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Water Balloon Stunt + Digg Homepage = 33,000 visits in 24 hours

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Social bookmarking sites like Digg and Netscape use voting systems to help web users find cool web pages.

When a site hits the Digg homepage, huge traffic follows, often enough to slow or crash a site’s servers.

This traffic usually generates inbound links, and these inbound links raise PageRank, helping organic search rankings.

For fun, we wanted to see if we could get a page dugg for Father’s Day. So we made a home video of two very long water balloons made from latex tubing.

It worked.

Time Line

  • Sunday morning, June 17th: Plan water balloon stunt with son, still in pajamas. Shoot video.
  • Sunday afternoon: Try stunt. It works (balloons don’t pop). More video.
  • Tuesday: Edit video from 90 minutes to 7 minutes. Chop into four segments. Add music and captions.
  • Wednesday: Write summary web page. Upload videos to YouTube.
  • Wednesday afternoon: Page submitted to Digg, Netscape, Reddit.
  • Thursday morning: It works. Page hits Digg homepage.

What happened next?

In the first 4 hours after being dugg, the page received 22,694 visits. In the first 24 hours, 33,072 visits. To date (about 112 hours after being dugg), 34,970 visits.

Here are the stats through Sunday, June 24, 11p:

  • 34,970 visits so far
  • 58,588 YouTube views
    • part 1: 12,766 views
    • part 2: 4,799 views
    • part 3: 14,250 views
    • part 4: 26,743 views
      • Page 1 “most linked video on YouTube for week” (#15)
  • 717 diggs
    • 80 digg comments
    • 7 diggers blogged it
  • 17 votes on Netscape
  • 0 points on Reddit
  • 1st Google result for largest water balloon, 22nd result for water balloon
  • 19 inbound links

Why and How

One obvious question is “why?”

My family enjoys doing projects together: model rockets, model planes, potato cannons, growing crystals, lemonade stand at the farmer’s market, family gardens, etc. Inflating very long water balloons is something we’d try anyway just for the fun of it, a perfect way to spend Father’s day. We hadn’t tested this project in advance, so we were delighted the stunt worked.

Trying to get the page dugg was another experiment, piggybacked onto the first. I was curious to see if that could happen, and what the aftermath would be.

Planning for Digg

While the Father’s day project was family-focused, the activities which followed were carefully Digg-focused.

Concerned our little server which handles our corporate brochureware site wouldn’t withstand a traffic spike, on Monday our good friends at Blue Ridge Internetworks lent us a beefy server. (Shameless plug: of all the datacenters we use across the country, BRI is the most reliable and responsive. We strongly recommend those guys for colocation, web hosting, hosted Exchange, etc.)

We placed the page on a subdomain (projects.rimmkaufman.com) on a BRI server; we’ve since moved the content back to our little server and moved the traffic using 301 redirects (www.rimmkaufman.com/projects)

We made the page light, clean, commercial-free, and fast. We edited the videos with an eye towards the Digg audience — music, speed, sound effects. (The Digg audience was pretty disappointed the balloon wasn’t a 120′ diameter sphere.)

We off-loaded video serving to YouTube, reducing our bandwidth needs and enabling community comments. (Most YouTube comments were negative, as were most Digg comments.)

We didn’t plug or mention our company, and we didn’t digg our own content. (Two Dig commentators picked up on unintentional product placement, the Bodos shirt.) If there’s one take-away from this experiment, it’s the importance of who diggs you. We certainly didn’t make Digg on the quality of our production.

Social media can be an important part of online marketing and natural search optimization, and we’re working with some clients on projects in this area as part of our web effectiveness consulting services.

Some Digg comments

Not to be an ass but, this is more of a 120′ long water weenie than it is a water balloon. I was hoping for a 120′ circumference balloon. That would have been awesome, and likely incredibly dangerous.

I’m sorry, this is lame. I don’t want it to be, but it is. It’s a bunch of kids who decided to take an entire day of their summer to REINVENT THE HOSE, then squirt each other with it. Also, one of the kids has a helmet. I understand some parents are THAT lame, but then wouldn’t they make ALL the kids wear helmets? Subsequently, I hereby propose the following contest: I will pay $7 to the first person to create a water balloon that is 120′ in diameter, and drop it from a tall building onto someone. The reward will double if it hits a retarded kid or an elderly person. Quadruple if it hits Paris Hilton. Quintuple if Paris Hilton actually makes the balloon herself.

How the hell did a “family video” get on the front page of digg…..it didn’t say AMAZING, ATHEIST, HDR or Paris Hilton in the title…what has become of digg…

Just think when all the maker/modders and hackers start having more and more kids. That generation is going to be great; damn kids, get all the breaks.

Great experiment to do with your son. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to do things like that, he’s 2 now so all he does is break things LOL!

I hope those kids realize how lucky they are. They have awesome parents.

Thanks

Several wonderful people helped out: Sam, Lukas, Logan, Hannah, Davida, Eliane, and Sara for their on-film participation; Amy for heroic and inspired video editing under deadline; Jeff for the server; and Neil for the all-important first digg.

Many thanks!

digg traffic spike

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
  • Comments
    4 Responses to “Water Balloon Stunt + Digg Homepage = 33,000 visits in 24 hours”
    1. jr yates says:

      Most amazing! I had heard Alan talk about the importance of social media and viral marketing. Now he goes out and proves it.

      Way cool Alan.

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