Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Carriers and Targets (or, Going Viral)

Karine over at CollegeWebEditor.com has highlighted a couple viral videos in the last week. But of course, all viral content is not the same.

The first, a a rather expensive looking University of Florida promotion, has had approximately 900 views.

The second, a screencast on steriods about Web 2.0, is approaching one million views.

"The Undergraduate" video was not meant to be viral: it serves primarily as a part of the campus tour process.

The Web 2.0 piece, on the other hand, was produced by a professor, was never meant as a marketing tool, and the college it came out of is not really identified in the video. You can watch it a half a dozen times without knowing it came from Kansas State.

So it's an unfair comparison. Period.

All the same, one went viral and one didn't. And I can't help thinking that it confirms something I've been thinking regarding viral video: compelling content has low friction, whereas explicit marketing, even when sugar coated, has high friction.

But why is that? I think it comes down to relevance.

The Gator ad is primarily interesting to people considering going to the University of Florida. It's a good closer. But because you would likely only forward it to people interested in going to the University of Florida in the first place, the network is focussed but weak. There's a high probablity that each person you forward it to will not forward it on.

The Web 2.0 video, on the other hand, is educational and interesting in a general way. It's interesting to people who have heard the term before. It's intereting to people like me who take issue with some of the characterizations in it. And it's visually just a neat thing. Between those three points of interest, the likelihood is that you will forward it to at least one person when you see it.

In short, any viral video has to be focussed on carriers, not just targets. We can't forget that it's the people you aren't marketing this to who spread it.

Of course, there are ways to mitigate the friction of the Gator Ad. One obvious way is to plug it into a network where there is a high degree of relevance: for example, creating a "I love the Gators Ad" group on the high school version of Facebook (and perhaps an "I hate the Gators Ad" group too... it's frankly just as useful).

They had the video anyway, so they put it up. That's a good move.

But if they were designing a viral campaign from the ground up, they would be best served by small clips with less marketing and more content: a montage of the best sacks of the football team, a clip comparing the life of a warm Universtity of Florida student cut against a student at one of these COLD New England colleges, and various clips from the great teachers at the university.

[And on a day like today, especially, I can tell you a video of the difference between New England and Florida would pass the family test: i.e., Would I forward it to a member of my family? It is cold here, folks...]

1 comment: