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In Marketing, Every Week is Shark Week

Insights August 6, 2013

Ever hear the phrase “chumming the waters?” Also commonly referred to as rubby dubby or burlying, chumming is the process of attracting fish or sharks by tossing fish remnants into the water. It’s a technique that’s been around since the invention of the boat, and was used to lure America’s most famous and fictional Great White shark from the 1975 thriller, Jaws.

Bloodthirsty and driven by their keen sense of smell, sharks can pick up a chum trail for miles. With Shark Week in full swing, it’s only natural that us SEO’s try to lead the blood trail back to the topic of effective online marketing. As anyone who has ever watched Shark Week can tell you: it can be both scary and exciting to watch these deadly creatures rise abruptly from the depths to snatch their prey. In marketing, we experience the same rush when an online “shark,” especially one that’s the equivalent of a Great White like Jaws, snatches up our content.

What’s the equivalent of a 25-foot long Great White shark online? Well, that’s a loaded question, but there are a number of things we can look at that help define a monstrous online presence, ranging from readership to the overall quality of a site and the content it produces. Here are a few traits that help differentiate the Great Whites from the goldfish:

· Traffic
· Twitter Following
· Facebook Fans/Subscribers/Friends
· Authorship
· Media Value

A large social following or a site with quality authors and content that garners a lot of attention implies a lot of attention for you as well – should they decide to retweet your article or write a story about your products. The trick is getting that Great White to bite, and it’s not always as easy as tossing a couple buckets of fish blood into the coastal waters of South Carolina.

However, it might be as easy as tossing a couple buckets of blood off the coast of South Africa, a region that’s heavily populated with Great Whites. As is the case with any offline marketing campaign, you have to understand where your audience lives and breathes online. How often are you tossing fish guts into the water? And did you use the right recipe to attract the right shark? – Get where I’m going with this?

Experts in attracting fish as well as humans, Discovery Channel executed a perfect viral video campaign surrounding the proclaimed “Snuffy the Seal.” On June 23rd, they launched a shocking, albeit tongue-in-cheek video that had viewers either gasping, or laughing:

And Discovery didn’t end it there; they released a couple more viral follow-ups, all of which were designed to attract visitors back to This site then redirects back to a subpage of Discovery Channel’s website where visitors can read more about Snuffy, buy products and surf through the rest of the website. They also have a twitter account for Snuffy with plenty of witty seal/shark humor coming straight from the mouth of Snuffy himself.

The first viral video was launched simultaneously on the web and on television. It was clear that the marketing folks at Discovery knew not only how to come up with a genius ad campaign, but also which demographics would be the most receptive to it, as well as the best channels to reach them.

Additionally, Discovery knew exactly which type of shark/bait combination to use. Some of the more frequently watched shark videos on Youtube feature Great Whites and their attacks on seals. This video alone received over 2 million hits since July of 2012. This raw and rare footage features Mother Nature’s unmerciful process, a brutally powerful attack on a seemingly innocent life. It’s evergreen media; some of the best in terms of Mother Nature, and people will undoubtedly keep coming back for more.

Ultimately, all the attention around this campaign landed Discovery on a handful of “Great White” sites like Huffington Post and MNN (Mother Nature Network). Clearly their bait worked, as hype for Snuffy and the 26th year of Shark Week continues to garner major attention.

Marketing your content so that it’s sniff-able by Great Whites doesn’t take rocket science; it requires quality chum in the right places. Likewise, it demands you put yourself in the fins of the Great White; would a Megalodon perceive my product or content as bite worthy? If so, would it satisfy it’s enormous stomach?

What can we learn from Snuffy and Discovery Channel? If you’re chumming the web appropriately and placing the right content in front of the right eyes, you may get to experience something as spectacular as a Great White shark breaching the water. The Great Whites of the Internet are a lot pickier than the Great Whites of the sea. If you want to see one bite, you’ve got to learn what they want, when they want it, and where they want it served to them.

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