Social Media

Marketing Yourself with a Viral Hoax

Every once in a while I will come across a beautifully orchestrated hoax and ask myself, why would someone do this? Having too much free time on your hands and temporary Internet celebrity aside, a carefully crafted hoax can be leveraged to your advantage.

Case in point is the still unsubstantiated Google TV hoax, courtesy of Mark Erickson of “Infinite Solutions”.

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The video that purports to show you how to get an invitation to beta test the yet-unannounced Google TV, was uploaded to YouTube and has so far been viewed more than 124,000 times in 3 days. The video was picked up by TechCrunch, then got submitted to Digg, where it reached the home page and received more than 2,100 Diggs.

If the video itself turns out to be a hoax (as most industry pundits have already labeled it) its views will not increase substantially. What’s more interesting is what the popularity of this one video has done for other content created and submitted by Mr. Erickson. At the end of the second video posted by Erickson (which has been viewed over 55,000 times) he tells the viewers that he is going to post another update about Google TV soon, but until he does that they should check out other content produced by him and share it with their friends. In effect, he leverages the popularity of one video to drive traffic to his other videos.

googletvhoax Marketing Yourself with a Viral Hoax

Even if he hadn’t said that, most people that go to YouTube, upon finding an interesting video, will look at other content produced or uploaded by the same user. So by creating one viral video that in the long-run may not even provide any value to the viewer, you can attract an audience to the rest of your content. If it’s good then the viewers will most likely subscribe to the subsequently produced content. You can see this in the large number of views that Erickson’s other videos have gotten.

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5 thoughts on “Marketing Yourself with a Viral Hoax

  1. any publicity is good publicity.
    while that email thing is a hoax, google is working on developing their own “tv station” with youtube. it’s pretty weird of this guy to make something fake like that, though.

  2. I think a lot depends on how the hoax is exposed. If the person is proven to be a liar and just out for attention, his fan base will die off quickly. But, if they expose themselves and sort of reveal their game and show why and how they did what they did, they can likely leverage that into more exposure etc as you mentioned. But in either case, anyone who knows how to create something viral has a very valuable skill set that can either help them make a lot of money for themselves, or land them a nice job in today’s online world of business.

  3. Is any publicity really good publicity? I’m not so sure.
    While I’m certianly no saint, my integrity is very important to me – and to my business. If I create a hoax about something just to draw traffic, how can I look my clients in the face and honestly tell them that integrity is one of my core business values. I can’t.
    I watched this too. And I watched his follow-up. All seems great. Except I was a little bothered by his smirk at the end of the second video he released. It seemed a bit untimely and out of place. My guess, hoax. I’m sure we’ll see.

  4. It was a hoax, it was meant to be a joke – the whole point was to waste some idiots (non tech savvy users) as they repeatedly tried to login/signout. This kind of thing can backfire on you – so remember that before you go out and try something like this.