It’s hard to be in the viral video world for too long and not know who Kevin Nalts is. In fact, many of you might just know him as “Nalts,” his YouTube alter-ego who is one of the most subscribed-to creators on the site. More than that, he knows his stuff when it comes to marketing and advertising with viral video. For any who haven’t checked out his website, WillVideoForFood, it is a fantastic blog, one that is surely not to be missed by any who want to know what is going on in the viral video world.
Why are we telling you about Kevin Nalts? Because on 11/26/07 he wrote a great column that appeared in the digital section of AdAge.com entitled, “Ten Lessons for Marketers Using Viral Videos.” Now we know that it seems like there is at least one “ten things to do…” blog post everyday in the viral marketing world, but before you boo and hiss and go somewhere else, hear us out. This article by Nalts is the best tips article that we have read in a long time, and whether you are looking at viral video as a marketing engine or just for entertainment, it is well worth the read.
Nine times out of ten these “top ten things to do for success” articles state the obvious over and over. We have even read a couple supposed viral video tips that could have easily been written by the stray cat that lives near our office. But Nalts doesn’t waste your time with this article, and he gives you at least a couple substantial points to think about or act upon depending on what you’re doing. Granted, this article isn’t going to give you the secrets to instant viral video success, but we take our hats off to Nalts for writing something that is worth reading and not just a rehashing of the same stuff that everyone else is saying.
However, Nalts’ lesson #8, titled “Not all video portals are created equal,” is a little too cut and dry. He says:
“The vast majority of online viewing occurs on YouTube. Putting your videos on a bloated-product.com site is the online equivalent to running television commercials on a kiosk hidden in an abandoned cemetery.”
Now, we agree with Nalts that not all video sites are equal, and that most viewing occurs on YouTube, and that “bloated-product.com” is probably a waste of time. But his lesson is too short. He is unfairly sidelining some very powerful sites and not taking into account the power of viewer targeting which is crucial to viral success for marketers. The wording of this lesson accidentally makes it seem like YouTube is the only site worth seeding a video on, even though that is probably not what he meant to imply. Pandemic Labs has a network of over 50 sites that we use to seed videos. We don’t use all of these sites for every campaign, but it is critical to the spread and success of viral videos to reach specific target audiences on larger sites such as Break, Metacafe, and Kontraband, all the way down to small sites like SuperDeluxe, JibJab, and Dorks.com. It is easier for videos to make a bigger splash (i.e. getting featured, or on a most-viewed list) on sites like these which are smaller and filled with easier access to potential evangelists. This targeted visibility allows the videos to gain momentum in the blogosphere more quickly. This is essential for the viral spread of your message and will eventually help increase the exposure and view count of your “super-seed” on YouTube. Of course, YouTube is the biggest, but Nalts’ lesson #8 is akin to saying that just because most TV viewing occurs on the “Big 3” networks, it isn’t worth your time to advertise anywhere else. It just isn’t true, especially given the unprecedented opportunities for niche marketing afforded by Web 2.0 (see “The Long Tail“). The fact is that if you are targeting college guys, not putting your video on Break, CollegeHumor, and DudeHelp is just as much of a mistake as not putting it on YouTube. Micro-targeting is a necessary strategy if you’re hoping to ensure the successful seed your viral and we feel Nalts’ lesson #8 doesn’t adequately do this fact justice.