One of the attractions of Internet campaigning is the potentially huge number of readers who can take action. A well-placed link on a popular site, or passed from friend to friend may generate millions of page views very quickly.
Viral marketing is defined in the Wikipedia as “marketing techniques that seek to exploit pre-existing social networks to produce exponential increases in brand awareness, through processes similar to the spread of an epidemic.”
Campaigners may use a Web video or animated Flash piece complete with music and dialogue to convey their message. There are generally large files that require slow modem users to wait will the files are downloading.
Free Range Graphics has designed and produced the extremely popular campaign animations The Meatrix and Conflict Diamonds. See their gallery of Web animations for more. Free Range’s pieces shy away from dry facts and statistics in favor of a compelling narrative. They rely on humor and a mix of cultural references, particularly pop culture, using images that are already ‘part of the conversation’ in the news or in the culture at large as a metaphor or narrative device.
They also use music to catch the user’s attention. The Forest Slash — to the tune of the Monster Mash — uses the voice of Bobby Pickett, singer of the original tune. It was released as an MP3 around Halloween as part of a campaign on deforestation.
Messages conveyed in a fun or edgy way are more likely to attract a general public.
As such, it may be difficult to attract a wide, general audience with ‘difficult’ content. Humor, is obviously, not appropriate for every issue. Amnesty International USA’s Torture Test piece is an immersive educational piece with photos and audio, posing questions and answers about U.S. policy. The piece encapsulates the message of AIUSA’s campaign on torture and points to action alerts elsewhere on the Web site. However, the content of the piece itself is general and not directly pegged to specific actions and can thus live on after the specific campaign has ended.
Amnesty International’s Flash piece on Guatemala did not take a humorous angle in calling for the abolition of the Estado Mayor Presidencial (EMP). The Web movie, complete with movie and voice actors, told the story of the EMP and its implication in high profile human rights cases of abuse and disappearance. Combined with a media strategy and offline lobbying effort by local groups and Amnesty’s international membership, the campaign was a success. It was reported heavily in the Spanish press, ultimately drawing a formal response from the Guatemalan government. The Guatemalan Congress passed a law to abolish the EMP on September 24, 2003. The president signed it into law shortly before leaving office.
Developing Flash animations requires significant commitments of time, labor, and/or money. If your target audience is already dedicated to your issue, they may not need something Flashy. However, if your audience is a broad public, it may make sense to develop a compelling Flash component.
Such animations should be integrated into the overall campaign. It is very easy to generate excitement about something cool, but it may not move your cause forward. A Flash animation should also be timed within the arc of a campaign. An animation may not necessarily lead to immediate action. It may get a week of play before traffic subsides.
When attracting a lot of page views, generally a small percentage of users will take action, or provide their email address, but it should be very clear to the user how they can get involved.
Launching a viral campaign may begin with a simple email blast to supporters, particularly individuals with access to the media such as journalists and bloggers — people can reach many others if they like it.
Once in circulation, make it easy for users to send it along to their friends.
Forward this to a Friend
A survey by the Institute For Politics Democracy & The Internet found that email forwarded from a friend has greater credibility and is read more often than e-mail that sent directly from a campaign organizer.
While campaigners can provide an easy mechanism to forward an email to a friend, this is largely outside a campaign’s control. Please include an end date and a Web address. Email petitions forwarded from friend to friend can circulate on around the Internet indefinitely — long after a situation on the ground has changed.
A user taking an action on the MoveOn site is sent a confirmation email that includes a personalized ready-to-forward message to a friend about the subject of the action. This serves a multiple purpose: verifying that the email of the action taker is a working email address, proving the user with immediate confirmation, and automatically encouraging the user to forward notice of the action to their social network.
Plug into Existing Networks
Last modified on January 19, 2006 03:32 PM