Igniting Viral Campaigns (PodCamp Ohio)

The second session I attended was “Igniting Viral Campaigns”, by Jennifer Laycock. Her session was in such high demand that we had to change rooms to accomodate the number of attendees!

Jennifer presented an incredibly comprehensive slide deck on the topic. She started with an introduction to viral marketing itself, the premise being:

  1. people distrust ads
  2. people trust friends
  3. people trust strangers
  4. the web connects us

Initially I wasn’t sure I agreed with her “people trust strangers” comment, but as she explained it more, it made sense. She considered strangers to people we don’t know in real life, whereas for me, it’s people with whom we have no relationship at all.

She clearly called out the benefits and challenges related to viral marketing. While for many companies it may seem an obvious tactic given the low budget, but the challenge is in coming up with an idea that is genuinely buzz-worthy. The consumer needs to have some motivation to share it. Once again I’m struck with the idea that good marketing (as well as good design, good client relations, good anything) is just what I’d consider user-centered design. What consumer needs (realized or unrealized) are being met? Indeed, Jennifer referred to the customer reaction effect. That is, by empowering ordinary individuals to share and promote a brand, you are offering them some sense of celebrity and giving people a chance to talk about your product. In turn, the brand benefits from a level of increased credibility, as it is being ‘blessed’ with personal recommendations.
The potential downfall, however, is that you lose control over your brand messaging.

As for any project, it is important to establish goals to be able to measure the success of the project.

There are three questions to be answered when coming up with this idea:

  1. what sparks passion?
  2. what hasn’t been done before?
  3. will they risk their reputation?

For an idea to catch on, it has to address the above questions. The last refers to the idea that a forwarder is basically offering his personal recommendation to whatever he is forwarding, and will need to believe in the message or cause.

Jennifer then did a great job at walking us through specific strategies to developing a campaign. She shared tangible examples to really drive her points home.

I was impressed with her specifics related to the delivery of the campaign. She warned us to be sure to watch out for scalability, inventory, sustainable ROI and backup servers. I suppose the idea is that you should always plan for the worst case (which in this case is the best: your viral campaign takes off!). This actually reminds me of when we helped out Wal-Mart with their holiday campagns last year. Evidently there had been some question about our use of Akamai, and someone had questioned “what if akamai goes down?” At the time, we all laughed. Our thoughts were that if akamai went down, the Internet as we know it would cease to exist.
Guess what, at the height of the campaign, Akamai went down.

She offered us a list of different campaign types: humour, debate, attack and fear. Along with examples, she listed out pros and cons for each campaign type. It was a wonderful overview while also offering us the benefit of her expertise.

The next part of the presentation specifically dealt with pitching bloggers, which is an arena where I’ve only ever been on the other side of the screen. As Jennifer went through her pitching checklist, I reflected on how I’ve been pitched to myself, and determined that I am way too easy-going 🙂 I guess I don’t yet have any reason to be too picky!

Jennifer’s biggest rule was “respect the blogger’s time”, and many of her recommendations were based on this (for example, read at least 5 posts, write a few contextual comments). I also felt that this was simply good practice to ensure you’re on the right track. If you have identified this blogger as an influential, prove it by opening yourself up to be influenced 🙂

At some point during the presentation, Jennifer noticed that we were running behind, and offered to cut the presentation short. The room was unified in their desire to hear her entire presentation. It was truly an incredible session, well worth the price of admission 😛

Jennifer walked us through a project they’d done, through using brainstorming worksheets to assessing capabilities and the actual execution of the plan. It was a great way to really understand their methodology and gave a lot of credibility to their process. While she was great in not using her presentation to pimp out her company, I was definitely interested in learning more about them, as it is obvious they shine in this area.

Afterwards I was following on twitter as Jennifer and the session attendee that was sitting next to me talked about #SBMU and despite the fact I don’t actually have a small business, I’m tempted to attend!

4 thoughts on “Igniting Viral Campaigns (PodCamp Ohio)

  • Hey Andrea!

    Thank you for your kind words and incredibly comprehensive review of my session. I’m glad you enjoyed it as it’s always nice to get confirmation that another marketers feels like you really drove home the points. 🙂

    To note, I don’t actually take on clients…as in I’m not a service provider. I do occasionally act as a consultant or join up with a friend’s company for a really interesting project…but mostly what I do is education and training. (Makes it easier to share my “good stuff” in a class, because I have no motivation to convince someone to hire me.)

    Thus, when I talk about “projects”, they’re usually experiments of my own, or campaigns I’ve worked on for our own company.

    We’d love to have you join us at SBMU. As you noted…it is designed for small businesses…but we had quite a few marketers attend the last show and all seemed pretty happy. The whole show is built around the style of presenting I did yesterday. No techy-geek talk, just good common sense. 😉

    Either way, great to connect and I expect we’ll run into each other more often. Maybe we’ll see you at the next Columbus Tweet-up?

    • Ah, well thank you for the clarification! This is good news for me, actually, because I have a TON of questions for you, and I didn’t want to try to circumvent any professional work you do on behalf of a company. I’m always looking to be educated/trained! 😉

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