* This post was written in 2012 when the video was first released but the principles of what made it great still apply today!
This is a fantastic video that hit the interwebs last week. I saw it on Friday after several Facebook posts and it had 500 hits. The next day it had 500,000, then 1.5 million and today it has 10,650,857 views (there are now over 29,000,000 views – the success of this video is still ongoing). This doesn’t count the vimeo upload or the reuploaded (stolen) views like the one I’m about to show. There are several lessons in here I want to share.
1. People steal good content. This video was copied and reposted on multiple channels on YouTube by people other than the couple that created it. It just happens and there are only a few deterrents to it. Interestingly I was at conference and a guy said he made $25,000 last year suing people who stole his images, and he is a Realtor, not a photographer.
2. Epic content trumps bad technique. Some of the titles of the stolen video are much better than the original which explains why some of them had even more hits than the original. One friend said he didn’t click on original video because he didn’t know what a Lip-Dub was. The title was a bit too clever if they were really trying to make this viral, it could have hurt if it wasn’t epic. Of course it might have been a little too pompous if he called his own video “The Best Marriage Proposal,” but Amy could have uploaded it and called it that.
3. Sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. My first thought as this ran, because this is how my mind works, is that if the record studio or artist sees this they can file a copyright claim and all sound will be stripped out. I think YouTube might even have an automatic service for this. In this case Bruno Mars and Elektra Records were more than happy to see this video. Just be careful with stealing. Are you doing something amazing like this or just ripping someone off?
4. Tell a story. The video would have been great with just the one camera shot, but they added a second camera so that we can see Amy’s face and reaction. For me, hearing her joy and laughter makes the video for me. I’m a sucker for laughing. We’re not just watching a dance number; it’s a story of a proposal that we feel and we are riding in the back of a car enjoying the journey with Amy.
5. Haters are going to hate. I am always surprised when I see this but there are 1,552 “dislikes” on this video. I have never seen a video without “dislikes” nor have I seen a video, even the one that was just a shot of a mayo jar for three minutes, without a “like”. It’s just weird. Ignore the fringe people. There were also people who called “fake” and “just knew” it was an advertisement for Honda because the description mentions she is sitting in the back of a Honda CRV. These people exist. Just understand that.
6. Build your network before you need it. Could you get 60+ people to rehearse for who knows how long and then show up to perform? If you can’t you, should build up your network so you can do awesome things like this, or be a part of awesome things. Everyone who is in that video is loving that they were a part of this momentous occasion.
7. Produce the content you want to be known for. The lady that stole the video has 97,000 hits but 7 subscribers. She has gained nothing but my scorn. With 10.5 million hits, Isaac’s Twitter account only has 357 followers. So many people said it brought them to tears, so it touched them but it was a one shot, not enough to follow after that. Producing a blog post or video just to get hits but it doesn’t resonate with your brand or draw is just wasted time.
8. Getting the right people to notice is key. Portland is a pretty well wired town. I know of at least three people who knew someone in the video but didn’t know Isaac and Amy. So it passed around Facebook quickly in my circle. What will be interesting to see is that they are both actors and there will be some executive who will likely want to take advantage of the popularity. These actors and singers were giving praise, showing how far the reach got; Dana Delaney, Cobie Caillat, Elijah Wood, Ann Curry, and some others I don’t recognize.
9. Use YouTube for your videos. YouTube passed Yahoo as the world’s #2 search engine in 2008 and accounts for a hefty chunk of Google’s searches. Their YouTube video has10,700,000 hits and 16,626 comments and their Vimeo has2,475,000 views and 398 comments. I’m pretty sure they were loaded close to the same time. We moved a client from Vimeo to YouTube and it made all of the difference. You can use both but I rarely see Vimeo videos in search results.
10. Your video or blog doesn’t have to be perfect. This is a hand held camera. So many people skip making videos or writing blogs because something isn’t perfect. Blair Witch Project made millions. Instagram makes pictures look old and sold for a billion dollars. If you are producing good quality it takes care of everything else. But good technique doesn’t take care of bad quality. Just look at any movie with big stars and big explosions but a horrible script.
Bonus lesson – Ten years ago it would have taken years for this video to be seen by the same millions that have seen it online. And all of those people wouldn’t have been able to give their congratulations to the happy couple. CNN is getting 417,000 viewers on average in the evening. Without social media that video wouldn’t have gone as far as fast. While Isaac didn’t “push” this, his network did and the content was good enough, well actually, epic enough.
And as a single guy, sitting there watching it with my girlfriend, I found myself, in a Seinfeld voice when he was annoyed with Newman, saying, “Isaac!” (The author is now happily married to that girlfriend!)
Congratulations to the happy couple.