Going Viral?

Christine’s post this past week got me thinking more about large scale viral campaigns, as I’ve only participated in smaller initiatives. She wrote, “What are some tactics you have used or observed that helped a social media advocacy campaign to stand out, grab attention, and ultimately influence behaviors?” While reading Mashable I saw a related article that caught my eye, “Why Viral Campaigns Can Still Be Challenging for Non-Profits.”

The article focused on a British campaign by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) UK called “Not In My Cuppa” with the goal of saying “not in my cuppa to factory milk from battery cows.” Its crux is a YouTube video, coupled with a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. The author touched on the things that the campaign did right and where they could have improved, while illustrating the inherent challenges faced  by a social media advocacy campaign.

After looking over the campaign I thought that it was only moderately successful. It was mildly entertaining, has low membership and viewership numbers and even the media relations manager couldn’t speak to any evidence that their effort lead to the positive outcome.

My boss wrote a blog for PR Week last summer that seems to speak to many of my thoughts on the campaign, “Lessons learned from a viral video.”

He wrote:

“Here are my tips for making corporate video content that people want to watch:

  • Keep it short. A video more than two minutes is usually too long.
  • Keep it funny.
  • Make sure the pace is brisk. The modern attention span needs MTV-style editing.
  • Unless there is a reason not to, use some music.
  • Most videos need a little advertising money to get some traction — $500 per day on Facebook or YouTube ads is a good floor.”

Some of my thoughts on the campaign:

  • I believe the video was too long. The three plus minute video was just too much, and didn’t keep my attention. In my job we try to never create a video longer than 90 seconds as you loose your audience. This video reaffirms that rule 🙂
  • It was said that the video took a humorous approach was to encourage it to go viral and  avoid “spreading depression and charity fatigue.” But I didn’t find it very funny. Did you?
  • Speaking to the “brisk” comment above, I thought the song was a bit too slow to elicit comedic value — a faster tempo song could have done the trick for me.

What I did find interesting from this article was how to measure a viral campaign’s impact. As we all know it is hard to gauge what actions your efforts have initiated. Did your video produce a click? A vote? A letter? “It’s difficult to attach direct action to viral campaigns. Understand your targets and find other ways to measure your reach, such as mentions in the press.”

Mentions in the press are a good way to judge impact — though if you are in the media it means you’ve already gained a significant amount of attention, right? Other ways to judge impact is through website trackbacks — was the visit generated through YouTube? Also, your social media numbers, views, friends, followers, etc. What other methods could be employed?

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