1. You Don’t Have Tie It To Your Company
Look at this viral video that subtly brands Brunswick pool tables. Now, I’m not suggesting they are behind this, but if they were, this is a smart campaign.
I have no way of knowing if the company is involved, and that’s very smart. In fact, this is so subtle, the action is really on the cool trick, so I might not even wonder if they were a part of it were I not an advertiser.
2. Don’t Promote It
I know the temptation is to Digg it. However, avoid this blatant promotion. If it’s good, you won’t need to do a thing.
3. If You Have To Promote It
Sometimes your boss won’t allow you to let it just sit there. I understand. Numbers are everything to clients, huh? If you do feel like you simply MUST get the ball rolling, ask 10 local students to look at it (note I did not say submit it anywhere, just get their opin). Their initial reaction will tell you if it’s going to gain traction.
My suggestion would be to ask them for their advice as to whether you should allow this ‘in-house’ doodling to get out. Don’t tell them it’s a viral campaign, but do ask them if it’s something that they think would harm your image. This ‘advisory’ role get’s them involved emotionally and will result in better advice and the desire to see you succeed (enough so that they may ask if they have your permission to release it). This is the response you want. Don’t release it if this is not the vibe you are getting, go back into creation mode.
4. Be willing to start over
If your viral is horrible, you will negatively impact the brand by insisting that it’s good. Don’t be tempted to spam students, Digg, MySpace and others to prove that you are funny or clever. It’s just not worth it.
5. Look at successful virals
There are plenty to see that are created by advertisers and many, many, many that claim to be created by users that took off. They aren’t hard to find. Immerse yourself in seeing what works and what doesn’t. Don’t overestimate your knowledge here.
6. Don’t Ignore It
While you can’t pretend you didn’t create it if directly asked (no you can’t, so don’t try it), you can have a little fun with how you handle comments. Possibly set up a central repository (blog?) to be the official voice and make sure you comment personally, not as the spokesperson for the company but as a person that works there. 5-10% of the comments on any thread should be from you. Let them know you are reading the comments and respond positively, even when the comments are negative.
7. Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New
OK, I know I said you don’t have to tie it to your company, but there are PLENTY of examples where companies have embraced company-created and it’s worked out well (see NBC example above). If your gut is telling you to embrace it, then by golly, embrace it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Oh… wow, that’s bad.
8. Vett It With Your Student Advisors Before You Vett It With Your Client
What you don’t want to do is show something to your client; deal with his objections; convince him, “yes it’s a good video and it’s going to be big”; tell him, “no, it’s not going to have a negative impact on the brand”. Then, after your advisors tell you it’s horrible, you’ll have to go back to him and say, “No, I’m an idiot”. Unless you’re making “How to lose a client in 10 days”, that’s a bad strategy.
9. Go clean
Great viral can be edgy, but it doesn’t have to be filthy. Avoid things that can turn people off of your brand. Humor can be edgy but intelligent humor doesn’t have to be potty talk. You discourage forwarding as well if the video is something that students would hesitate to pass along. Of course, what was dirty to us is no longer dirty to them, so you can go farther now that you used to be able to do.
10. Consider Niche Viral
Are you targeting a niche? Try a videoblogging group, a specific college, a particular site’s users (read the comments. I know Nalts, so he’s on the up-and-up, but what if he was a Coke plant following a search feed? priceless).
When you get a cult following at one small geo area, you’ve a much easier time getting your next video (or even the current one) some air.
Of course, there are some rules to viral video.