TechCrunch: The Secret To Viral Video Success is Cheating & Lying

Nov 23rd, 2007 | By | Category: Making Money with Podcasts, Strange

TechCrunchTechCrunch published a guest essay over the holiday on the secret strategies behind successful “viral videos”.

The essay, by Dan Ackerman Greenberg, is the most interesting thing I’ve seen on TechCrunch in ages. The essay is also a real linkbaiter – suggesting that the days of video podcasts like Ask A Ninja becoming viral hits through hard work and creativity are over.

“Over the past year, I have run clandestine marketing campaigns meant to ensure that promotional videos become truly viral,” writes Greenberg. “In this post, I will share some of the techniques I use to do my job: to get at least 100,000 people to watch my clients‚Äô ‚Äúviral‚Äù videos.”

“The Wild West days of Lonely Girl and Ask A Ninja are over. You simply can‚Äôt expect to post great videos on YouTube and have them go viral on their own, even if you think you have the best videos ever. These days, achieving true virality takes serious creativity, some luck, and a lot of hard work.”

Greenberg goes on to give a short sales job on his company and to suggest that the quality of your content isn’t as important as tricking the system to get views.

Greenbergs “Secrets” of Viral Videos

He offers several suggestions for wannabee viral videos:

  • Make it short: 15-30 seconds is ideal; break down long stories into bite-sized clips
  • Design for remixing: create a video that is simple enough to be remixed over and over again by others. Ex: ‚ÄúDramatic Hamster‚Äù
  • Don‚Äôt make an outright ad: if a video feels like an ad, viewers won‚Äôt share it unless it‚Äôs really amazing. Ex: Sony Bravia
  • Make it shocking: give a viewer no choice but to investigate further. Ex: ‚ÄúUFO Haiti‚Äù
  • Use fake headlines: make the viewer say, ‚ÄúHoly shit, did that actually happen?!‚Äù Ex: ‚ÄúStolen Nascar‚Äù
  • Appeal to sex: if all else fails, hire the most attractive women available to be in the video. Ex: ‚ÄúYoga 4 Dudes‚Äù

Greenberg also explains his strategies for getting videos onto the YouTube “Most Viewed” page. Many will view some of Greenberg’s strategies to be lying and cheating:

  • Blogs: We reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos. Sounds a little bit like cheating/PayPerPost, but it‚Äôs effective and it‚Äôs not against any rules.
  • Forums: We start new threads and embed our videos. Sometimes, this means kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users. Yes, it‚Äôs tedious and time-consuming, but if we get enough people working on it, it can have a tremendous effect.
  • MySpace: Plenty of users allow you to embed YouTube videos right in the comments section of their MySpace pages. We take advantage of this.
  • Facebook: Share, share, share. We‚Äôve taken Dave McClure‚Äôs advice and built a sizeable presence on Facebook, so sharing a video with our entire friends list can have a real impact. Other ideas include creating an event that announces the video launch and inviting friends, writing a note and tagging friends, or posting the video on Facebook Video with a link back to the original YouTube video.
  • Email lists: Send the video to an email list. Depending on the size of the list (and the recipients‚Äô willingness to receive links to YouTube videos), this can be a very effective strategy.
  • Friends: Make sure everyone we know watches the video and try to get them to email it out to their friends, or at least share it on Facebook.

Greenberg also notes that you should optimize titles and thumbnails to get the most views.

The TechCrunch article basically advocates deceiving people and gaming the system to achieve viral video success. The article begs the question: how much of TechCrunch’s own success is due to working the system?

Take Aways

Greenberg’s theme – that good content won’t give video producers viral success, only a concerted viral campaign will – is likely to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Also, his focus, on promoting short, one and two-off videos of mediocre quality, risks being counterproductive if applied to longer-form videos where you want to grow an audience of regular viewers.

Nevertheless, none of Greenberg’s techniques are especially secret, so it’s important for anyone hoping to compete for attention in places like YouTube to understand that you’re not just competing against other creative people, you’re competing against cynical people trying to game the system for cash.

No matter what you think of Greenberg’s views, they are part of the landscape of Internet video. No matter what you think of Greenberg’s techniques, they are tools that Internet video producers need to be aware of, and choose to use or not use wisely.

No Responses to “TechCrunch: The Secret To Viral Video Success is Cheating & Lying”

  1. VIRAL VIXEN says:

    Don’t act so shocked about this stuff – everybody has a few tricks to pimp their stuff on YouTube.

    Here’s a few tricks I use – put a few sexy words in your tags – like teen, sexy, hot, naked, etc.

    Make your video or headline tie into something else that’s already hot.

    Have several accounts to bump up your views and get things off to a good start.

    Low-cut t-shirts!

  2. allenwretch says:

    How about trying something really tricky – like making a video that doesn’t suck, instead?

  3. Mike Keliher says:

    “The article begs the question: how much of TechCrunch’s own success is due to working the system?”

    Why does it beg that question? This was a guest column published by TechCrunch, exposing that person’s “marketing” tactics, not Mike Arrington’s.

  4. Fake says:

    Even the TC article was fake/dishonest.

    Dan Greenberg has no business taking credit for Cloverfield’s (the movie clips he refers to) success in Youtube.

  5. info says:

    Mike Keliher

    TechCrunch didn’t frame this as an expose – they’re presenting it as the secrets to success.

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