School’s out Friday (and a short lesson in viral marketing)

I’m using this video today because I think it’s funny, and not because I want to become part of Valvoline’s viral marketing strategy to try to get me to click on their links and sign up to their promotional activities and potentially win me over as a customer. Interestingly enough, it’s worked for them, because here I am writing about it and linking to them. It’s not about that,  instead it’s an exercise in the new information fluency understandings that we need to be teaching in our schools today.

In fact, who I’m really helping here is Simon Owens, a a 26-year-old social media consultant and online journalist from Washington DC, whose blog has the nifty (!) title, Bloggasm. He is commissioned by companies to push out their content and get bloggers like me to write about it. He succeeded today, in large part because I liked the video, but also because this is something that’s important to write about. Plenty of bloggers out there get seduced into promoting other people’s products for free, and I’m betting a fair few of them out there don’t even realise they’re doing it. Here’s what Simon does, from his about me/hire me page;

Why your company, political group or media organization should hire me

Let me give you an example of what I can do. Back in May a film company approached me because they were trying to push out a YouTube video that was highlighting what they perceived as unfair labor practices from a well known brand. I wrote up a short post about the campaign and then that night spent about two hours pushing it out to a number of bloggers and social media users that worked within niches that I thought would be receptive to the content. One of the talents I have is using analytic search tools to identify specific micro niches of influential bloggers that are most likely to write about the content I’m pushing.

By the time I woke up the next morning, the post in which I had written about the campaign was getting over 1,000 views an hour. It was linked to by some of the most popular sites on the web (at least one of which receives over a million visitors a day) and several large marketing blogs. Several dozen smaller blogs wrote about it and links to the content were tweeted by several hundred Twitter users. It also gained strong traction in Stumbleupon and the post received nearly 500 hits an hour just from that site alone.

When all was said and done, the story had been placed before thousands of people, many of whom took the time to take that content and push it out to even more people. And all this was done because of two hours of work — I knew the exact bloggers and online journalists to seed the story to, and once they had it it was just a matter of watching the flames spread.

Drop me a line if you’d like to talk strategy for your content or brand.

This is how the Web works now people. Be aware of it. Teach your students this. Make sure that we are producing a nation of aware users of Web content, people who drill that bit deeper, who comprehend why it is that they may be contacted in a friendly, personable email alerting them to something new they may be interested in.

To be honest with you, I admire Simon and the way he has created a career for himself online. Good for him. I wonder, did he learn any of these skills from the school or university he went to, or did he self direct his own learning and explore avenues because of opportunities he saw? My bet is on the latter. To his credit, Simon did mention in his email to me that he does some consulting for the makers of the video. Simon is someone who I’d like to invite to my classroom via Skype to talk to my students about persuasive techniques and the Web. Would fit very nicely into the work we’re doing in the coming weeks.

Use this post as a teaching tool with your students. It’s my gift to you this sunny Friday, last Friday of school holidays, last Friday of freedom from the full on responsibilities of working life!

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