Some things achieve YouTube notoriety through some bizarre confluence of interest and desperation, like the six-second-long video clip of a startled prairie dog that took on epidemic proportions last year as a YouTube favourite known as the “Dramatic Chipmunk,” which quickly gained more than 9 million views. Other things need a bit more, well… assistance. At the moment, a fan site devoted to Canadian pop singer Avril Lavigne is pushing hard to get Avril’s Girlfriend video to become the most-watched YouTube video ever with almost 90 million views — and they are using some shady tactics to get there.
At the moment, the top spot at YouTube is held by Judson Laipply’s iconic “Evolution of Dance” video clip, in which the comedian demonstrates all the popular dance styles of the past five decades in one short video clip. Why is it so popular? No one really knows. In any case, a fan site called Avril Bandaids is trying desperately to push its heroine’s video higher than the Evolution of Dance — and in order to do so, it is not only sending out emails to fans to get them to watch Avril’s video some more, but has set up an automated YouTube-view-boosting site. The page automatically reloads Avril’s video every 15 seconds, so as to rack up as many hits as possible, and a letter from the site advises fans to keep a browser window open all day with the page in it.
Will such tactics get Avril to the top spot? Perhaps — although YouTube ireportedly tracks IP addresses so that repeated views don’t skew its numbers. In any case, there are a number of other tricks that marketers use to try and boost their YouTube views, including signing up for hundreds of fake user accounts under different names, or using popular (but misleading) keywords. A marketing specialist named Dan Ackerman Greenberg — who helped teach an entire course at Stanford about Facebook and online marketing techniques — wrote a post for TechCrunch in which he detailed some of the tricks. There are even sites that claim to be able to boost YouTube views for a fee.
Even if Avril does get to number one most-viewed video, however, she will still fall short in some other areas on the site: while the video is currently number one for “most discussed (music)” and number one in the “most viewed (music)” category, it’s still only number four for “most discussed (all time)” and an underwhelming number 15 in the “top favorites (all time)” category. Unfortunately for Avril, automated page refreshing isn’t going to change those numbers much. And who is the most discussed and top favourite of all time? The Evolution of Dance.