12 Million Videos for Mom

That’s the current count for the viral success of US NGO MomsRising.org’s Mom of the Year Video launched earlier this month. Leveraging great production value and clever customization that features Byonce, Brad Pitt and President Obama, this overwhelmingly successful viral campaign lets anyone give their own mother the nod for Mom of the Year in a television style “news” clip.

How did they do it when most non-profit videos fizzle out after a few thousand views?

Smart strategy, a lot of research and planning, emulating the success of others, a lot of hard grinding work, and of course a little luck thrown in.

Roz is an online organizing and social media strategist, and she also happens to be the mastermind behind this year’s Social Tech Training agenda, and a Web of Change alumni. As part of our ongoing thought and action leaders interviews, we find out her secrets from MomsRising and more.

(Kori Brus) What did you hope to accomplish with the video? Were you expecting it to reach out as it has?

(Roz Lemieux) The goal of producing the video was simple: grow the list. You can never count on a video (or anything) going viral. We knew we wanted to produce something that had a good chance at pass-along, that would be partnership-friendly, and that would leverage Mother's Day. Joan Blades (co-founder of MoveOn and MomsRising) had the inspiration for the video, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner (co-founder, ED) had the vision to invest in producing it, and the rest of the team pitched in with ideas, and then again around outreach. All in, it was a team success.

What was the inspiration for the piece?

The inspiration actually began with the hard data. We knew from prior research that the major list growth for MomsRising occurred through partnerships and that their biggest day of the year was Mother’s Day. We wanted to come up with something that leveraged those strengths and offered the organization a real chance for growth. We felt the video had the best chance for success, both in content, and as a meaningful offering that partners could pass on to their lists.

As for the creative inspiration, MoveOn’s election-year customizable video was one of the huge hits of 2008 and that provided the foundation for our Mom of the Year video. We hired the same firm that helped out MoveOn, and many members of our staff helped contribute the creative flair and the hooks. My contribution was the tattoo guy.

Many organizations feel that they don’t know how to get online content into the public’s hands. What was the key in the video going viral?

We minimized the MomsRising branding to make other people and organizations feel at ease with participating in the campaign. The outreach plan itself included more than 30 organizations who agreed to send it to their lists. And when partners did send it on, they were included in the email opt in. It was win-win. Both MomsRising and our partners could benefit from the list growth, and both could feel good about taking part in a positive message. We were intentionally inclusive. An intensive blogger outreach was also part of our plan, and we did personal contact to key people in the “mommy bloggers” community. We also used our Twitter and Facebook channels.

What are the key things that organizations need to do to leverage the success of a successful viral campaign?

The trick is to always convert the influx of new people (email addresses) into a real, engaged supporters. To that end, MomsRising started emailing them right away, being conscious about bridging their experience with the video to the core mission of MomsRising. In general, how fully is the success of viral campaigns like this one capitalized on for longer term fundraising and list growth? It’s true in a case like this where the list grows exponentially through a mechanism that is content-light, there will be drop-off of new members and likely a lower response rate than among members who came in through a focused action alert. However, I don't need to tell any organization with an online presence how valuable an exponentially larger list is for organizing, even if it is marginally less responsive than one built slowly through higher asks.

Is there a follow up plan?

MomsRising already has engaged the new members, and it's key they were communicated with right away. In the first week, we tested a number of different messages to new members and then sent the one that they responded to best to the full list. We are further taking the opportunity to look at what series of communications works best at engaging them over time as activists and donors. As should always be the case, testing will determine the best approach forward with the new supporters.

Roz Lemieux is the co-founder of Fission Strategy, the creator of this year’s STT agenda, and a Web of Change alumni. Learn more about her work at http://fissionstrategy.com