Social Media Lessons from a Viral Video

Though it is far behind the gummy bear video, "Charlie Bit My Finger"it is coming close the half billion mark and has also earned a spot of honor on Wikipeda.  According to that entry, it “remains the most viewed amateur video and third most viewed video on YouTube.” For those who want to know how much a successful viral video can be worth, web experts estimate earnings of £100,000 for Charlie’s family. The income is derived from ads tacked on to the video.

The Charlie video was originally posted back in May of 2007, and its popularity seems to have built up over time.  The boys are quite a bit older now, and their parents have posted some other videos of Charlie and the hapless Harry, the older brother who remains nameless in the original video.  The video is shorter than a minute, though in some of its manifestations, you have to sit through a commercial for Disney World before you can see the feature video.    You can also see numerous takes on it, some of which are probably not altogether suitable for family viewing.

Why did this video with no music or animation and only minimal action and dialogue (Charlie doesn’t speak at all) get so much attention?   It’s an everyday situation that many can identify with, whether they’ve seen it in their children or even in themselves.  The older brother decides to play with the baby by placing his finger in the baby’s mouth. At first, he is amused that the baby responded by biting him.  But the next bite does not amuse him because, as he says, “that really hurt, Charlie.”  This time, it is Charlie who is amused; he actually laughs at his brother’s reaction.

Now here’s where I see how this particular example of social media relates to marketing.  With all the hype about social media, many businesses are eager to jump on the bandwagon and expect that it will take them directly to a point of sale without even passing Go.  But you have to know what you’re doing and where you’re going with it.  An effective social media marketing strategy is one that takes the customer’s point of view into consideration and that allows for interaction to build.  You cannot expect immediate results, and pushing for them can prove counterproductive.  Using platforms like Facebook and Twitter to deliver a barrage of ads right in your customers’ face can actually turn them off.  If you put your finger right in their mouths, you may find that they can bite back and bite hard.

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