A clip of Henrico boy Alex Bittner making friends with a sea lion at the aquarium at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. went viral.
HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) -
Viral videos are talked about often on the news and lots of people are cashing in with something they've shot on their cell phones.
It was the video seen round the globe as Henrico boy Alex Bittner made friends with a sea lion at the aquarium at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
His mom Jennifer knew she had something special and decided to post it online to bring attention to kids like Alex who have autism spectrum disorder.
"When he plays with other children, he isn't always in synch with them," she says. "Sometimes he feels frustrated and left out. That's common. Social skills can be difficult."
But he connected with Sophie, the sea lion and the moment of sheer joy caught on her cell phone was priceless. After the video was posted online, it took off like wildfire, getting 30,000 views in one day on YouTube. Washington D.C. stations aired it, then it hit the national news shows.
Alex was ecstatic and Jennifer was inundated.
"It started spreading on websites across the country," Bittner says. "I started getting calls and messages about licensing. It was so overwhelming. The language in those licensing agreements is so scary."
After much consideration Jennifer and her husband signed with a company called Jukin to put ads on her clip.
"I didn't put it out there to make money, but I figured maybe it was an easy way to make money off of it just from people watching it and clicking on it. Why not?"
She's not allowed to talk about the contract, but she would say this:
"I have made very little money. It's not a huge money maker. It's a way to have some fun money."
The clip got attention abroad too, which was a little too much for Bittner's liking. One website posted pictures of her family.
"I saw my son's face staring at me. I saw my family picture staring at me. I had not released those pictures. That was very unsettling."
That website pulled the pictures at Jennifer's request. What was harder to manage were the negative comments by insensitive people on websites around the globe.
"Someone said, 'if I had an overbearing mom like that, I'd have a syndrome too.' That was the day I stopped reading comments."
Jennifer believes licensing the video did slow down the spread some since media outlets could no longer play the video without paying a licensing fee. In the end, even through the headaches, Bittner says releasing it the way she did was the right thing to do .All the clicks online have driven many people to her blog seriouslynotboring.com, where she writes about her family's adventures in life with a child who has autism.
"It has made a difference," she says. "People from 50 different countries have read about Alex's life and my life and read about ways to support the special needs community."
Here's what you need to know before you post a video online that you think could go viral.
1) Make sure your information on social media is private or else it might get out there.
2) Read licensing contracts closely. Make sure it spells out how you get paid and who ultimately owns the rights to the video.
3) Let media outlets know how they can contact you.