Twittering for wine: How to run a million dollar ad campaign for $60 K

Murphy-Goode winery in Sonoma, California, is looking for a blogger, twitterer, Facebooker, and all-around social networking maven. The winning applicant will get free rent and $10,000 per month for six months. In return, he or she will have the full-time task of drinking Murphy Goode wine and promoting the brand.

In addition to offering a good job, the Murphy-Goode contest represents the next step in viral marketing. While analysts and commentators have spent the last few years loudly touting the wonders of viral campaigns, there has been little apparent understanding about the techniques necessary to create such a movement. However, the easy access to sites like YouTube and the difficult job market have given some canny entrepreneurs the tools necessary to make viral marketing easy and cheap.

A few months ago, Queensland, Australia took viral advertising in a whole new direction with its contest for the "best job in the world." The six-month gig essentially involved lying around the beach and blogging for six months, in return for which the winner would be paid approximately $105,000.

Almost 35,000 people applied for the job and, on May 6, Queensland's tourism department announced that the winner was Ben Southall, an English charity worker and amateur adventurer. Although he will start work on July 1, one could argue that Southall's job has already been done: Tasked with increasing the profile of Queensland state, he was the capper on an amazingly powerful viral advertising campaign.

In the few short months that the contest ran, millions of viewers discovered the wonders of Queensland, an area that most had probably never heard of. For a brief moment, Queensland was among the most famous vacation destinations in the world. While $105,000 isn't exactly cheap, there is little doubt that Queensland got more than its money's worth in advertising.

David Ready, Jr., the winemaker who is conducting Murphy-Goode's contest, admits that he was inspired by Queensland's search. However, the winery's quest for an in-house blogger is taking the idea one step further. Murphy Goode has set up a website, A Really Goode Job, where visitors can view and vote upon the short videos that contestants created to apply for the job. The clips are also posted on YouTube, to facilitate easy linking and distribution. By making the process transparent, and encouraging viewer involvement, Murphy-Goode is capitalizing on every step in its hiring.

Most of the videos either follow the standard resume script ("Let me tell you why I'm perfect for this position...") or follow the basic visual language of an infomercial (woman sipping wine turns to camera: "Oh, I didn't see you standing there. Hi!"). However, some are a lot of fun. One favorite is the eerily soft-spoken guy in Viking horns talking in sweet, measured tones to the camera.

Alternately, Jerry Lewis fans will love the guy from Atlanta who dons buck teeth to ramble about his love of wine and the South. Perhaps the best applicants, however, are the bloggers who try to claim that they were born to do this job without suggesting that their parents poured "grown up Kool Aid" into them from an early age.

While there is no doubt that the people at Murphy-Goode will find a fine social media junkie to play up their brand, the simple truth is that they've already accomplished their goal: In a tough job market and an even tougher retail environment, they've managed to capture the interest of millions of potential customers, all for a fraction of the price of a standard ad campaign. Better yet, by getting in on the beginning of viral job campaigns, the winery is setting itself apart from the pack of imitators who will presumably be following this trend in the coming months.

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