Video of a shrimp running on an underwater treadmill taken at Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. Pacific Biology researcher David Scholnick keeps his shrimp fit with this workout routine.

10/12/2006 UPDATE: I originally published this story on Digg referencing a movie I had just posted to YouTube on October 3,2006. My Digg story (see link below) went no where really. BUT, my YouTube video started getting some pretty good play. By October 10, the Shrimp Running on a Treadmill video had gotten about 5,000 views. Not bad I thought. Then it hit and all of the sudden the little shrimp that could went viral (If you know the research this comment is WAY funnier).

What do I mean by my Shrimp on a Treadmill video went viral? In Internet slang viral means that a topic, email, video, picture reaches a kind of cult status where its growth is explosive and fueleld by word of mouth. Viral is a bit of luck and a bit of quirckyness and here is the timeline as best as I can figure:

The viral video cycle:

Oct 3 : Video Posted. The video is from one of our Pacific University researchers and I posted it to YouTube because I figured it was a good way to get some press for the University.

Oct 10 : Through word of mouth, YouTube addicts, IM’s, emails, and who knows what else, the video got enough views to place it 95 on the YouTube Science and Technology most viewed list.

Oct 11 : The video gets picked up by Flark.
Oct 11 : The video gets Dugg by another user and shoots up to the home page. Between Flark, Digg and who knows what other references, the video hits 40,000 views. Thats a 10 fold increase in views over one day.

Oct 12 : The video is still going strong and has over 57 comments on YouTube, 57,000 views, and 100 ratings. The video currently sits amoung the top 35 for the month in Science and Technology for all the categories: Most Viewed, Most Discussed, Most Favorites, and Top Rated.

Oct 13 : The video continues to buzz along. I got an email from Pacific University Biology department and it looks like Netscape picked up the story and it rose to the top 15. Netscape then contacted Dr. David Scholnick and did a short writeup on their site. The current YouTube hit count is at 75,000 and it looks like quite a few blogs have also picked up the Shrimp on a Treadmill story. Unless it hits on the main YouTube list, I am guessing it will start to loose steam over the weekend.

Oct 16: Seems like things are dying down a bit. The current YouTube hit count has climbed to 95,000. Even though I don’t see an explosion in the near future any higher, only time will tell. Still, almost 100,000 eyes on a previously unseen video and research is a huge success.

Oct 18: It looks like the little Shrimp that could has picked up some good media momentum. I just got a Google Alert today that the story was picked up by MSNBC:

Scientists put shrimp on a treadmill http://msnbc.msn.com/id/15319541/
MSNBC – USA
… such as a shrimp, where a decrease in performance may mean the difference between life and death,” said David Scholnick, a biologist from Pacific University. …

The story was also picked up by Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,222149,00.html. The copy is the same between the stories so it looks like it is a wire pickup which means HUGE momentum and coverage.

I also heard from David that he has been contacted by other news agencies such as the Discovery Channel who are interested in the story.

Oct 19: The story has filtered back to Pacific University. I originally posted this video and started the Viral Video Ball Rolling … or Running I guess but purposely did not notify anyone on campus. My strategy was to allow the video to run its own course organically. It looks like the Biology department has been so happy with the results, they have started to put out the word on campus. The current YouTube view count for the “Shrimp on a Treadmill” video sits just over 100,000.

Oct 23: The video went to YouTube’s home page, featured videos and just exploded! I got flooded with comment emails over the weekend and now has 5700 comments and 750,000 views! It is still on the home page this morning so once people get into work it could go even bigger. At this point I am not sure if there is more media coverage to come from this new level of exposure or if we are moving into an area of over exposure but we will see.

Lessons from a Shrimp on a Treadmill and the Viral Video Phenomena
As hard as you might try, if your posting does not have the requiste cool factor or is not quirky enough to be a phenomena, it is probably not going to go anywhere. It might but that just points agian to the unpredictable nature of viral marketing that I am trying to predict.

The first week of your video is critical. Don’t try to self seed it or inflate your numbers. If the people aren’t finding your video there is a reason.

There is a critical point to your video. You need to get on a page which is a subset of the greater media: IE: Digg’s front page, YouTube’s Most Viewed, Discussed, or Rated, Flark’s home page, SlashDot’s front page, etc. The issue with these sites is they are so content heavy that if your peers are not moving it to the top, it quickly falls off.

Once you have reached that critical point of viewership, the shelf life of your media, is now a guess. Some famous viral videos: Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa Guy, and Shakira Hips Don’t Lie Spoof had shelf lifes of about 6 months and millions of views.

This exposure is worth millions in good or bad press depending on how it spins and is largely unpredictable and uncontrolable. Your job now is to capitalize on any press and media coverage created by the video to build your brand or further your goals.

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