Ask any social media guru and they will tell you that video is a crucial component to any social media strategy. It is a familiar medium that is easily accessible and can tell a compelling story or send a powerful emotional message in 30 seconds. It also costs substantially less now to create a web video than it did even a few years ago.
But the real prize – the holy grail in the YouTube era – is to go viral. Campaigns and brands alike ask: how can I get 100,000 views? A million? No matter the industry, many covet that one clip that will give them at least a few minutes of Internet (and maybe even real life) fame.
31-year old Democratic congressional candidate Ryan Combe certainly managed to hit that mark a few weeks ago with this campaign video:
The video made a splash on the Internet: more than 126,000 views and the spot was featured on Politico, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, CNN and other big sites. Even earned Mr. Combe a spot on MSNBC. The Ryan Combe campaign had a hit on his hands! Nothing could stop him….
Except the voters of U.S. Congressional District 1. Combe lost.
So, probably the first (and most obvious) lesson here is that social media and viral videos won’t save a campaign. Only the support of voters backed up by tireless volunteers mobilizing your support will do that.
But secondly, what is the point of a viral video on a campaign if it doesn’t do anything to aide your bid to be elected? Fair enough, the video was humorous and folks clearly thought it was worth sharing. But here’s what it didn’t do:
- Tell us anything about Ryan Combe or his candidacy
- Identify Ryan Combe as the young man in the video
- Tell us how to vote for Ryan Combe
I suppose it did make people across the U.S. feel good about being a Democrat. In Utah. Obviously the spot didn’t make enough people feel good about voting for Mr. Combe, though. I’m sure it did one thing: make Combe a bit of a celebrity within his own Party. He may even keynote a convention or something. Maybe he’ll be able to advise campaigns on “How YOU Can Make A Viral Video (In 4 Easy Steps)”.
But I hope at least one of those steps is: make sure you tie your video to your message and a direct call to action. If you have 126,000 eyeballs – even if they can’t vote for you – make sure they have the opportunity to do something else to help you. If the Combe campaign had an inkling that the video might take off, he could have capitalized on the possibility with a unique URL, Facebook Page or other site (promoted in the video) that directed viewers to a place where they could easily donate or otherwise assist the campaign.
In other words, it’s not about the views, it’s about what you do with those views.
Could YouTube have won the day for Mr. Combe? Probably not. But at least it would have powered the campaign a little bit further, buttressing other efforts. And in most campaigns, every little bit helps.