we need a vaccine for viral marketing

When social media first started out, it was like the clouds parted & little digital angels started singing for me. I saw all the possibilities of reaching mass amounts of people in a much more personal way. I thought we could push the boundaries of para-social relations with celebrities really becoming our friends & companies having real voices. 

No doubt about it, I bought it.


But I’m starting to feel like this viral world where everyone is sharing YouTube videos right & left or making cute little games where you turn yourself into an elf & sing songs has become polluted. 

We need a vaccine to protect us from viral marketing.

It’s mutated. 

And I think it’s going to get a whole lot of people sick on this whole social media craze all the kids are talking about. 

What do I mean?

To put it in one word: ethics. 

Oh! Try this one: responsibility. 

Not buzz enough for you? Okay: transparency. 

More companies are engaging in much more questionable social media campaigns then ever before. Like the big Target Rounders scandal my former student Rosie Siman broke last year and this ‘BMW launch across the Atlanticmock-u-mentary

Indeed, it is the latter that got me all spun up this time. This video on CNN brings to light many issues which, quite frankly, damage the credibility of social media:

  • Decreasing our ability to be media literate
  • Creating an extensive ‘Blair Witch’-like backstory 
  • Fake Facebook pages & accepting friends (who may not realize you’re fake in the first place)
  • Creating a 30-minute long fake documentary
  • Waiting for several weeks (after millions of views) to reveal you’re behind the project
Lying on purpose to get stuff in most contexts is a crime. Just ask Anne Hathaway’s ex-boyfriend Raffaello Follieri.
So they have a ton of orders for the car before it ever even hits the streets. Would the car be popular anyway? And what kinda crazy vague metric is that to use as a pointer of success?
Back to the point.
I’m going X Files on you: ‘Trust No One.’ 

3 Responses so far.

  1. Bobby says:

    Today I saw a video I had not seen before, which was passed around on Twitter: http://www.marklivesinikea.com/. A comedian lives in an Ikea for a week and hilarity (read:sales) ensue. Even I, who consider myself media savvy, was lost in the series of Youtube provided videos about Mark and his Ikea journey. Here I was watching a series of Ikea advertisements and not thinking twice about it. As someone who has been in Ikeas in Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia, I recognized the allure of living in one of these micro-worlds. I can’t tell if that it’s so obvious or so well disguised that makes us ignore its role as an advertisement. Or perhaps we forgive it because it’s Ikea and its okay for certain companies to go viral because we like them. No matter what, when we pass around these videos to our friends we should be on our guard that we’re a part of the viral marketing machine.

  2. Chris Paine says:

    Actually, what would be really useful would be the making of viral commercials that actively implement innoculation theory.

  3. ez says:

    Part of the metaphor might include that viruses mutate to defeat whatever mechanisms are built to defeat them. Their advantage is tenacity of attack and relying on complacency of the target.

    I’ve come to accept there are people out there who will use the system for bad. Just remember there is a whole lot of good out there as well. Optimism is more about where we focus our attention.

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