Exploiting the “WTF?!?” factor

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wtf_catWho could resist a purposely lame 1980’s style video game that features a purple unicorn and his Fabio lookalike master who are in search of floating cheese puffs while attending a birthday party thrown by puppies? Maybe lots of people, but a certain writer could not. In fact, the aforementioned writer  just spent a little too much time playing Cheeto’s Legend of the Cheetocorn.  The quirky and dumb video game is  little more an elaborate advertisement for Cheetos, yet it possesses a certain “what the hell” factor that makes you take a second look.

In fact, take a gander at the hot articles on Digg, for example. The majority of them have a certain wacky or unique appeal that begs readers to stop and click. Everything from stories about women with multiple body parts to the obligatory goofy animal articles are more

Want your video to go viral? Start with great content. Then pour on the elbow grease.

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I recently attended the OMMA Video (#ommavideo) event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. A lot of our customers ask us about viral video, so I hope this post sheds some light on the subject. The panel “The Art of Being Discovered: Is Viral Video a Strategy” was moderated by Bob Heyman, (Managing Director, The Digital Engagement Group) and included the following panelists: Andrew Budkofsky (SVP Sales and Partnerships, Break Media), Benjamin Carlson (Chief Strategy Officer, Bradley and Montgomery), Gregory Markel (Founder/President of Infuse Creative), Matt Martelli (CEO/Creative Director, Mad Media) and Bret Wilson (Co-Founder/CEO of TubeMogul). Here are some of the talking points I walked away with that I found interesting:

“¢Â The best techniques for driving “virality” starts with content. But it doesn’t end there. Then you have to promote your video via SEO, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace etc.), social bookmarking sites (Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon etc) and  getting bloggers to review and talk about your video.  Oh, and it can’t hurt to launch a full PR campaign to get a reaction from appropriate media outlets that are relevant to your audience.

“¢ Getting a video to go viral is getting harder and harder because there is currently a glut of video out there and it’s harder to stand out. Video is following the same trajectory as banner ads; at first everyone clicked on them and thought they were novel. But today, people pay less and less attention to them. The idea of going into a teen chat room and asking them to check out your video and expecting a response is kind of creepy and pretty much over.

“¢Â Want to spread your video effectively? Consider hiring a Weblebrity (a web celebrity that has a following of a million plus fans). Pay them to review your video. Or, even better yet, have them make a video in response to your video. This practice is becoming popular among viral video marketers and weblebrities seem more than willing to participate.

But at the end of the day, it still comes down to the quality of your content and being relevant to your audience. As one of the panelist said, “sites want good content. They’re going to start banning people who flood them with crap.” Woudn’t that be nice.  If you couldn’tt make the OMMA video event, you can see highlights at the MediaPost Raw >> OMMA Video .

Want repeat traffic? Digg and Facebook deliver.

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Want repeat visitors coming to your site? New data coming out of Chitika Inc., an online advertising network with over 30,000 sites and over 2 billion monthly impressions, suggests that Facebook and Digg delivered repeat traffic at much greater rate than Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Twitter.  Google delivered overall numbers, but when it comes to driving repeat visitors,

“over 20% of all visitors from Facebook visited the site four or more times per week. Digg came in second place with slightly over 16%.”

Note that Google, Bing! and Twitter came at the bottom of the “repeat traffic” list hovering around 11% each. Google, obviously delivers the most traffic overall. But for loyalty, you can’t beat Facebook. This is why it’s important for brands to engage customers across multiple networks to satisfy multiple strategies. If you want repeat visitors coming to your site, you may want to consider putting a little more elbow grease into your brand’s Facebook effort. To see the data in chart format, visit Chitika here.

Hey pal, can you spare a whuffie?

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New and exciting things are popping up everywhere at TechCrunch50 One of the coolest is The Whuffie Bank. According to the company,

“The Whuffie Bank is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a new currency based on reputation that could be redeemed for real and virtual products and services. The higher your reputation, the wealthier you are.”

Pretty simple idea. Currently supported by Twitter, the The Whuffie Bank  plans to offer access via Facebook, FriendFeed, Digg and any other reputation driven online tool. So how does it work? You’re encouraged to communicate via your social media many times a day. But make sure your tweets are relevant, because your peers can thumbs up you or send your Whuffie Bank account into the red. To build up your account, build a good online reputation. Here is how your Whuffie worth is calculated by a fancy algorithm that:

1.  Detects Public Endorsements – Each time a message you put on Twitter gets retweeted or a Facebook post gets liked by others, that’s considered a positive endorsement for you.

2. Measures Level of Influence – A person that’s constantly retweeting others will be spreading the impact of his influence among many people. On the other side, if a person retweets a message once in a while, that will have a bigger impact.

3. Considers Existing Reputation of Members – Being endorsed by a Whuffie-rich person will have a stronger impact than being endorsed by an average user.

4. Analyzes Content of Messages – A message with a link that gets retweeted usually it’s because of the content in a website rather than the person sharing it in the first place. So when someone gets retweeted for something they exclusively said, that will have a bigger impact on the algorithm.

What’s really cool is that they actually plan on printing (or minting) real Whuffie currency that you can use around the world. I want a Whuffie! I promise I will use it only for good. So how do these guys make money? Well, for now they are a self-proclaimed non-profit.  How fresh! Maybe one day the greenback will be replaced by the Whuffie and we will all get along. But then will the Whuffie become the root of all evil just like other currencies? Let’s hope not. To start building your Whuffie empire, check out the The Whuffie Bank homepage.

Moving pictures speak louder than words.

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I was chatting with a friend who’s an SEO expert and we were discussing the value of video content versus the written word. We both agreed they both have their merits. But let’s face it, video gets the point across in a more condensed way and it infuses a tone that you just can’t get with the written word. The speaker’s mannerisms, way of talking and clarity all effect how you absorb the content. To me, that’s a good thing. But the written word also has benefits. For example, if you’re a fast reader you can easily scan the text to see it’s worthwhile enough for you to read the whole thing… doing that with video means waiting for the vid to download and hoping you can move the slider around with little technical difficulty. My friend and I discussed the power of each format and wondered if the moving picture was more powerful than ink. If you look at the newspaper business versus the news telecast business which one do you think more people prefer? As a test, I thought it would be interesting to wordify / transcribe a video and compare it to the video and see what you get out of each format. The article I have chosen is from SEOmozBlog Whiteboard Friday. Keep in mind that I did not transcribe the video word for word; I left out the conversational bits and wrote it so that you could get the context. Here is a direct link to the video or click on the embed below. When you’re done, scroll down for the text version. Happy reading/watching.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday – Generating Unique Content from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

Text

SEOmox.org. The Web’s Best SEO Resources.
Whiteboard friday: generating unique content
by Scott Willoughby  Featuring Rand Fishkin/CEO SEOmoz 8:18 sec

Rand Fishkin looked at both the start-up world and large established companies for this video.
He asked the following questions.
What makes content unique.
Why do I have to engage in it
And why do i have to do it.

Why do search engines want unique content?
Search engines want unique unique content because it helps their users.

Users who find repeated results get very frustrated. You see this a lot in the travel world. If you do a search for Kayaks you see the same thing on Expedia and Hotels.com…it’s weak because you get reviews that are coming from the same place. Not a good experience for the user.

Mr. Fishkin mentions a site like Oyster.com , which contains very independent, lengthy reviews of hotels and travel related content.  The search engines want these unique kinds of results and they are very very good at identifying them.

if you think you’re going to pull the wool over the eyes of the search engines, think again. Search engines are very good at looking at a page’s structure, identifying elements that are in common navigationally and picking out the completely unique pieces of content inside the page and then being able to determine what percent of content inside the page is unique then deciding if that makes this a worth while page.

Some pages can have tons of content, and just a little bit of unique content and it gets picked up as being very important. Again, search engines are very good at picking out those sorts of things.

Spammers used to take content, run it through an English to French translation, then a French to Arabic translation and then an Arabic to English translation and then claim it as completely unique.

These days you’ll see spammers getting much more advanced by using things like Amazon’s mechanicalturk.com where they pay writers to rewrite content sentence by sentence a penny at a time. But be wary of this method because the search engines are working on how to identify that sort of thing.

Mr. Fishkin suggest that human beings are pattern oriented creatures  and they have patterns that they build and if search engines can reverse that method they can try to figure out who is trying to spam.

In terms of the user experience you create with unique content..it is a serious upgrade. Finding something that is interesting and unique is valuable for your visitors and the search engines look at this as a good thing.

There’s an unfair advantage that some outlets get just by their presence and size. For example, if you wrote an article that then later got picked up by CNN, guess who would get the credit for it? It’s on your blog, it’s on CNN, guess who will get more links? CNN will because they most likely will have a much larger audience. The engines want to find who is the original source and they also want to make sure the duplication doesn’t create a “citation worthiness” where only the rich get richer and no one who is unique and interesting and small is getting value out of that. They also want to find a lot of diversity in those results. You can take a search results page and listing one through four are all the same…it’s miserable. Nobody wants to see exactly the same thing. They want to see those unique takes.

Finally, Mr. Fishkin covers some strategies in order to take advantage of the unique content demands that the search engines require and figure out how you can scale that and create content for your business. These kinds of content fall under three categories.

1. The first is Editorial. What is editorial? It’s Mr. Fishkin making this video. It’s a blog. It’s coming up with content yourself or hiring out journalists or copywriters to write content for you. Outsourcing it to South East Asia or Eastern parts of Europe where you can find affordable writers to write content for you. Or using sites like oDesk or those types of services. You can have lots of unique content written by humans and it is considered editorially built content. That brings us to the second kind of content.

2. The second kind of content is machine-built content. This kind of content is usually data-driven. Results you would see Inside an Expedia or Farecast (which is now Bing travel). Folks like payscale.com and salary.com do this in the job world. Simplyhired does this around searches for a particular job and how well the market is rising. They take data sources and produce automated kinds of content. You have to be careful with this.  It’s a good strategy because it is scalable, it’s useful and not too expensive. Keep in mind engines can have issues with the uniqueness of the content.  Sites like (one of Mr. Fishkin’s clients) zillow.com create data which becomes content. Users find the data useful.

3. The third kind of content is user-generated content. UGC is some of the best kind of content that you can generate, but it’s tough. You have to build a community, incentivize the content creation and you have to get them to do it for free. You have to get people to contribute. Some examples of this kind of content is Wikipedia, digg, readitt and Youtube. UGC is very powerful, and very scalable but difficult to get to get growing in a large network scale manner.

Rand recommends that you sit down and strategize which kind of content is appropriate to your business. For small sites, editorial makes sense. If you are trying to go big and dominate a niche or industry, you will need machine-built and UGC or maybe all three forms of content depending on your strategy.

It pays to have that strategy in mind before you set out to create content instead of while you’re doing it or even after. Strategize and pick the solution that’s best for you.

OK, as you can see, it’s a lot of text considering that I left out a lot of the conversational words. I first viewed the video and then went back and transcribed as best as I could. I have to admit, watching the video was a more pleasant experience. I was also surprised the video was a little over 8 minutes long. It seemed much less. Maybe that’s because the experience was so effortless, whereas reading (or writing) took some effort. Who likes to read when you can sit back and absorb? What do you think?