Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’


Are Viral Loops the Building Blocks of the Future Marketplace?

Friday, November 15th, 2013
flickr user Gavin Llewellyn

flickr user Gavin Llewellyn

Andrew Chen defines a viral loop as simply “the steps a user goes through between entering the site and inviting the next set of users.” Former entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures, now freelance adviser of startups and expert on the vanguard of marketing, Chen dedicates the rest of his collection of essays, “The Viral Startup: A Guide to Designing Viral Loops,” to demonstrating how every product can be seen as a site with a viral loop built in. A viral loop is most definitely not “a mythical vortex that propels products with a magic bang into public consciousness and millions of YouTube hits,” which is what I thought it was before reading his book.

A viral loop is what brought us the viral video phenomenon “The Fox” this fall.

This is a common viral loop scenario: people react to a link they find online and share it on a social network like over and over again, and next thing you know American teens are in love with a South Korean rapper and something called “Gangnam Style.” A viral loop is a business model that emphasizes an exponentially growing feedback-and-recommendation chain of users.

Here is an example of a company that seemed to be doing just fine without a viral loop business model: Years ago I worked for a New York double-decker bus company that the tourism industry anticipated would be a refreshing, disruptive newcomer. As a family business with a history of ventures, however, they opted for the “tried and true” approach of beginning with a Minimum Viability Product—they figured out the minimum product necessary to qualify for the market, just to feel things out.

They bought old buses and fitted them with only a top deck – there was no interior for passengers who preferred to ride from inside. Because of the constant influx of tourists in New York, profits were high despite the fact that the business was in a preliminary stage, and customer dissatisfaction was frequent, especially concerning customer service. The company had not made social media a priority either. All the elements of a viral loop were missing, yet the company prospered. We’ll catch up with their journey a little later.

Chen explains that the key mistake marketing departments make is that they attempt to “bolt” a viral loop onto a product, not realizing that in order for a viral loop to work, it has to be built into the product itself. It is not about an ad going viral, it is about letting the consumer feel like they are playing a very real role in the culture of this Happy Meal, or cell phone, or song. The implication here is that only experiences go viral.

One of Chen’s essays in the book is about the role Steve Jobs played in the marketing of Apple products by making sure each of them was constructed as a viral loop from the start.

A way to build a viral loop into a product is to ensure that the consumer can share an experience; that experience would be balanced between marketing, functionality, and design at every point of the product’s evolution, as Apple did with the iPhone. Even the first iPhone had high functionality and sleek design, while encouraging users to share experiences through the device itself. In a department-driven company, there is competition between these aspects, and the focus on marketing very often wins out. Steve Jobs edited the output of each department and blend it all into a whole.

Awareness of products as facilitators for viral loops separates the waning business culture of yesterday from the adaptable, sustainable entrepreneurships of the future.

Let’s return to the tour-bus company. Because of low overhead, during the recession the company was able to actually take a significant amount of their competitors’ market share. As a result, they stagnated in the Minimum Viability Product model. Its purpose was no longer to explore the market, but to turn in profit quickly. They acquired their main competitor and applied the same model to them. However, small modern tour van startups that already have their own tour-guide apps, have a sustainable loop of followers, and who will soon be able to afford state-of-the-art double-deckers have been growing in the shadows of the skyscrapers.

The colossal tour bus company does have one very important asset, which if exploited can integrate a viral loop into their business model and help them blow any tech-centered, GPS-activated tour guide app-wielding startups out of the water. They have walking, talking viral loops in their live tour guides. A happy employee is a perfect balance of marketing, engineering and design.

Can the future be the Minimum Desirability Model—defined by Chen as “the simplest experience necessary to prove out a high-value, satisfying product experience for users, independent of business viability?”

The difference between minimum effort for maximum profit and simplicity is subtle, but it makes all the difference in who will survive the exponentially accelerating technological shifts of the modern marketplace. Perhaps a viral loop is one way of looking at true simplicity.

The Vision: Creating Content That Others Want to Share

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Washington-20120731-00089Visionaries define creativity in many different ways and how they motivate others to share their ideas often takes additional creativity. This was the topic of the D.C. chapter of She Says, an award-winning mentoring and networking organization for women in creative industries, during its kick-off event at Edelman DC.

The visionary panel included, Caryn Alagno, SVP, Edelman, Rachel Cothran, director of public relations, Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, Laura McDaniel, director of strategy, AKQA, Amy Sherman, director of digital marketing, Lifestyle Brands, Marriott International, and Holly Thomas, editor, Refinery 29. Most of the panel blog both professionally and personally and they have found a creative community around blogging. Thomas is also a visual artist who taught herself to draw by watching tutorials on YouTube.

Creativity ideas and insights:

  • Creativity is subjective, but sometimes you need to self-define. Find a niche and fill it.
  • Having a second passion can help you be more creative.
  • Creativity is a moment of grace.
  • Accept that your first attempt may not work and give yourself the freedom to revise and try again.
  • Creativity is about connecting the dots in a non-linear way.
  • Keeping yourself busy keeps the creative juices flowing. Having different creative projects helps to create momentum.
  • There is a big difference between having a creative idea and having an idea with a plan.
  • Not all creative ideas break through the politics of decision making, so you need to share ideas with the right people. Then, get buy-in from the decision maker.
  • Put on your thespian hat. Not every pitch works on everyone, so sometimes you need to act differently with different stakeholders.
  • Say what you think, not what you think you are supposed to say.

Sometimes you have to take the pressure off and try something different. McDaniel suggested yoga. The panel touted the shower as a great place to do creative thinking.

How do you capture your creative ideas? Paper, online, apps, and documents were all mentioned. There didn’t seem to be a limit to the ideas. A favorite of BurrellesLuce’s Johna Burke is Evernote because she can use it from any of her many electronic devices, along with these 12 Mobile Apps to Boost Productivity.

What gets your creative juices flowing? How do you sell your creative ideas to others?

Digital Marketing Insights from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Social media is boring, so let’s find a way to influence the physical world, says Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs, when highlighting his latest projects during the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit on April 20. The full-day event, sponsored by the Capitol Communicator and Potomac Tech Wire, was held at Gannett headquarters and included insights from marketing, communications, advertising and public relations experts.

With many folks overwhelmed by the number of social media platforms available, one panel attempted to put the social networkings into perspective. Moderated by Geoff Livingston, vice president of strategic partnerships at Razoo, the panelists looked at several options beyond Facebook and Twitter and shared what worked for their organizations. All the panelists encouraged participants to find out what platforms their core audience use.

Commenting on Google+ users, Kevin Dando, director of digital marketing and communications at PBS, says the site is just a place for men to talk about being on Google+. However, you shouldn’t discount Google+ because it will help your website’s page rank. Additionally, Google+ and YouTube are becoming closer and will soon have shared search. On the other side of the spectrum, Pinterest has mostly female users and can be very effective for visual campaigns.

PBS, like other TV networks, needs to be on GetGlue, a platform that allows users to check into TV shows and other entertainment media. Dando says shows with live Twitter events have ratings one percent higher than those without. He commented Tumblr doesn’t drive a lot of traffic, but it does have a lot of engagement.

The role of chief marketer has become chief storyteller, says Debra Lavoy, director of product marketing at OpenText. You should use the story to pull the team together and that content marketing should be renamed substance marketing.

If his marketing budget was increased, Vocus’s Jason Jue says he would wish for more storytellers. (Download this PR Storytelling tip sheet from BurrellesLuce). Speaking of storytellers, when I asked the Beyond Facebook and Twitter panel if they could review Storify, they said they were all fans, especially for events. At SXSW, they said they barely left a session before someone would post all the tweets from the event to a new Storify.

Examples of brands using marketing and social media for good and helping causes were also abundant. For example, Terry Macko, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the World Wildlife Fund, discussed WWLF teaming with Coke to raise awareness about the environment. Despite backlash and confusion over the white cans, the campaign raised over two million dollars.

The summit inspired several great blog posts, including:

Discovery – Using Social Media to Drive Social TV Experiences

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Today’s TV now needs to be “social TV,” where the online experience allows viewers to share their experiences with other viewers and the world. Fans no longer have to wait to discuss the latest episode at the water cooler the next day; they are doing it in real-time and all the time.  

Discovery Communications’ main social media strategy is engagement says Gayle Weiswasser, vice president, social media communications, during an American Marketing Association’s Washington, DC (AMADC) chapter program in January. Additionally, Discovery looks to build community, drive fans to tune-in, increase website page-views, and gather insights.

Most social media strategies contain the big three platforms, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but not all platforms are right for every organization. For Discovery, YouTube and GetGlue are also essential platforms. It even started a Pinterest page for TLC because TLC shows are very visual and tend to attract a lot of female fans. As quoted from this Desert News article, “If you’re an American and you know about Pinterest, chances are you’re either female or someone who heard about Pinterest from a female – because no fewer than 83 percent of Americans using Pinterest are female.”   

(For tips on adding Pinterest to your integrative communications efforts, check out this BurrellesLuce newsletter: Understanding Pinterest and Your Audience and my BurrellesLuce colleague Tressa Robbins recent post about Pinterest and how companies and the media are using the site.)

Tips for Creating Social Experiences to Enhance TV Fan Bases

  1. Give fans exclusive content. This is a great way to drive engagement, Weiswasser says. Discovery offers additional scenes and other insights as rewards for comments and sharing. The content is usually only available for a limited time and is not available during the broadcast time for the show it promotes.
  2. Use multiple platforms to interact with your audiences. Weiswasser suggested making “co-viewing” apps available on multiple platforms to promote a linear TV experience for user who following the conversation on a number of different social networks.
  3. Think before you post. Weiswasser tells her team to ask, “If I were a viewer/fan, would I really like this post?” If the post is mediocre, she says it’s best not to post.
  4. Be aware of trends and hot topics. A great way to gain some momentum for your organization is to embrace the culture at the moment.  Animal Planet, for its show “Hillbilly Handfishin’” tweeted, “@OldSpice & @FabioOldSpices – Are Either of You Brave Enough to Try Noodlin’? We Triple Dog Dare You!” Both of Old Spice’s spokespeople, Isaiah Masufa and Fabio took the dare for a couple of fun April Fool’s Day jokes on YouTube.
  5. Increase outreach success by having (celebrity) spokespeople interact with your communities. When Clinton Kelly of “What Not to Wear” took over the show’s Facebook page, they had the most activity in eight years.

Some other great takeaways from Weiswasser:

  • Give the social media team authority to make real decisions.
  • Listen and talk to fans.
  • Build on the engagement you’ve made.
  • Accept that not all audiences are alike.

What lessons have you learned from your social media fans? How do you encourage more engagement? Which new social networks are you adding to the mix?

Pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference between Fox and Hulu, HBO and Netflix, or CNN and YouTube.

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

sneetchesThe recent jockeying for position and struggle to find an identity within the crowded and competitive world of network, cable, streaming video, and online television reminds me of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories, The Sneetches. The Sneetches were a group of yellow creatures, some with green stars on their bellies (a sign of distinction) and some without, until a character named Sylvester McMonkey McBean offers those without stars a chance to add them by going through his Star-On machine. In order to stay special the Sneetches formerly with stars happily pay the money to have them removed in his Star-Off machine. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next, and to quote the good Doctor,

“until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one… or that one was this one or which one was what one… or what one was who.”

The last few month, the news out of the “television” world has been very Seuss-like to say the least:

At this year’s winter TV press tour Kevin Reilly, entertainment president, Fox Broadcasting Company, revealed that his network plans to use web content as a development tool for the airwaves. “Something that starts in digital could be the next big primetime hit… We have an expertise, and a history, and proficiency, and a primetime audience base,” he confirms in this Atlantic.com article about 5 Ways the Networks Want to Change How You Watch TV. Reilly goes on to use Web Therapy starring Lisa Kudrow (of Friends fame) as one example of a web-only series that has successfully made the switch and is now aired on Showtime.

In an effort to kick start their declining subscription base, Netflix is beginning to act more like a network rather than your average streaming video provider. By jumping into the original programming waters, Netflix plans to release three new series in 2012 – starting with Lilyhammer, a crime comedy set in Norway’s former Winter Olympics headquarters, starring The Soprano‘s Steven Van Zandt. Not to be outdone and fresh off a year where they realized 60 percent revenue growth in 2011, the web streaming service Hulu is launching its first ever original scripted series. Battleground, a mockumentary series described as “The Office meets The West Wing, premieres February 14, explains, this opinion brief on TheWeek.com.

And remember when YouTube was just a site where you could watch short clips of people doing funny and unusual things? Well, last week Reuters joined CNN and the BBC by unveiling its own channel to be shown on the popular video sharing site. The channels will show original content from Reuters on YouTube, which will allow them to leverage an army of over 3,000 reporters worldwide.

I doubt all the players involved with getting content to the masses will end up in blissful harmony like our friends the Sneetches, but it should be fun watching them run from one machine to the next having their green stars removed and re-added over again.

What are your thoughts? Please share them with me here on BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.