The Obama campaign's brilliant viral video, and its lessons for your own business

According to the Obama campaign, a certain viral video has already been emailed 11 million times, and is going out 30 more times per second. No matter what your politics or nationality, that's an achievement worth examining, and a video worth watching.* I'll tell you the first secret right up front: It's not just one video. Rather, it's personalized, with the recipient's -- or a famous person's -- name inserted in so many places that each copy is a unique story.

Edit: Actually, the video is by MoveOn.org, not the Obama campaign. And by the way, the 11 million figure is up to 15 million as of the day before Election Day.

*If you're anti-Obama, click through anyway; you won't hate the content THAT badly, and the technology is really worth seeing. The video is short, and its only strong message is "Don't neglect to vote!" And for balance, here's a post bashing other aspects of the same site, plus another bonus post in which I knocked the Obama campain for another online screwup.

More generally, the video is spreading so widely due to three factors:

  • It makes very creative use of technology, in a way most people haven't seen before.
  • It's funny.
  • People feel they're doing a good deed in passing it on.

So what can you learn from this? Well, if you want random customers or prospects to help you out in your marketing, it's best to offer them something that:

  • Is innovative or remarkable (so that they think people will find it cool)
  • Makes them happy (whether through entertaining them or by making their work more pleasant)
  • Makes them feel they'd be doing a good deed by telling other people about it

Yes, I know that's pretty general. Still, it's a good set of principles from which to start.

Related link: Follow-on overview of 2008 campaign technology hits and misses

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