How to Bust Cheats in Viral Video

cheatWhat’s the fine line between marketing your video and cheating? Comotion Group cofounder Dan Ackerman Greenberg certainly dances along that gray area between marketing and cheating. In this self aggrandizing article on TechCrunch, Greenberg boasts about how he’s getting clients views (thanks to InsideVideo for helping me find this one).

His techniques fall into three areas:

  1. Basic advice: being careful about tagging, titling and thumbnails.
  2. Interesting techniques: Greenberg encourages clients to release all videos at once instead of batching them. I agree, and hadn’t considered that there’s really no benefit to pulsing them in intervals. Greenberg claims to have created what he calls “rabbit holes,” where he provides unique tags so that his other videos appear in the “related video” section.
  3. Cheating: Greenberg encourages “fake titles,” and uses puppet accounts to create controversy in the comments so that the video gets ranked high in “most commented.” These set false expectations and typically piss viewers off.

I’d caution clients when dealing with promoters who use deceptive means to drive views because it points to a lack of ethics. So I’d wonder if the reported views are, in fact, real. It’s fairly easy to create autobots that drive false video views, and most clients aren’t savvy enough to double check reported views (some agencies take liberties with the data they provide). That doesn’t do anything for the product or service, and gives the marketer a false sense of success.

How to Bust “Cheats”

  1. It’s a good idea to have some ways of tracking impact beyond views. This means looking at conversions (clicks to website after watching video) or brand recall (through Dynamic Logic or similar studies).
  2. The conversion rate from a video to a site is very low, but if a video spikes to 100,000 views and fewer than a hundred people visit your site I’d suspect foul play. Especially if the URL is in the description tag and there’s a good reason to visit.
  3. Watch out if your video has excessive views but very few comments. If the ratio of views to comments is atypical then the views may not be real. My videos range from 10-30,000 views and I get 200-300 comments on average. That’s about 1 in 100 making a comment, which is a fairly typical number. Naturally this ratio varies based on the content and where the video is seen (my regular subscribers are more likely to comment than those viewing a video on a homepage).
  4. There aren’t yet good techniques to determine if a video has been played in its entirety and this is quite important. Most videos aren’t completed, but most online-video sites count a “view” if the viewer watches at least 15 seconds. As a YouTube partner I have “autoplay” on my channel page, which drives significant views but limited interaction.
  5. If your agency is providing you with feedback or verbatims from the comments (like “that was the best video I’ve ever seen”) you may want to check the username to see when the account was created and what other activity that individual has. A sock puppet account usually has few views, no videos of his own, and a fairly incomplete profile.

24 Replies to “How to Bust Cheats in Viral Video”

  1. I have realized why I will never succeed with online videos. I don’t have the attention span or interest to even try to cheat.

  2. Too bad people don’t want to grind their asses and mortgage all their personal relationships to hone their craft, becoming the penultimate video hero like this guy (see link). This guy is your role model. He put out 62 videos! 62! Most of them are POST fame, true, but still….

  3. Nalts, I’m interested in the philosophy of “releasing all videos at once as opposed to batching them”. We (Rhett&Link) did a Viral video experiment last year called the Viral Boom, where we made 24 videos in 24 hours, releasing one on the hour every hour. Even though we did this when we had less than 1000 Youtube subscribers, we felt that some of the videos got lost in the mix (there were some breakouts…).

    In thinking about doing a Viral Boom 2, we thought we would make all the videos in a 24 hour period (including a live broadcast of the process), then release one video every week for 24 days…

    But, your post is causing me to question that strategy. You say you agree with Greenburg’s perspective…what’s your reasoning?

    Or, am I misunderstanding what you mean by batching?


  4. marquis,ArtieTSMITW is hilarious! Im not at all surprised he landed a small role in a film,if that doesnt work out,i think he would be great in radio also.

  5. My long-range prediction: He’ll be president of the United States in 24 years (Artie). I’m right. You’ll see. I’ll bet a thousand dollars on it. I want my Chance Gardner Long Range Prognostication Award now, though.

  6. There is a burgeoning new nitch for someone who will take your videos and do all the work for you. It’s the part I find hardest to deal with. You have to be a real self starter when it comes to promoting your own videos.

    Then there’s the LCD monkey factor. How long can someone act like a monkey before it gets old and/or you make it? And if you make it do you have anything else to offer; one trick pony. Talent? Insight? And do talent or insight even matter anymore? I suppose it’s about preparing a path for future opportunities, what ever those may be.

    I admit I do like ArTie, mostly because I thought he was enjoying what he did, was clever and gave it his all. This other guy Marque linked just made me want to scratch my eyes out and rip you tube off my computer. Maybe I’m getting old or it’s the after effects of the turkey.

    In the above post Kevin brings up the “pros” stepping into the on-line world and I think he’s correct in saying that those who, like Nalts, have notoriety will have to kick it up a notch to keep the eyeballs and move on to the next stage, if not because of the competition, just the over saturation of what is available. Of course consistency helps.

    Someone told me a few days ago they believe you tube has peaked. I don’t know if I agree with that, but it is reaching to becomes more like TV, more comfortable, more familiar to the masses. If that is the future of on-line video I wouldn’t mind starting a site called, My Own I have a schematic for this million dollar idea if anyone is interested and has capital πŸ˜‰

  7. Hahaha! The guy who makes you want to hahaha scratch your eyeballs out is the past, present and future of Youtube. He is the demographic. He’s basically a younger Artie with better technical skills. He’ll probably end up a U.S. Senator like Bluto.

    Artie will team up with zefrank, littleloca and lonelygirl to do a pilot about 4 Youtube stars who go to Hollywood to become famous. Whackiness ensues, but the show isn’t picked up when the nation is distracted by a space station cancer ward sitcom starring Chris Crocker and a new hip hop rapper named Dollar Fitty Nine.

    Renetto said recently that Youtube has peaked. Maybe he was really talking about himself. He’s NOT the demographic. He’s WAY too old to be cool to the Clearasil kids who REALLy run the Tube.

  8. Things are changing wait till February 2009. There’s room to grow and develop, even for old folks like you marquis πŸ˜‰
    Like I said I have a billion $ idea!

    Renetto hasn’t developed, his in your face shtick is getting old like Geraldo. He’s not diversified in his talents. If he’s not making an ass of himself, saying something stupid or overtly saccharine his numbers fall, and that’s limited; starts to look like reruns. In the beginning he was interesting because the average guy on you tube was interesting, it was “Hey, I can do that, but it’s a little scary, let’s see what this guy’s gonna do.” It’s not scary anymore, look at all the people doing it! Some much better than Renetto. Renetto had to make himself bigger than life, he did that by giving the impression he had his foot in the door at you tube. Well, that hasn’t panned out for all the average Joes looking to get paid. His balloon is deflating, no one is talking about him any more. I haven’t seen him on the most watched list in a long time. He has to come up with something new soon or the Oprahs will crush him.

    In this ADHD world you have to come up with something different, edgy, experimental and see what clicks if you want to stay relevant aka on top. It’s like that Ep on the Simpsons, “I didn’t do it!” Wears out fast. Have to find a way to make that transition and grow or have something that allows you to be consistent and topical like What The Buck.

    Ze Frank had it going, but who here could keep that pace alone indefinitely’? Actors get paid big bucks for that kind of work And, they have writers. But, it looks like he’s back, at least part time and for a little while. I think it would be hard for anyone who was devoted that long to walk away completely. He’s not as edgy now, but still using what worked best for him, which keeps him relevant. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t picture him doing a sitcom; reading other peoples words with out full creative control. The others you mentioned I could.

    I’m interested to see what Kevin does, because his style is different, more spontaneous, yet he also takes a very active roll in the community. I wonder what this “quality over quantity” means for “Nalts'”? Let’s watch and fine out πŸ˜‰

Comments are closed.