Using Technology To Boost Visibility

February 1, 2008       Marla Nobles      

With everybody and their uncle creating videos and posting them onto the wildly popular social media site YouTube, it stands to reason that the majority of the videos simply get lost in the clutter.

That’s not the case with Campaign for America’s Future (CAF). A recent YouTube video — starring funnyman and Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander — was dealt a much more auspicious fate.

After garnering more than 48,000 views in just two days on the site, CAF’s video was promoted to the No. 1 spot in the Comedy category, and reached the front page of the YouTube Web site — a rare feat for a nonprofit-produced video. This rush in popularity incited more than 180 blog postings. The video was also picked up by prominent social bookmarking sites. Within three weeks, the video had racked up more than 100,000 views.

“When we did our campaign on YouTube, we were more interested in getting people to watch the video, as opposed to getting a top rating on YouTube,” explained Ian Mishalove, the Washington, D.C. nonprofit’s director of online communications. The cherry on top of all those views: CAF ended up collecting roughly 2,500 new members for its email list.

The secret to success was a little bit of technology. Using an application developed by online communications firm Collactive, Inc., CAF blasted out emails to its constituents alerting them of the video on YouTube, including a link to a page. Once there, recipients could watch the video and have that count as a view on YouTube, without visiting YouTube’s site. As a bonus, Collactive, a Delaware-registered company that operates mainly out of Israel, walked each user through the process of rating and/or forwarding the video through YouTube.

According to Mishalove, around 50,000 people viewed the video with the Collactive “wrapper” around it; meaning, instead of visiting the YouTube site to watch the video, they linked to the video from the email that was sent by CAF. Of those, about 6 percent clicked the “Act Now” button and emailed the video to friends. “And then it kind of snowballed,” said Mishalove, garnering another 50,000 views most likely due to the email-a-friend tool and to its top rating that lasted several days.

The funny thing is, said Mishalove, CAF wasn’t even taking full advantage of the application. “It was sort of a test-run for us and for Collactive,” said Mishalove, who said the nonprofit will officially launch the full application this month, called Rapid Response Network (RRN).

The RRN also enables users to bypass the tedious registration processes required to, for instance, rate or comment on videos on YouTube. According to Eran Reshef, founder and CEO of Collactive, that’s a key component considering the majority of people who watch videos on YouTube don’t have a YouTube account.

“You don’t want to send a request for help on social media to half a million people (on your mailing list), because most of them are simply not interested,” said Reshef. “Those people who have downloaded the Rapid Response Network software stand out from the crowd as people who want to help on social media, and then you can send them alerts to get them to do things.”

One of those things, for example, is emailing an article on a topic so many times it gets promoted to the front page of the Boston Globe’s online publication, Boston.com, something Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net) and its supporters achieved last May.

“The effort was an immediate success,” Mark Hanis, founder and executive director of the Washington, D.C. charity, said of the group’s campaign to promote an op-ed on the genocide in Darfur to Boston.com’s front page. “Within minutes the article made it to the top rankings,” he said, “and within an hour it was the most emailed article.”

For an entire week, a link to the article, “A ‘Plan B’ with teeth for Darfur,” appeared on every page of Boston.com, not just the homepage. For several weeks after, it remained at the top of the most-emailed list. As an additional impact, for each of the 1,163 times the article was emailed to Boston.com’s president, it was also sent to the White House’s public comment Inbox.

According to Hanis, just 0.01 percent of the “votes” resulted from the Collactive desktop alert. He attributed the low number to the fact that, like CAF, GI-Net was in the beginning stages of using the Collactive software. GI-Net officially launched the RRN application in early January. NPT