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Social Media Marketing for Small Business Case Study: Viral Video

Social Media Marketing for Small Business Case Study: Viral Video

Posted on 29.04.2010

How does one catch the social wave?

On Friday, April 2nd, 2010, a sailing regatta was held in Vancouver, Canada – the Southern Straits Annual Yacht Race. A severe storm hit the event resulting in numerous disasters, eventually forcing the event’s cancellation. The story went nation-wide and was written about in newspapers across Canada, as well as on sailing blogs and in magazines across North America. Guess what? There were cameras on several boats, and within days dozens of videos hit YouTube; the captured action went viral. But how can we leverage such a phenomenon for small business marketing needs?

Viral marketing seeks to encourage the redistribution of a company’s message and drive sales through existing social networks. Referral programs, multi-level marketing and even Ponzi schemes are all examples of early viral marketing campaigns. Although the term is now becoming an over-used clich√©, it is still an excellent description of what makes social media marketing work. Here’s a recent example of a viral video, along with some examples of how the event could have been exploited by a small business, had there been some foresight and planning.

A video from on-board Astral Plane – a J/109 from The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club – very quickly accumulated over 16,000 views. At the time of writing this article, that video has grown to 29,724 views, which over the past 3 weeks, is an average of over 1,000 views per day. The video was picked up by a local broadcaster and shown on the evening news, embedded on dozens of sailing sites, blogs, virally shared on Facebook, Twitter and sailing forums.


There are two options of how such an event, like the Southern Straits Annual Yacht Race, could have been leveraged. Each has inherent risks balanced against benefits, but both would require some foresight and planning.


Generating content that is proprietary, gives your business the benefit of controlling how and where that content will be published. However, this will require a small investment of time, money and resources, which is where the risk lies.

Here are the steps:

  1. A yachting business sponsors a boat in the event, and makes arrangements to supply cameras or place a media-person. Sponsorship logos are placed on the boat, in positions were the on-board camera is likely to capture them.
  2. The original video content is edited to include logos, web-links and a call to action for viewers to follow-through on.
  3. The video is seeded to the business’s social networks allowing it to be redistributed, much the same way that the Astral Plane video was. See my post on cross-pollination for more details.


Crowd-sourcing is when we take a task traditionally performed by a staff-member or contractor and we assign that task to the public through an open call. In this case, plenty of cameras were already out that day, filming the action, but how do we harness them?

  1. Prior to the event, a yachting business distributes an open call, via its social networks and client list, for photos and videos. An incentive is included with the open call – for example gift-certificates or a prize-drawing, to encourage participation.
  2. The videos are collected, at which point they are manipulated with logos, published to YouTube and then cross-pollinated.
  3. Optionally, participants are instructed to post their videos and other content to the business’s Facebook Fan Page as part of the eligibility requirements of the contest. Top videos can be downloaded and assembled into a highlight reel, then published to YouTube with logos and a call to action.

The lesson to be learned from the Astral Plane video is that content and its distribution will happen with or without you. If an event is significant enough, that it will garner on-line interest in the aftermath, then that content will have the potential for wide-spread distribution. As a business, you want to jump on that wave before it takes off so that you can inject your brand, communicate your message, and encourage traffic back to your website. Including a call to action and redirecting traffic to your conversion site, is ultimately how viral content will translate into leads and eventually sales.

If your business has an up-coming event, and you’d like assistance in applying any of these strategies, please contact us, and we’d be happy to put together a package to suit your needs as well as your budget.