I noticed Kami Huyse's link and Neville Hobson's video comments regarding an article in TechCrunch by Dan Ackerman Greenberg called "The Secret Strategies Behind Many 'Viral Videos'." I also noticed his follow-up post, where he accused TC's "editorial filter" for making him look like a slimebag and backed away from some of the tactics he initially promoted.
A couple of items in the piece jumped out at me:
So Mr. Greenberg apparently takes pride in planting fake comments and erasing real ones. Of course, the traveling circuses of the late 1800's would often try to build a crowd by paying two men to stage a fight in the town square, so it's not like his tactics are all that innovative.
Every power user on YouTube has a number of different accounts. So do we. A great way to maximize the number of people who watch our videos is to create some sort of controversy in the comments section below the video. We get a few people in our office to log in throughout the day and post heated comments back and forth (you can definitely have a lot of fun with this). Everyone loves a good, heated discussion in the comments section - especially if the comments are related to a brand/startup.
Also, we aren’t afraid to delete comments – if someone is saying our video (or your startup) sucks, we just delete their comment. We can’t let one user’s negativity taint everyone else’s opinions.
We usually get one comment for every thousand views, since most people watching YouTube videos aren’t logged in. But a heated comment thread (done well) will engage viewers and will drive traffic back to our sites.
This is the kind of cynical message manipulation and control that gets people into trouble and degrades our profession in the long run. This attitude leads to fake press conferences with government employees posing as reporters, asking their bosses softball questions. It results in planted questions at White House press conferences or political campaign rallies.
These tactics are a big reason people don't trust politicians anymore. (Of course, one could argue we've never trusted politicians.) They're a big reason people don't trust flacks either.