InspiroBot: The AI That Fails Upward

A couple years ago, Bob Bly asked, “Can a Computer Write Better Copy Than You?” Maybe it can and maybe it can’t, but the AI InspiroBot can definitely write a weirder motivational poster than you!

A couple years ago, Bob Bly asked, “Can a Computer Write Better Copy Than You?” Maybe it can and maybe it can’t, but the AI InspiroBot can definitely write a weirder motivational poster than you!

InspiroBot is the AI antidote to all those "Keep Calm and Carry On" spoofs.
InspiroBot is the AI antidote to all those “Keep Calm and Carry On” spoofs.

The origins of InspiroBot are a bit of a mystery, but it’s clearly not trying very hard to pass a Turing test. In fact, the bot’s viral brilliance is in precisely the awkward juxtapositions its algorithm accidentally creates.

I got this results from InspiroBot five minutes before writing this post.
I got this nugget from InspiroBot five minutes before writing this post.

Of course, InspiroBot has gone viral, with nearly 11,000 Twitter followers and widespread news coverage across the July 4th weekend. IFLScience! (where Melissa spotted it and sent it my way) and Nerdist both had description stories up last week, and Daily Mail has done a more in-depth story since.

Two things are interesting to me about InspiroBot:

First, it’s an example of how AI doesn’t necessarily have to act convincingly human to be successful. InspiroBot succeeds precisely because it fails at being human-like. And because of that, it does things humans wouldn’t think to do. Those things are entertaining and memorable. That’s an overlooked aspect of AI that could be even more transformative than replacing what humans already do.

Second, sometimes the Internet is a slow burn, and influencers are increasingly important to success. Despite what the Daily Mail article says, InspiroBot is not new. It’s actually been around since 2015. In fact, TechCrunch did a pretty straight-up story on it then, but I don’t remember that seeing this kind of attention. The bot is hot this holiday weekend simply because the right influeners picked it up, and others followed suit. IFLScience!, Nerdist and Daily Mail are all most likely running the story because one of them saw another do it first.

The Internet has a short attention span. Not everything that’s “new” actually needs to be new.

Why the Heineken Video Went Viral

Why is online content shared? To build one’s social standing? Or develop the sharer’s self-image? Those and related questions were answered last week in “10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral” for the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference and Expo. I mentioned the recent Heineken viral video “Worlds Apart.” So today, here are a few reasons why.

How Heineken Went ViralWhy is online content shared? To build one’s social standing? Or develop the sharer’s self-image? Those and related questions were answered last week in “10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral” for the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference and Expo. I mentioned the recent Heineken viral video “Worlds Apart.” So today, here are a few reasons why.

If you missed 10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral last week, you can still watch and listen to it here.

Participants during my session posed some questions about making successful videos. Here is the Q&A, including my thoughts about the Heineken video.

How Do You Find Out What Your Customers Want to See if You Offer a Service?

Whether you offer a service or product, the obvious answer might be to ask your customers. But I’d actually suggest that your customers may prefer to be surprised. That is, avoid the obvious and consider the obscure presentation that no one thought to ask about.

Think about how you can use the news or headlines to create a story. Or perhaps there is an attitude or temperament you want to tap into. The Heineken Worlds Apart video, released on April 20, has had over 11 million views so far. They don’t sell beer. Rather, it’s a commentary about our culture, and that while some people may be worlds apart, they can agree to disagree, and perhaps even soften barriers over a beer. It’s a brilliant video, and at over 4 minutes in length, delivers a strong message that surely strengthens their brand. By the way, this illustrates that under-two-minute videos aren’t the only way to command views.

https://youtu.be/8wYXw4K0A3g

Behind-the-scenes can always be a pleasant surprise. Show how your product is made — or how it is used, out in the wild. Gather testimonials and let the word-of-mouth tell your story in an unexpected way.

If you’re a non-profit, show the outcomes — with real stories — of what you provide, and make sure it’s an emotional tug.

Is an Informal Video Stronger Than a Professional Scripted Video?

Sometimes. It really depends. The Heineken video doesn’t appear to have been scripted, but rather, a lot of footage was shot and it was edited down to create a compelling story that a lot of people have viewed, and perhaps embraced. More important that the video quality is the audio quality. Social media users forgive shaky smartphone videos, but if they can’t discern the audio or if there is distracting, loud background noise, they may not stay with it.

So Green Screen Videos Are Out?

A lot of interesting graphics and text can be used if you have a talking head on video and recorded in front of a green screen. People want to connect emotionally with interesting people, so I would suggest you need the right person to be on camera if you’re shooting in front of a green screen. Also, a green screen allows for simple, controlled, limited lighting in a confined area. In editing, you have options around the environment the speaker is in—and it can change during the video.

You Are What You Share: Why Videos Go Viral

What makes a video go viral? Is it because it includes kids, kittens or puppies? Or is it because there’s something much deeper? If you want your articles or videos to be shared, you must understand why and how your content will reflect on the individual sharing it.

What Makes Your Video Go Viral?For more on how to go viral, don’t miss Gary’s session on the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference, on May 4! Click here to register.

What makes a video go viral? Is it because it includes kids, kittens or puppies? Or is it because there’s something much deeper? If you want your articles or videos to be shared, you must understand why and how your content will reflect on the individual sharing it.

Why Shares Go Viral

Neuroscience and other research studies suggest that for a video to go viral, there are several deep-seated ingredients that must come together.

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania neuroscience research lab team recorded brain activity from participants about how they reacted to New York Times health articles. Brain activity suggests that people have a two-part process to decide what to share on social media, and it all points to how shared articles or videos shape their identity:

  • Social relationships: How sharing an article or video will reflect on you
  • Developing self-image: Will friends be interested in the article or video?

In other words, people share things that they believe will improve their relationships, make them appear smart or, in one way or another, look favorable.

You Are What You Share

The deep dive, on a simple sharing impulse, is that your brain looks for information to share with others. It’s how we’re wired. Additional reasons for shares:

  1. To express who we really are
  2. To convey a sense of our ideal self and aspirations
  3. To nurture relationships

In a New York Times study titled “The Psychology of Sharing: Why Do People Share Online?” six sharing personality types where described:

  1. Altruists: Motivated to bring valuable content to those they care about
  2. Careerists: Focused on developing a strong network of personal and professional contacts.
  3. Hipsters: They like to start a conversation, debate or controversy. They are always looking to connect with like-minded people.
  4. Boomerangs: Motivated primarily by reactions; they like to start a debate and generate comments.
  5. Connectors: For them, they share mutual experiences and including others.
  6. Selectives: Shares information they feel will be of value to a specific person.

This same study found that 68 percent share to define themselves. Eighty-four percent share to support causes or brands that they care about.

In other words, you are what you share. You share to express who you are, deep inside.

Someone Wants to Use Google AdWords as a Weapon

There’s a polarizing website that’s been a big player in the political arena. And there’s a viral campaign that’s trying to use Google AdWords to hurt it.

I’m surprised. I’m shocked. I’m intrigued. And what’s even crazier is, even though I have personal feelings on the issue, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this new activism strategy.

Every day, I and my agency, Eleventy, use Google AdWords to help connect brands and people we believe might be interested. And, because the majority of my day is spent specifically working on nonprofit marketing and fundraising, I am especially appreciative to all that Google has made possible to charities.

So, imagine my surprise when I heard that someone figured out how to weaponize the AdWords network. Here’s the scoop, and the real names have been changed to protect the — well, I’m just not going to provide names.

There is a viral campaign going around right now born from the discomfort people have with a certain online news site. This website seems to polarize many people in the U.S. and has been a big player in the recent political arena. The campaign is trying to use the very basic feedback elements of AdWords to hurt the website.

I’ll keep this short, because this blog is not about how to do this. This new level of what is being called “simple activism” is about having people go to this website where brands have placed their ads. Within the ad feedback loop, which can be accessed by anyone who sees an ad, there is a simple way to provide feedback on the actual website (vs. the ad).

And, because Google is great at being in touch with consumer feedback, it provides various options for why someone might have a problem with a website. Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge):

Google AdWords Weaponized

Now, while the average consumer would typically not use this, the new viral approach is requesting that people do this on purpose and specifically leave feedback that the website promotes racial intolerance and advocates against individuals or groups of people.

The goal is to create enough movement in this area that the website is removed from the AdWords network. And, of course, if a brand is removed from the network, it will also lose advertising revenue.

Even though I know everyone reading this would have an opinion on one side or the other of this social issue, the purpose of this blog is not to weigh in on this activism campaign.

But, as a marketer who leverages the AdWords network every day, this has me very nervous. It will be interesting to see how Google reacts, because this could so quickly create a slippery slope where consumers attempt to censor media. No matter how you lean politically or personally, I’m just not sure this is the way to go about it handling an issue against a website.

If Google were to react to this in the way the activists are pushing, we could quickly see how digital advertising could be used as a weapon against brands directly.

Have an opinion on this? Share it with me in the comments. I’d love to hear if my knee-jerk reaction is common or not.

The Art of Quality Link Building

So much of SEO has changed over the past 20 years. These days, search engine algorithms penalize keyword stuffing and ignore meta keywords, and having a website that displays on mobile devices is arguably more important than desktop performance. As technology evolves, more about SEO will continue to evolve. But the importance of links hasn’t changed.

Link building? What are you, a blacksmith?So much of SEO has changed over the past 20 years. These days, search engine algorithms penalize keyword stuffing and ignore meta keywords, and having a website that displays on mobile devices is arguably more important than desktop performance. As technology evolves, more about SEO will continue to evolve. But the importance of link building hasn’t changed.

While other aspects of SEO either get your website indexed or clarify its relevance, links will determine your website’s reputation and popularity. If your website is linked by trade publications, business partners or scores of customers, then the search engines will view your site in a positive light and increase your rankings. On the other hand, a website with very few inbound links — or, worse, inbound links from spam websites — is more likely to be penalized in favor of more popular competitors.

Remember, a search engine’s worth is its ability to provide users with the content that’s likely to be most relevant to their needs. Trusted, popular websites are most likely to have that content. So if you want to get the most out of SEO, then you’ll need to work on building links.

How Do Search Engines Evaluate Links?

As stated above, not all links are equal. Understanding how search engines evaluate links can help you know which links to pursue. Here are some of the more important link factors:

  • Overall popularity: The most popular websites tend to have the most valuable links. Truly popular websites on regional, state, national or global levels tend to have scores of reputable links and strong social media signals.
  • Topic relevance: Look for links from other businesses, publications and associations that are relevant to your line of work. If you run an auto mechanic business, then you won’t get much value from a link about sporting goods.
  • Spam: The Internet is filled with spam sites that aren’t useful for anyone. Search engine algorithms are continually adjusted to devalue spam links.
  • Relevant anchor text: The text that makes up a contextual hyperlink is referred to as anchor text. If several websites link to a site using the same or similar anchor text, then search engines will be more likely to view the linked site as an authority for that keyword term.

Search engines evaluate all these factors and more when determining link quality. Links from social media are also becoming more important, although SEO experts are divided on exactly how search engines value these links.

How to Get Links

Now that you know what search engines look for, the next step is getting others to link to your site — and this doesn’t need to be a struggle. Here, we’ll review five ways to build a network of reputable links.

  1. Ask Customers and Business Partners
    Your greatest supporters are likely to link to your website if you ask. You can make it easy by giving them badges, logos or icons that link back to your site. Many of your customers won’t have actual websites, but people who have blogs can post about your business and include links (with relevant anchor text for bonus points). You can also ask customers and partners to connect with your business on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.
  2. Start a Blog
    Blogging has several benefits in the world of SEO. At the very least, blogging is an easy way to populate your site with fresh, relevant, local content. Do a good enough job, and customers and business partners will link to your blog and provide you with a wealth of quality links. Don’t limit your blog to writing about what’s happening in your business; write about your industry and your community, or even write seasonal do-it-yourself pieces that appeal to your customers’ needs. Make your blog a valuable resource and others are likely to build your links for you. You can also send your most interesting blog entries to bloggers, trade associations and others who might want to publish your posts with links.
  3. Do Something Special
    Get others to write about your business by doing something special in your community. Host a charitable event, launch a contest or spread the word about an innovative new service, product or technology. Local reporters, bloggers and publicists for political organizations and trade associations are always looking for good stories.
  4. Register With Site Directories
    Take advantage of popular business review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List that allow you to place a link to your website. You should also create a profile in Google My Business. Registering your business with these well-known directories has numerous other SEO benefits in addition to being quick-and-easy links.
  5. Leave Comments
    Commenting on blogs, forums, news articles and other content is a quick way to expand your link network. However, largely as a result of spammers, search engine algorithms have evolved to minimize the value of content links. But while this tactic is less productive than other link-building options, a high volume of content links on quality sites can still positively impact your SEO.

Making Your Video Go Viral

Having your video go viral is every direct marketer’s dream. Imagine your video sales message, reaching your best prospects with them loving it and sharing it with their tribes. Then friends of friends share it, and within days you have hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions of views. You sell a boatload of products and you’re hearing ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching

Having your video go viral is every direct marketer’s dream. Imagine your video sales message, reaching your best prospects with them loving it and sharing it with their tribes. Then friends of friends share it, and within days you have hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions of views. You sell a boatload of products and you’re hearing ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching all the way to the bank. Well, here are five ideas about creating videos that will be watched and perhaps shared.

But first, let’s make this very clear (and you already know this even if the boss or client doesn’t get it):

You can’t MAKE your video go viral.

Only the audience will decide if your video is worthy enough to go viral. For the most part, it’s out of your control.

So clear your brain of this fantasy and come back to reality. You may have to clear the boss’s brain or your client’s brain, too. Your odds of getting struck by lightning may be higher than having your video watched by the masses.

But there are two things you can do to encourage more people to watch your video, and maybe, just maybe, it will be a success for you on a down to earth scale.

Part one, discussed in today’s video, revolves around how you stimulate emotion for your online video, along with introducing you to the amygdala (a-mig’-de-lah)—the lizard brain.

Part two, in our next blog, revolves around how you influence the opportunity for your video to go viral through shared, paid and earned media, to create a ripple effect for distribution of your online video.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

Addendum to our last blog about video viewing on tablets:
The recently released “Adobe 2012 Mobile Consumer” report reveals a bit about the preferred activity of U.S. Tablet users by age. The percentages below reflect the percentage that cites “view videos” as the “most common tablet activity.”

Age 18-29 5.4%
Age 30-49 6.4%
Age 50-64 14.3%

It’s clear that an older age demographic—Baby Boomers, who grew up with television—use their tablets to watch online video at a much higher rate than people under the age of 50. And it’s clear, too, that as consumers discover the ease of video viewing on tablets, more and more will be there to watch your video, too.