The $5 Million Viral Marketing Campaign

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You may not agree with their tactics, but you can’t disagree with the money. Here’s a look at the Ron Paul army, their (often shady) tactics, and the return on their viral marketing blitzkrieg.
First of all I want to point out that while I agree with the message that Dr. Paul is trying to spread and agree with his principles, I disagree with the strategy that some of his followers have adopted in spreading his name (not necessarily condoned by him). Not only have these Ron Paul supporters used spam bots to spam potential voters and have even advertised on Digg for recruiting spammers. As you can see, over 3600 people Dugg the story, possibly indicating their approval of this tactic. However, the story wasn’t promoted to the front-page of Digg because countless others appropriately marked it as spam and buried it.
Regardless, the purpose for which these spammers were being recruited, came to pass yesterday, November 5th, 2007. Was the campaign successful? By most measures, yes.
New Media Coverage
Not only did Ron Paul make headlines (and the most popular headlines) on most social news sites,
but was also the most search term on Technorati, which is indicative of general popularity on the web, and was featured in some of the most watched videos on YouTube.
Mainstream Media Coverage
The effectiveness of the campaign didn’t just stop at new media coverage, rather it started there and was converted into mainstream media coverage, with outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, and even FOX, not only covering the candidate, but focusing explicitly on the Ron Paul army and their viral campaigning tactics.

Were They Successful?
While mainstream media and new media coverage is great in solidifying Ron Paul’s presence and establishing the brand in the minds of the people was the campaign successful in accomplishing more? The answer, in fact, is yes. The viral campaign was able to fund raise over $4 million for Ron Paul and by some measures even $5 million, and in just 24 hours, setting records in the process.
How’d They Do It?
Again, you may not agree with their tactics (I don’t), but the Ron Paul army knows what they’re doing. Their viral marketing campaign was focused on November 5th, or Guy Fawke’s day, and used the date’s symbolism to imply emancipation of the people was possible only through Ron Paul’s candidacy.

Neil Patel
Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs about marketing and entrepreneurship at... Read Full Bio
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  • Scott

    “Not only have these Ron Paul supporters used spam bots to spam potential voters”
    This is a huge assumption, and most likely the wrong one. Spambots hurt the campaign, and it is more likely that people who opposes Paul were responsible.
    As for the “Ron Paul spammers needed!” headline… this was sarcasm. With the likes of Sean Hannity and others accusing Ron Paul supporters of “spamming” polls (whatever that means), the author used it as a tongue-in-cheek joke. In other words… the same supporters who “spam” polls and don’t really exist should now donate to the campaign to prove that they do exist.

  • Excuse me Mr. Saleem. I think a few considerations will help connect your support for Dr. Paul’s upholding the Constitution and your distrust of the tactics you mention.
    (1) Your link reveals the email spam might be from supporters but might also be from “someone with bad intentions trying to embarrass the campaign”. The latter is more likely, considering that the spam has gotten Paul’s YouTube videos pulled. No supporter would have the savvy to steal the botnet and the idiocy to get Paul’s videos deleted. This is not our work.
    (2) The link in Digg is obviously self-deprecating. It’s not literally advertising for illegal spammers, but for people to sign up for the fundraiser. Perhaps you missed the humorous aspect that the 3600 readers found.
    I think you’ll realize the Ronpaulicans are not only doing right by spreading the word in every legal way possible, they are also being subjected to the bad press derived by a single, calculating, anonymous criminal spammer. Please don’t consider the 38,000 donors to be operating shadily. Thanks.

  • Antony

    The above headline entitled “Ron Paul Spammers Needed…” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the main stream media (MSM) title they have given Paul supporters since day one.
    This is not an add for actual “spammers”. Get it right, please. If you aren’t in one the joke, or haven’t been keeping track, you wouldn’t get it.

  • (3) The mainstream media has used the existence of one spambot, which only went operation after 10/21/07, to malign every Internet result Paul’s army has achieved. I’m sure you can recognize that there is a vast difference between spamming and getting hundreds of people to vote for Paul in a physical straw poll. Yet the media’s spin is that Paul has won 20 straw polls, outraised all but two candidates, and won every debate, because of this one spam attack– or because of unannounced, unproven tactics which the media wishes the readership to presume upon Paul. This is vastly immoral behavior. Keep in mind please!

  • Great stuff Muhammad. I’m with you on disagreeing with their tactics, but I think there’s more to it. I think we fall into a trap when we start labeling social media spamming and other spamming in general as “viral marketing”. The problem with this is that spamming is inherently un-viral. Instead of a few people force-feeding the message to many, a true viral campaign would consist of a small group of people converting others to the cause, thereby causing the idea to spread. Then again, maybe I’m the one who is wrong. Just my pov.

  • Jeh

    The headline calling for “Ron Paul Spammers” was totally tongue in cheek! It was meant as a jab at the mainstream media who continuously say that Ron Paul support on the internet is “just a bunch of spammers”. It was a sarcastic joke, that’s all! Lighten up!

  • Charles Wesley Fowler

    You can’t be serious? How the hell can you figure out how to run a blog and not recognize obvious humor/sarcasm in a headline called “Ron Paul Spammers needed!” that doesn’t in fact ask for any spam, but rather asks people to donate to Paul’s campaign.
    Sir, you are either a fool or a malicious little man.

  • Marc Veroort

    hahahaahaha; this is the dumbest article I’ve read in a long time. This “spammers”-thing is a joke. Ron Paul supporters call themselves spammers now as that’s how the MSM portrays the supporters. So being sarcastic, supporters call themselves “just another spammer”.
    I can’t believe how dumb the author of this article is.

  • This is hillarious…Mr. Paul, you’re now on my spamlist! And I bet it was one of his grandchildren who prompted it….

  • I’m tired of the Ron Paul spam… I don’t even want to hear the guy’s message because of how it keeps being forced onto me… so I discredit it.

  • Kamo Asatryan

    “Buried as inaccurate” – lol if only I could. And your explanation for “How’d they do it?” doesn’t answer the question. Though it may have helped them, the Nov 5th date was certainly not *how* they got 5 million dollars for Ron Paul in 24 hours.

  • I agree totally with your post. I was habitually searching for Ron Paul stories and burying them as I was sick of seeing his name on Digg etc, but even I had begrudging respect for the way his online campaign has been done. That he has managed to raise enough money to start a more mainstream campaign is a fantastic piece of marketing, but it is rather depressing that the same methods that work for porn, viagra and poker now seem to be working for American presidential candidates.
    What does this mean for the future? I predict governments hiring social news submitters to 24/7 help promote their candidate online, so lots more spam. Its already rumored the Pentagon has staff managing its reputation online on such sites. The Ron Paul campaign has shown ow cost effective it can be, and if Ron Paul goes on to win through being the first candidate that uses SEO in his campaign, I can expect SEO companies starting to be approached by more political parties.

  • Political news seems to dominate Digg. That may be apart of the success.

  • It was inevitable that Ron Paul fan’s would just blame his opponents or the establishment. Alex Jones would be proud.

  • This is actually an advertising site? How in the world could anyone mistake that post for anything but humor? You’re taking yourself much too seriously, dude. Perhaps if you sent a hundred or so to the Paul campaign, you’d feel better.

  • The Age of Reason

    Blah blah blah.. the fact is that the Ron Paul campaign, the netroots and grassroots supporting him have done more, and more innovatively, than you could possibly ever dream of doing ..
    Build a bridge Saleem.

  • Wow! this was a brilliant idea.
    lol. Remember, remember, the 5th of November!
    classic. how can you forget that day!?

  • this is only a way to spread spamming techniques.

  • Novembers and Decembers viral campaigns were wild to say the least.

  • Rer Rue

    I am a Ron Paul supporter, i don?Ǭ

  • I hope that Ron Paul wins. Even though im not from the USA.