Well, the eagerly anticipated first "viral" video for Eric Berry's Heisman campaign arrived via the Big Orange Email Newsletter yesterday. And . . . oy. Sigh. And oy again.
First a disclaimer: I love, love, LOVE IN ALL CAPS Eric Berry. And the Vols. Andfor hiring Bruce Pearl and adopting three Ethiopian children and bringing in Lane Kiffin and genuinely struggling so much with having to fire Fulmer, whom I also loved. Seriously. I love the Athletic Department and the Sports Information Department. Yes, even if Bud Ford would rather pretend that blogs and the internet are embarrassing fads. I love Tennessee, okay?
But this is no way to conduct a Heisman campaign. No, this . . . this is embarrassing.
The LoveBerrys? Really? And yeah, I get that it's supposed to be like those freecreditreport.com commercials (I hope), but . . . Berry is not a product to be sold by jingle. If a song must be used, the singer should be screaming, yelling, or rapping. Not making you want a lollipop.
Second, "viral" means "of, pertaining to, or caused by a virus." In web parlance, a thing is said to have gone "viral" if it gains widespread popularity through sharing on the internet. The terminology is apt: a real virus cannot reproduce on its own and thus depends on a living host to make more viruses. In short, if you want a video to go viral, you can't just market a link and attempt to divert all traffic to your own website. You need to get word to the mavens and hope that they infect others, who will share the contagion with still more people. You have to make it so people who like it can share it, pass it around, and embed it on their own personal websites, blogs, and Facebook accounts.
The real trick in the social media age is to figure out how to both protect your intellectual property and yet leverage others in the social media web to market it for you. It's terribly difficult in this age to monetize first through over protection and only then attempt to utilize the viral marketing power of the masses. You just can't anticipate what innovations might arise from a thousand individuals tinkering with your IP.
No, the way it usually works is that a thousand people take your stuff, do cool things with it, and share it with their friends, who then share it with their friends. Exponential referrals ensue, and suddenly hundreds of thousands of potential customers are now associating your product with their own positive feelings. Once the innovation has solidified, then it can be monetized, mostly without complaint from users.
The Eric Berry video linked above is likely to be viewed by a very small percentage of Big Orange Email subscribers. If the few folks who see it absolutely love it, a small percentage of them may forward the email or link to it on Twitter or something. Mostly, though, it's going to go unnoticed, and it's almost certainly not going to go viral.
Take a look around YouTube and see how many times certain Eric Berry videos have been viewed. This version of Berry's interception and big hit on Georgia's Knowshon Moreno has been viewed nearly a quarter of a million times. And that's just one of at least seven pages worth of Berry videos on YouTube, almost all of which can and have been embedded on individual websites all over the world.
And the IP owners aren't necessarily just giving their creations away by making them freely accessible. YouTube now knows how to identify songs used in its videos, and rather than simply removing the video or the audio, most IP owners have instead elected to place an unobtrusive ad along the bottom of the video encouraging folks to purchase the song if they like it. That goofy video of Blake Mitchell "dancin," by the way, has been viewed nearly 37,000 times.
But nobody asked me, and as I feared back on July 30, it appears that Eric Berry's Heisman campaign will suffer a paucity of new media regardless of the fact that new media is quickly becoming the best way to get noticed in today's attention economy.