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Shady Secrets of Going Viral on YouTube

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Remember when we wrote jokingly about how to “Master Viral Video Advertising in 3 Easy Steps,” concluding that there wasn’t any such simple formula?

Well, a Stanford graduate student named Dan Ackerman Greenberg has a different take, but it’s not pretty. In a guest article for TechCrunch Ackerman Greenberg claims to have “achieved” over 20 million views on YouTube for his unnamed clients, including a Hollywood movie studio, over the last three months. But his techniques include writing fake sensational titles and creating controversy by having arguments in the comments of a video using multiple YouTube accounts.

The post has attracted an unusually large number of comments, Diggs, and most likely page views — in what many commenters grudgingly recognize as fulfillment of Ackerman Greenberg’s premise. We’ve written before about how permissive YouTube has been about its users’ methods of generating video views — which also benefit the advertising-driven site. It would be interesting to see what YouTube can and will do to prevent subversive gaming tactics like Ackerman Greenberg’s.

13 Responses to “Shady Secrets of Going Viral on YouTube”

  1. Dan, re: “It makes me sad to see people question my moral fiber like that.”

    There’s not much really to question, is there? Since you are in it for the money (clearly), you should enjoy the dollars you are probably making off it. If you are more interested in being able to hold your head up high and have pride in the work you do, well, you certainly need to find some new tactics that have a bit more honesty in them, don’t you?

  2. This really doesn’t come as a surprise at all. This is what marketeres and PR people do, they create a story and excitement where their isn’t one.

    As long as companies wan’t to sell a product there will (and should be) companies that will help optimize this as inexpensively as possible.

  3. “see what YouTube can and will do to prevent subversive gaming tactics”

    The only thing subverted here is some utopian ideal of some qualitative notion of “best” content rising to the top. YouTube (or TechMeme or Digg or whatever else) hasn’t been “pure” in that manner for a long time. Whether it’s money or SEO or contacts or friends w/ blogs, “organic” growth has been “stimulated” with external triggers for a long time. That article just makes it seem a little more mercenary in nature, but in reality some form of that is going on with a huge percentage of popular stuff on all the content aggregation sites.

  4. Dan, I also don’t see what the big deal is. What you’re doing (what you blogged about on Techcrunch) is a waste of time unless you’re getting paid for views as you were.

    Otherwise, getting a crap load of views is really pointless unless it feeds your ego or you’re driving traffic to a porn site.

    I’d be willing to see you do a follow up though that explains exactly how to monetize getting a ton of views or going viral. Would you do that? I’d give you my blog to do it if you wish, unedited. [email protected] jim

  5. As someone who works in PR, I find it quite distressing that things like spamming emails, comments and forums are seen as “strategic techniques” or even as acceptable.

    Just because these practices happen elsewhere doesn’t mean they’re best practices. This is glorified spamming.

  6. Yes, it does indeed look like I’ve stirred up a lot of pent up feelings about truth in advertising on the internet. Really all I’ve done is pull back the curtain on a lot of strategic techniques used by a lot of different marketers online, YouTube and beyond. Given the comments on TC, it looks like ignorance was bliss for a lot of people. Sorry to burst that bubble. But now that the secrets our out, maybe I’ve leveled the playing field to the point where creativity really will reign again.

    Honestly, had I known how harshly everyone was going to respond, I probably wouldn’t have posted. It makes me sad to see people question my moral fiber like that.


  7. I noticed that comment, but if it was there it seems to be deleted from his LinkedIn profile now.

    Oho, but it’s still in the cache:

    “The Comotion Group is a new media marketing and consulting company founded and operated by myself and my business partner Matt Monahan. We help brands establish themselves inside of new media channels (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace…) by creating and marketing viral video campaigns, and conceptualizing and developing engaging Facebook applications.

    Since June ’07, we have achieved over 20 million video views for our clients on YouTube and beyond.

    Notable clients include: 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros Records, Fox Atomic, Walden Media, Yari Film Group, Nike, Oakley….”

  8. from a TC post posted by another user:


    November 22nd, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    From LinkedIn:

    Notable clients include: 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros Records, Fox Atomic, Walden Media, Yari Film Group, Nike, Oakley, …