That’s the sound of a 40 percent increase in visits to HealthCare.gov compared to the previous day.
It’s been slow going, but after the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration has made a big effort to reach youth to spread the word about the necessity of signing up for health coverage. Their latest tactic? Having President Obama appear on “Between Two Ferns,” the Funny or Die web series hosted by comedian Zach Galifianakis.
You can debate whether the performance was “dignified” or not, but there’s little question about if it was effective. The video topped three million views in just under six hours, making it the best start for a video in Funny or Die’s history. It’s currently above 12 million views. And more importantly for the Obama administration, the video succeeded in driving traffic — lots of traffic — to Healthcare.gov.
So what can we — and others in the public sector — learn from this? A lot, we think. Below, read our top 5 lessons from Obama’s “Between Two Ferns” performance.
#1: Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself: Obama’s had a sense of wry humor on display like few presidents we’ve seen before — and he’s willing to show it. His presidency has played out over the same time that the viral meme has come into is own, and he hasn’t been afraid to take advantage of it (neither has his wife — you’ve seen the Jimmy Fallon “Mom Dances,” right? Humor can be a powerful tool and one that we don’t use enough.
#2: Youth (still) matter: Especially when it comes to the ACA. Plenty of jokes about millennials have been floating around for years now — but the fact is, the president needs them. Enrolling this young demographic is crucial for the health care plan to be successful. Don’t dismiss millennials; embrace. And market to them.
#3: Experiment on different platforms: The HealthCare.gov team clearly realizes that to get the word out about the ACA to youth, it can’t go to its old standbys like CNN or op-ed pieces in newspapers. They need to reach youth — and so they’re going to where the youth go. In some cases this has meant Twitter (and taking on the doge meme to mixed results) or Reddit. With the “Between Two Ferns” show, Obama’s gone to a slice of the internet where few below 40 venture — but it worked.
#4: Play to your audience: The reason the “Ferns” video was a runaway success was that it wasn’t just a blatant (or, well, completely blatant) plug for the ACA. Obama came prepped to give as good as he got in terms of hilarious insults, and therefore fit right into the “Ferns” mold. If he had just showed up on the video insisting on only rigidly promoting the ACA, the blowback would have been massive.
#5: Don’t ignore the importance of social sharing: A video or piece of content can only go viral if it’s easily shareable. The Funny or Die format puts a premium on social share buttons that are easy to use and prominently featured. The video would have done well without social sharing, sure, but it did extremely well because it was extremely easy to share on a variety of different platforms. Make sure your content is just as shareable.
You may not get 12 million hits on your blog posts, video or other digital content if you follow the five tips above — but that’s no reason not to try.