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HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

There are two things we can learn from our favorite Russian Czar: it’s awesome being rich and miniature giraffes can help sell a lot of DirecTV. After the meteoric rise of DirecTV’s Russian billionaire and his petite giraffe DirecTV created Sokoblovsky Farms, a family owned lap giraffe breeding company that generated over 2,000,000 shares on Twitter and Facebook.

So how did DirecTV double their earned media by building on the success of their initial viral video “Opulence, I has it”?  Read on to learn what DirecTV did and what all online marketers can do to maximize their earned media after they’ve launched their viral video.

Identify and understand your video’s viral driver(s).

HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

It was evident to DirecTV that the giraffe was their key viral driver – but WHY was the giraffe a key driver? By reviewing their website analytics and deep diving into social media chatter Direct TV discovered that their lap giraffe’s viral power stemmed from a fascination over its mere existence. All across the web people scrambled to discover whether or not petite lap giraffes were real and whether or not they could buy one.

By listening to their audience DirectTV was able to identify their video’s key viral driver (the giraffe) as well as what made that driver viral (the miniature giraffe’s origins). Once DirecTV had answered those two questions they were able to maximize their earned media by creating a sub-campaign around their much beloved giraffe.


Build a world around your video’s viral driver(s) and use social media as that world’s foundation.

HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

Viral videos often start as one-dimensional gimmicks; dancing babies, kittens, miniature giraffes, etc. Adding depth and detail to your initial viral video you can transform your one-dimensional concept into a two-dimensional world that your audience can own, shape and grow for you. In other words your customers become the channel via the world you’ve created for them. That’s the very definition of earned media.

In DirecTV’s case, once people had turned their attention toward the potential existence of a miniature giraffe they cleverly created a world for the giraffes to live in so their audience could engage with them. That world was Sokoblovsky Farms, a world where miniature giraffes have real-life origins, documented feeding habits and an affinity for children. By creating this factitious yet detailed world for their audience, DirecTV was able to cost-effectively build off of their original viral video content and create even more earned media.

Once DirecTV had created the world of Skoblovsky Farms, they expanded that world and provided access to it by building upon social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.  Remember: every social media channel you leverage provides gives you audience another avenue way to create earned media.


Make sure every social media channel you use adds something new to the world you’ve created.

HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

You should never establish a presence on a social platform just for the sake of having a presence.  What reason does your audience have to jump from a Twitter account, to a Facebook page to a website if all they find nothing new or valuable from one platform to the next?

The purpose of leveraging multiple social channels isn’t to create a bigger microphone, it’s about motivating your audience to explore the world you’ve created for them.  For example, DirecTV brilliantly created a fake webcam feed to show the petite lap giraffe in action – an element unique to their website. Jump to their Facebook page and you find photos of lap giraffes and their owners. Head over to their Twitter page and you’ll see humorous Tweets found neither on Facebook or their website.

If you’re not giving your audience something new from channel to channel, then you give them no reason to engage with, share or create media on your behalf.


Give your audience the tools they need to create earned media.

HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

Don’t rely solely on the sharing mechanisms built into the social channels you’re using. All of your social media channels should include a unique mechanism that encourages or allows your audience to create earned media.  Provide tools and unique mechanisms such as apps, “Like” to access unique content, contests, etc. By incorporating sharing mechanisms into the core experience, it’s much more likely that your audience will create/share media.

DirecTV cleverly tapped into the social media chatter (everyone was saying “I want one!”) and used their website and social channels to “sell” miniature giraffes. A simple click of the button shared shared the visitors purchasing desire on Twitter and Facebook. This quick, easy and experiential mechanism resulted in millions of posts on Twitter and Facebook.


Remember to keep your brand in the background and your viral driver(s) in the foreground

HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

No one likes being sold to. The more you force your brand upon your audience the less likely they are to engage in the world you’ve created for them, thereby decreasing the likelihood that they’ll create new media on your behalf.  DirecTV did an amazing job keeping their brand in the background and their star (the giraffe) in the foreground. I had absolutely no idea that Sokoblovsky Farms was a product of DirecTV. Their brand subtlety resulted in me engaging with their website for over 30 minutes, me creating earned media for them on Facebook as well as Twitter and me remembering the DirecTV brand because I had pro-actively searched to find the origin/creators of the website.

It’s not that your brand or product shouldn’t or can’t be part of your campaign, but keeping them in the background keeps the focus on what’s actually generating your earned media – the viral driver(s).



HOW TO: Build on the success of your viral video

Direct TV’s “Sokoblovsky Farms” serves as a great case study for ways in which online marketers can continue generating earned media by building on top of their initial viral video success. Remember to keep in mind that a successful viral video only sets the stage for the chance to gain more earned media; it doesn’t guarantee it. Success is dependent on creativity and a solid execution.

Thanks to a creative concept and a great execution DirecTV was able to create a mini viral campaign based off of a commercial that was part of their larger paid media campaign. In the end they were able to garner over 1.2 million miniature giraffe requests on , had over a million shares on Facebook and received a massive boost in brand buzz.

Want some other examples of how the five principles above have been applied to other campaigns? Check out Evian’s baby t-shirts, Old Spice’s Old Spice Guy video responses or Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in The World social media one-liners.

You may also be interested in these other posts:

  1. Coke Happiness Machine Will Be Viral Video Succes
  2. Social Media Business Card 2011
  3. PR Camp Atlanta Social Media Takeaways
  4. Landing a Job At Google: Matthew Epstein’s Journey
  5. The cutest kitten on youtube. Ever.
  • Hey M-E, I admire you (in a total non-Se7en creepy way!) for making this concept come to life and how to utilize this for ongoing advertising by analyzing what was the surprise spit ‘shine’ on the campaign. My question is, your own viral success hung by your very own whiskers but the big ta-da was going clean cut when landing your dream job. Is that to say, you’re not going to beat a dead horse and BUILD on your own success because the mustache love was not a surprise (to you) but intended hero of your Google Job campaign and therefore should be retired but if it was unintentional — you’d've kept it going?

    Raven Howard

    September 12, 2011

  • Opulence, I has it. I love those giraffe commercials.

    Epic Win

    August 12, 2011

  • Great analysis. Digital smarts, you has it.


    August 9, 2011

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