgetting about the viral nature of the internet is that, with social networking, jokes can often become crazes within days. Take a look at the LOLCAT phenomenon. These images are bizarre and funny, but had it not been for the interconnected and flood-content manner by which we now share information in a post-web 2.0 environment, they’d never have left the network of the few friends that started it off.

With religious icons, many people forget this isn’t just the neighbour’s cat they’re taking the whizz out of. They’re messing with beliefs held by millions of people, and I refer to many an internet anonymity theory that points to the fact that, blessed with a keyboard rather than a face-to-face confrontation, people will attack and mock without remorse. It’s a dangerous game to play, especially with a religious group who are, quite rightly, not too keen on a venerated idol becoming a mere play-thing for the online masses. But the key question that lies within the matter is thus; is it a removal from the consequences of internet humour that fuels these bizarre waves of offensive content, or social media itself?

Chinese whispers

The problem with being offended by an individual, a group, or content on the internet, is that quite simply the response most of the time is “if you don’t like it, don’t use the web.” Not only is this a bizarre, elitist and ignorant way to view the argument, it also propagates the idea that social networks, a haven for every youth new to a keyboard, is nothing but a haven for offensive, arrogant individuals. Although those last three words do tend to describe an astonishing amount of teenage mindsets, for many the discussions facilitated by FaceBook groups or Twitter hash-tags have become key in allowing those who feel isolated by the wealth of faceless information on the web to re-connect, hours after school, college or work have finished.

Unfortunately, it also results in discussions like this one. In the red corner, we have Luke – loves offensive humour, thinks most Muslims are terrorists, and epitomises the mindset that draws such harsh criticism of the West out of people who are, realistically, as peaceful as we are on a person-to-person basis. In the blue corner, we have Zafar, devout Muslim and one of the many upset by the fact that his method of connecting with his friends has been corrupted and ruined by the defamation of something he holds dear to him. Their arguments are simple – Luke is adamant (rather ironically, considering his biblical moniker) that it’s not offensive, and especially not to people who do nothing but shout “death to the infidels” at anything that moves. Zafar doesn’t care, he’d just like the insults to his religion to stop.

Is it really too much to ask? Social media doesn’t make inappropriate or un-PC humour easier to spread – the viral nature of everything from slander to internet Memes has been going for longer than we’ve had social media in its currently world-dominating format. However, it also means that there is now a global platform from which mud can, and will be, slung. Forums, chatrooms – they were all so niche, so specific, and unless you were tuned into their frequencies, whether socially or via the actual URL, it was rare you’d stumble across their less PC statements. But FaceBook isn’t divided into sections – it’s one big mob of people who love to tag their dog in holiday pictures during their lunchbreak, and they sit right alongside politicians, celebrities, racists, sexists, homophobes and all other forms of offensive opinion, because it’s the same site.

The key issue here isn’t what what offensive, but why. Images are always going to plague society when it comes to poor humour, and shows like Family Guy do well to propagate the idea that political correctness has gone too far. But those who throw no caution to the wind when posting to groups like these are opening themselves up. Someone on a forum can hide behind a fake name, even if the admin can nab their IP address mere moments after posting an image of the Prophet. However, on FaceBook, chances are that’s your real name, and the torches and pitchforks become a lot more sharp and hot, suddenly. Keep it clean, or keep to 4Chan.

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