Rainmaking in the Cloud

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD



Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD

The Internet is one of the most powerful information weapons ever created, and it shows us that awesome power occasionally in the “viral” things, the images, messages, and videos that trigger massive waves of response, not only of eyes but also dollars, demonstrating to even the most cynical that one can get a lot out of the World-Wide Web if one can find a way to harness it.

A recent example of this is the ALS (also known as “Lou Gehrig’s” disease) promotion called the “ice bucket” challenge. People poured a bucket of ice water over their heads to promote awareness of this terrible malady. Around $100 million was raised and hundreds of thousands of people doused themselves. This “viral” activity is still resonating through the Web and society as this is being written, with no idea of the meme’s half-life.

What can we take away from this recent and very public example of the power of the Web? It tells us few easy things and raises a few hard questions. The easy things are about promotion itself. Things that are funny/awkward/cute are cool, and getting to do something that shows your friends and others that you are actively participating in some way is a strong incentive. That leads to peer pressure to comply, with the Web as both court of compliance and performance stage for the activity itself.

One of the awkward questions involves that very compliance oversight and rules-keeping. What started as an avoidance penalty (being wet if you don’t donate) became an optional aspect of donation as well, which then morphed into a participate/challenge cycle of donate/douse that expanded as it evolved. That exposes one of the primary weaknesses of any cloud-sourced activity without some kind of oversight; any online group activity will be a victim of mission creep, expansion, and mutation.

How does that help us with our online activities? Can we monetize the Web like that? Will a “viral” campaign take you to the next level? That is of course difficult to predict, and having a program to try and create unique “viral” online activity is akin to spending all your efforts on winning the lottery instead of working towards a raise. Talk about yourself, let your audience share amongst themselves, and in your content give them a reason to share (and make that sharing easy, duh). If you include some call to action, make sure it makes sense and resonates with your target audience.

In the electronics industry there is yet another way to make a lot of money and get a lot of attention, and that’s to build a good product that enhances people’s lives. That sounds like a flip statement, but that is not only more likely to happen with hard work and imagination, it is also a lot easier than waiting for lightning to strike.