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Why Things Go Viral – An ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Case Study

On 22, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Uncategorized | By Daniel Kao

If you haven’t seen your friends do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yet, you’re likely living under a bucket. (pun intended)

The rules for the ALS Ice bucket challenge are simple. Once you are nominated by someone, you have 24 hours to either pour a bucket of ice water over yourself or donate $100 to the ALS Association. After you’ve completed the challenge, you then nominate 3 more people to do the challenge.

The ALS association has raised millions of dollars by putting out this challenge, and could be considered a successful campaign by many definitions.


(a random example off youtube)

In digging a little deeper, however, I began thinking about why the challenge has gotten the attention that it has.

  • The challenge is easy to understand – Anybody can understand how the challenge works by watching almost any other challenge video. The people who conceived of this idea made sure to keep it simple.
  • The challenge is (mostly) entertaining to watch – Who doesn’t like seeing their friends dunked in ice water? Many people have gotten creative with their videos in an attempt to garner more attention and publicity. (Example of one below)
  • The challenge has a quick turnaround time – 24 hours is a very quick turnaround time to force people to not procrastinate. Probably the most vital piece of this whole challenge. The concrete deadline combined with the social and public nature of these videos makes for a very quick spreading movement.
  • The challenge brought awareness to a cause – For those people who are more into raising awareness than providing entertainment, the challenge provides an incentive to help explain a good cause.
  • The challenge has a pyramid scheme structure – By having the ability to nominate 3 people, it creates a pyramid scheme where the challenge spreads exponentially.

Food for thought when designing your next advertising campaign.

And as promised, my vote for my favorite video:

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Making a Presence on the Internet

On 22, May 2014 | No Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

I’ve been on the internet as long as I can remember.

Being a millennial growing up alongside the internet age, there are many things that are hard to imagine about life before such interconnectivity existed. My father would tell me about fax machines and other tools that were widely popular in his youth.

But being a millennial who has grown up knowing nothing but the internet, I’ve learned a great deal about internet publicity by watching all the viral fads pass through as well as platforms that have come and go. The internet is always changing, and what works today probably isn’t going to work tomorrow, and what worked yesterday most likely won’t work today. The only constant to the internet is it’s constant change.

The internet is a place of noise. Thousands of petabytes are being flung around everyday from computer to computer, with almost everyone trying to extend their reach or get more followers and likes. Google Analytics and other analytics tools have risen to help meet the demands of content producers wanting to know what works, and A/B testing to scientifically test two different hypotheses.

I started making websites in 2009, and since then have built various websites, portfolios, platforms, and applications that can be accessed through the little window in your computer. If there’s any trend that I’ve seen in the past five years, it is that people are spending more and more time in their browsers visiting websites than in any other application.

What does this mean for the individual trying to make a presence on the internet? How does one rise above the noise to share their message in a way that attracts the right audience?

Be Clean and Be Clear – In terms of design, almost everyone and anyone can recognize a clean design from a mile away. But having a clean design doesn’t matter if what you’re trying to say isn’t clear to your viewer and clear to yourself. I’ve found myself oftentimes scrolling through a website that looks great, but is filled with content that is overwhelming and unclear as to it’s purpose and why it is unique. Express the one sentence that you want your viewers to take away from visiting your website.

Understand Your Audience and Be Specific – Who are you trying to reach out to? If your answer is everyone, you’re going to have a lot of trouble. Figure out which age group, gender, ethnicity, occupation, location, relationship status, etc that you’re trying to speak to. Having fewer people who loyally care about your content and will evangelize for you is more important than a million email subscribers that receive your emails in their spam folder.

Provide Value – What makes you unique? What makes what you have stand out above the petabytes of noise? How are you better than the next person to the specific group of people that you have deemed your audience? Stick to that and provide the best value that you possibly can. Don’t add to the noise if you have nothing of value to share.

Let Your Community Build Itself – Don’t constantly be the one broadcasting your message. Make it easy for other people to help share your content in an authentic way. Don’t manipulate people to buy into what you have to offer. Let the organic word of mouth help you to get more people in your target demographic to view your content. Pay attention to other people that you can build relationships with to help you out.

Work Your Hardest and Be Patient – Be extremely diligent with your commitments, being consistent with the quality and frequency of content that you share, and don’t expect to be featured in Forbes overnight.

The internet is going to be around for a while, I think it’s about time people learn how to use it.

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Why Fliering is Stupid

On 05, Oct 2012 | No Comments | In Uncategorized | By Daniel Kao

You don’t have to be in college for very long before you get bombarded by millions of fliers you don’t want.

I’ve seen a lot of ineffective practices to try to promote organizations, but handing out fliers to random people on sidewalks is probably the dumbest strategies I’ve seen to date.

  1. It’s frustrating to people who are trying to go somewhere and aren’t looking to join any organizations. Handing them a flier is practically saying, “Here, put this in the recycle bin for me”. It also leads people avoiding fliers to avoid eye contact with people handing out fliers, or pretend to talk on the phone so no one bothers them.
  2. It’s frustrating to people who are handing out fliers because it requires a lot of effort to constantly try to force a flier on people who don’t want it and don’t want to engage in advertisements. Handing out fliers requires a huge amount of effort and most of the time there is little to no response.
  3. It’s completely ineffective because any organization handing out fliers is competing with all the other organizations that are trying to do the same thing. And when each person only hears a sentence from each organization, and only spends two seconds looking at the flier before disposing of it, few people are actually going to come out.

Fliering is a lose-lose situation, because neither the receiving end or giving end benefits from it. If you want people to join your organization, you’re asking them to place themselves into a community of people who are oriented toward a similar purpose. Therefore, building an organization of any sort is heavily dependent on building community. Community requires relationship. There is no way you can build a relationship with a stranger by handing out a flier.

I believe in the value of promoting your organization, but I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at how impractical most college organizations are being.

And enticing people with free food… I’ll save that rant for another day.

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