The Four Pillars Of Viral Videos
Have you ever watched a video on YouTube and wondered how it could have gained more than 1,000,000 views? Many brands ask themselves the same question: How can we generate the same kind of viral video success as the baby dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” or the wedding party entrance dance that crazed the nation? Brands should mimic everyday people that have had success in viral video—yet construct and disseminate videos in a way that does not lose sight of the fact their purpose is twofold: to entertain and spread a marketing message. Consider the following important factors as an effective strategy for creating buzz around viral videos.
Shock and awe
Viral videos successfully create a sense of surprise and curiosity, exactly the types of reactions marketers hope to elicit from an audience. Generating this type of buzz through video helps brands promote their company or product in more creative and innovative ways than traditional advertising which is why hitting viewers with a shocking or humorous video can capture an audience in a matter of seconds. Then, a viral video must awe audiences with quality content that is surprising, engaging and, at its core, worth sharing. Marketers that find a way to make audiences care about the content of their video yield better results. Consider, for example, this funny clip from The Cartoon Network’s “Brain Rush” television show using simple b-roll footage.
Credits: Chris Gomersal, Donald Alexander, David Reed—Moxie Interactive
This clip left viewers wondering one thing: Why is this guy losing it? The rationale varies and conversations ensure, but the video, which was posted on targeted websites and via blogger and influencer outreach, earned more than one million views and appeared on 17 unique video-sharing sites. Some users even created original content using the video to create dance remixes. The buzz generated around the humorous and shocking nature of the video not only yielded great results by promoting viewership for “Brain Rush,” but also enabled greater fan participation.
Respect your audience
Viral videos that find the most success online are those that grab the attention of their audience and engage them beyond an initial viewing. To do so, marketers need to earn respect by creating good content that viewers can connect with. Often, this means the audience suspends their disbelief; a viewer can sit back and say, was that for real?
However, a video’s content should strike the right balance between creativity and transparency. Audiences often criticize and react negatively to those videos in which a stunt is too outrageous or simply comes across as too far-fetched. Viewers are willing to put aside skepticism in return for entertainment, but not when that entertainment offends their intelligence or fails to connect with the brand’s message. Marketers can respect and engage their audiences by letting the viewers discover the different facets of a video on their own. The resulting feelings of ownership and connection can lead to viral conversations around the video content, its authenticity, and so on.
Take a look at the video that Performics sister agency, Moxie Interactive, created for Verizon Wireless to generate conversation around their brand:
Credit: Justin Archer, Nicola Smith
The Verizon video earned 794,216 views in 6 weeks on a variety of video share sites and picked up more than 400 comments, many of which praised both the content and the brand.
Find the right balance
It’s “awe” for nothing if brand connections don’t exist. The aforementioned Verizon Wireless video clip is a textbook example of why video content that remains relevant to a brand and the message they wish to convey connects with viewers so well. “The Network” commercials on television are already well known and intriguing, so turning that same encounter into a real-life experience serves as an extension of the brand and beautifully blends structured and viral marketing tactics.
Sometimes, however, videos can backfire simply because they lose the brand message for the sake of virality. In 2008, for example, the creators of the movie Wanted put together a video to promote their film depicting an office worker flipping out and destroying his office space. The video garnered more than 6 million views on video-sharing site Break.com and remains popular two years later, but no one knew the video was created to promote Wanted—so it fell short as a stealth marketing operation. To connect the brand message with viewers, marketers need to provide entertainment to the audience while finding the happy medium between a heavily branded video and a non-branded video that fails to convey the intended message.
Promote with honesty
The most effective way for marketers to find success with viral videos is to be clear about their message and reach out to their audience using reliable channels. Marketers should use the same distribution channels, including blogs, social networks, paid search and email, as they would with other marketing messages. But it is imperative to be transparent about who they are when doing so. Reach out to a fan base, talk about what was created and solicit honest feedback. Users will appreciate the honesty and, coupled with creative and striking content, will champion a brand’s efforts and do their part to make the video a viral success. As long as marketers create videos with relevancy and valuable content, with careful consideration for distribution through key channels, they can reap the benefits of successful video virality.
Once marketers take these four pillars of viral videos into account, they have to make sure their videos can easily be found. To ensure viral videos are searchable, marketers should create a unique and permanent URL for each video and optimize the filename and metadata of the video file. Optimizing the title, description, headers, keyword density and surrounding video captions on the HTML page that hosts the video will also ensure the video is found more easily. Finally, marketers should create a video sitemap to submit the engines before uploading the video to YouTube, MySpace and other video sharing sites.
Achieving true virality requires a lot of creativity, careful planning and a clear goal, and with these four pillars in mind, marketers have an effective approach for realizing quality viral performance. Most viewers don’t mind overt advertising when it comes in the shell of something genuinely entertaining, so if marketers create a video with good content and a clear underlying brand message, they stand a good chance of achieving viral success.
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