Tuesday’s activity around Breckenridge Brewery’s “Truth in Beervertising” viral videos got me thinking about the elements that help a story go viral. As I publish this at 11am MST on Wednesday, my post is approaching 20,000 views.
How did it get there? Social sharing. As of right now, the original report in Ad Age has 1,329 shares between Facebook, Twitter and a link shortening service called Bit.ly. My article has 3,256 shares between those three and has been “upped” 622 times on Reddit.
Why did my post on Beernews.org get triple the amount of shares over Ad Age, a site with at least 12x the visitors?
For a story to get that many hits, a lot has to go right and that is a major credit to Breckenridge Brewery and the agency behind the campaign, Cultivator Advertising and Design. A prime example of how humor and authenticity shine through in video.
That said, I counted a slew of mistakes that Cultivator and Ad Age made that nearly derailed these videos from spreading like wildfire.
Here are nine considerations that creative and media professionals (incl. bloggers) and the companies that hire them should keep in mind if they want to spread their message far and wide.
1) A good headline speaks to your audience and conveys the main takeaway of the story.
Sure, a snazzy headline hooks readers. Just keep it on topic.
Compare my headline…
Breckenridge Brewery mocks big beer marketing in new TV campaign
with Ad Age’s headline…
Beer Ads Promise Proprietary Tech to Get Booze Into Your Face
Ad Age writes for marketing professionals so it makes sense to leave out Breckenridge Brewery’s name from the headline.
Everything else about it makes my head spin. A) I wonder who or what it is about. B) Am I going to click and waste my time? C) I’m expecting to see a story about some useless $30 beer gizmo.
I get that they were trying to use satire to echo the satire in the video but, in doing so, they failed to convey the essence of the story or what it was even really about and that is David’s mockery of Goliath (more specifically, MillerCoors).
2) Timing IS everything.
Cliché but oh so true…
From a reporting perspective, being first is part of it. That is about hustle, preparation, networking, resourcefulness, etc. That is a post for another day.
What I’m talking about is delivering a story around routine work schedules.
The Brewers Association, based not far from Breckenridge in Colorado, always seems to send out their press releases in the mid-afternoon. This is right around the time that people on the East Coast are already on their commute home and people in central time are preparing to leave work for the day. They would get “more bang for their buck” if they posted their releases at 10am in Colorado. Why? This is right before people on the East Coast take their hour-long lunch breaks when they are most likely to be cruising the web. The rest of the country breaks for lunch soon after that.
In the case of Beervertising, Ad Age posted the article at 4:40pm MST on Monday. The east coast was eating dinner, the central people were heading home from work (or arriving home) and those local to the brewery were just about to leave work.
Breckenridge Brewery then linked to the Ad Age post on Twitter at 6:35am MST on Tuesday. The east coast was just starting to arrive to work, the central folks were commuting to work, people in the MST zone were getting ready for work or eating breakfast and the west coast was still sleeping.
My post came at 8:15am MST. It was still a bit too early to go viral but it got enough shares from people on the east and central part of the country that, during the time everyone took their lunch break, the post was primed to go viral.
3) Share the message with those who are most passionate about it.
The hobbyist is much more likely to spread the message than the “careerist.” What I mean by that is that the people who spread the videos on Tuesday were largely beer people without a financial interest in it. They spread the videos because they resonated more with who they are outside of their 9-5 than what they do for a living from 9-5.
Are you more passionate and talkative about football or your manufacturing job?
For breweries, it sounds sexy to get written up in mainstream media outlets but they don’t influence the beer community in the same way that leaders within that community do.
In this case, Cultivator works with New Belgium and Great Divide so they should be already well aware of the craft beer community.
I’m not advocating to skip out on mainstream press but don’t leave the people who live and breathe your niche every day in the dark…something that could have happened here.
4) Skip the press release…or at least make it tight and concise.
I post a lot of press releases and, a lot of times, they could be improved. A common problem is too much lofty language that wreaks of “marketing speak.” Those lack authenticity and it inhibits people from sharing them.
The one that Cultivator wrote that appeared on Beer Advocate is a mess. What are those…film credits? It appears to be written for other creative professionals instead of Breckenridge’s audience because there is some lingo there and some acronyms that I don’t even understand.
I hope that Cultivator did not bill for that time.
5) If you are going to put together a press release, release it to THE PRESS.
The other flaw here, one that appears more often than it should, is that a press release is only distributed to one or two media outlets. It defies the point of the press release, a message carefully crafted and fit for use across many branches of media.
I saw the press release on BA and buried on a local Denver business site and that was pretty much it.
There are hundreds of beer bloggers and some local media that would have been thrilled to post the release and those videos on their sites.
6) Post your viral video or story on a platform that makes it possible to go viral.
Ever find yourself wanting to share an article to Facebook or Twitter and the site doesn’t have one of those one/two-click easy sharing buttons? So you have to open up a new window for Facebook or a link shortener service to share it on Twitter? And then you don’t even bother…
Ever find yourself wanting to share a video and there is no embed code? So you dig into the source code to grab it…or more than likely you are among the 99% of people who don’t even know it’s there…or what source code even means.
That is what happened with the Ad Age piece. Cultivator shared the videos with Ad Age through Brightcove, a video platform with no sharing capabilities (or at least they were turned off).
When you think of how Rebecca Black was able to go viral, do you think that happened because everyone linked back to Youtube or because thousands of web sites posted that video on their own sites for their own communities?
7) If you do post the viral video on Youtube, share those links with the world.
Outside of that obscure press release, I don’t think that Cultivator shared those links. To be honest, I can’t even see that this marketing agency is on Twitter or Facebook which should raise some eyebrows.
8- If you do post videos on the web, do so under the clients’ names (not just your own).
When putting my post together, little did I know that those videos were actually uploaded already on Youtube. They weren’t under Breckenridge Brewery’s Youtube account though. They were under Cultivator’s account.
The end result of that is that we have videos that may have been watched more than 30,000 times over the past 24-36 hours (most likely). Unfortunately, Youtube shows that each video was viewed under 1,000 times because the two most-shared articles feature that Brightcove player.
Not much social proof there and perhaps the lower view count will hurt it in search indexing…
9) Make your work more about your clients than yourself.
One thing about press releases is that you can clearly see that creative/PR reps stay in the background. They leave their contact info in the email and the press release very rarely mentions them. They largely make the client the point of focus since the client is, you know, paying them.
Which is why I’m left wondering why Cultivator got in the way here.
Despite all of the above, the video still spread virally and Tuesday turned out to be quite a big day for Breckenridge Brewery…
…and a small victory for craft beer.