I was really touched by the “Golden Voice” story, the one of Ted Williams, the panhandling, homeless man with a voice so amazing he not only captured the ears of a videographer from Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, but his story grabbed the ears, eyes and hearts of the entire world.
The Power of Viral
That’s the power of what an emotional story can do. That’s the power of “viral”. When something can touch the emotions, even emotions that leave us in horror (think of the video of the woman throwing puppies into a river a few months ago), we are compelled to share those stories.
Knowing how to integrate across online mediums is crucial to capitalizing on the possibility of something going viral.
The concept of integrating isn’t something that most newspapers do very well and very few TV stations master it. Instead, they view the internet and social communities as the enemy of “their content”. Very few see it as a partner that can help get the eyeballs they desperately need to their websites. If smaller content publishers like newspapers and local television stations are going to survive, embracing cross channel implementation tactics is a must.
Lets just take this “Golden Voice” example and show how the Columbus Dispatch missed out on its “Golden Opportunity” to capitalize from this powerfully viral story.
People Want to Share
Understanding that people want to share your great content is a fundamental concept not just for social media marketing, but for online marketing in general. Whether it’s a funny ad, a podcast, an article, a photo or even a video, as in this case, when it strikes a nerve, people want to share it. If you are a publisher of this content and you don’t give your audience a way to share your content, they will find a way to do that themselves.
Ted Williams’ story first appeared on the Columbus Dispatch‘s website. A screen shot of the page that the original video was placed inside shows that the Dispatch’s site doesn’t allow for share, embedding or even giving instructions on how to link to the very compelling video that just screams (or perhaps silkily says) “Share Me Now!” There’s not one way to share this compelling content easily. Not one button to share this on Facebook, not a way to Tweet out the presence of this video, heck … there’s not even the old stalwart “mail to a friend”. This is a huge “golden” opportunity missed.
It’s not just because all of those ways of sharing easily aren’t there that make this is a missed opportunity. Dispatch missed the opportunity to have their video that they produced, their story that they are responsible for finding, go viral on their site and be able to capitalize on that by leading their viewers and readers to more stories about Ted Williams’ story as it unfolds.
How and why did this happen?
The video that went viral**, that had over 4 million views on Tuesday January 4th, and by Thursday January 6th had over 12 million views, wasn’t on the Dispatch’s website. Someone wanted to make sure it was easy to access so they “ripped” it and placed it on YouTube where it could be very easily shared across all possible channels, platforms and mediums.
** Note at the time of writing this piece the video was still live on YouTube, the Dispatch has since claimed copyright on this piece and had YouTube remove it. (This shows yet another missed opportunity by the Dispatch. The video gave complete credit to them, and had their URL on it. Try and find this video on their site by easily searching you can’t. Also now think of all those YouTube “shares” across the web not working and getting the story out. As I stated before, newspapers treat social media sites as their enemies, not content partners.)
Integrating, Sharing & Giving Up Control
So who’s really benefiting now from Ted William’s story? MSNBC and the NBC properties like the Today show are. Why? Because you can embed their touching stories, like Ted Williams reuniting with his mother, on another site, just as I’m demonstrating below. People are sharing it on Facebook, Tweeting these videos and embedding them into their blogs. People are able to easily share NBC’s content and they are likely benefiting immensely from the compelling pieces of content.
The beauty of what NBC is doing here, is allowing me to share content I find valuable with an audience who I know will care and share. Along with that, they give teasing “leaders” to come back to NBC for more on the story. It gives the viewer a reason to come back to NBC’s site and it’s very clear NBC’ owns the content (not mine). But, I got to share it, and at the end of the day, sharing is what I do (just like anyone else on the internet who’s actively reading and engaging).
Embracing Integration is Key
There’s a lot more missed opportunities – from optimizing the video titles, making sure the content is focused around “Golden Voice” rather than “panhandler” or “homeless man” – that are also missed opportunities by this content publisher. Not keeping an eye on trends around your stories that go viral is foolish for any publisher (media, newspaper or TV station) just as much as not being able to adapt your content to those trends. Thinking that you’ve “named” the story, and that’s what it’s going to live and die by, is even more foolish. Not adapting your content to how your audience is referring to it can also lead to other missed “golden opportunities”
Understanding that your audience uses more than just your site to find and share information is an important concept that newspapers and television stations need to embrace. Giving up a little control could lead to being able to capitalize on “Golden Opportunities” like Ted Williams’ story.