• Rigging Viral Video Success at YouTube

    While most of the world was de-stuffing itself from Thanksgiving over the last few days, a firestorm was raging at TechCrunch, a popular blog, over a guest post that described how you can rig YouTube to drive viral video success. The post was written by Dan Ackerman Greenberg (don't know him) who is co-founder of The Commotion Group and a graduate student at Stanford. His original post is here and his follow-up post is here.

    The original post in particular is well worth reading. While it's easy to focus on the author's integrity (and many of the comments following the post do so), the most interesting takeaway for me is how YouTube, and broadband in general, is still a "wild west" environment, where popularity isn't always what it seems and knowing how to play the game can be a key to success.

    Greenberg runs through a litany of "strategies" which his firm has used (or not used depending on how you read his follow on post) successfully to drive his clients' videos to huge success. These include using catchy titles, manufacturing dialogue around the video using fake identities, embedding videos in others MySpace pages, optimizing thumbnail descriptions, emailing the clips to everyone possible, manipulating tags, etc.

    Of course there are no laws against any of this stuff, in my view it's an extension of guerilla marketing techniques seen elsewhere. It's using the full range of tactics available to achieve a client's goals and a stark reminder that consumers must always have their BS antenna up.

    But whether you think it's unseemly or just an extension of guerilla practices long established in the offline world is beside the point. It's easy to tisk-tisk others for their business practices. But the reality is that if viral video success is important to you then you'd better be well-versed in the rules of the game and be prepared to play it like the winners do.

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