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Viral videos are a marketer’s dream. Whether you get lucky and create something for free that spreads across social media channels or invest some serious cash to get the results you want, a viral video is marketing gold.
So, what does it take to go viral? In some cases, it might just be dumb luck, but truth be told, you have to give it your best effort to create something unusual to get people to hit that share button. Here are 10 key attributes that can help your videos go viral.
1. Astounding Personality
If you are using a speaker, they have to be astounding.
Memorable speakers have the same effect as the world’s best stand-up comedian or the emotional pull of Martin Luther King Jr. Astounding speakers can even be downright annoying or controversial to get your video to go viral. They have to generate intentional or unintentional laughs, move people to tears, get people riled up, or make people feel good. These are all the things that will trigger the need to share your videos.
Just remember that if you are going the controversial route, you could get more bad press than good. A good speaker doesn’t have to be someone famous. You might have a hidden talent in your office. That guy who has people dying of laughter at the water cooler, although a tad disruptive to productivity, might be just what you need to create an online persona people will love.
2. Instant Attention Grabber
We all know that today’s consumer has an attention span of about eight seconds. That means you’ve got to grab their attention almost instantly. It starts with a thought-provoking headline that will capture attention in the endless scroll of titles.
Use humour, a question, intrigue, or “wackiness” to get people to click on your video.
Next, make sure that the thumbnail you choose for your video is not something horrific such as the speaker in mid speech with an out of focus and scary face. Instead, choose an actual thumbnail specifically for the purposes of appearing clickable alongside that awe-inspiring headline.
Finally, a viral video captures the viewer’s attention within seconds of hitting play. That means avoiding intros and build-ups that will have people clicking away rather than clicking the share icon. Video is designed to entertain, even if your goal is to inform.
3. Story Time
Regardless of what you are trying to sell, your video has to tell a story. In other words, have a point. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering either.
More than anything, it just has to be relatable to people who would use your product or service. And it doesn’t even necessarily have to be directly selling your brand. It just has to make a logical connection between what your story has to say and what your followers will react to emotionally.
An excellent storytelling example is American Greetings' promotion for Mother's Day. They used a clever job interview format that outlines an impossible position. It turns out at the end that they are interviewing for a mom. It makes a poignant point without ever mentioning their product. Instead, it gets across the importance of moms and how you should always let her know how grateful you are.
4. Short But Sweet
This one ties back to attention span. If your video is going to go on and on, you will lose people. Most people don't have the time to sit and watch an endless video. They are saving that time for binge-watching their favourite television shows. According to the New York Times, you’ve got about 60-seconds to tell your story.
Make sure you’ve scripted for around the one-minute mark if you want to keep people interested. Just keep in mind that the NYT article mentioned this was for 44% of those surveyed. If you have something really good and entertaining, you might get away with more seconds.
5. Make ‘Em Laugh
You can never go wrong with humour. That tends to lead to more social sharing. Just make sure you don’t get too caught up in laughs that no one will get other than your marketing team. You’ve got to go for the universal laughs that are more likely to hit the funny bone of most of your audience.
Humour is uplifting and can also provide some insight into how well you know your audience. When people feel you get them, they are more inclined to want to use your product. Also, people want to be the one in their group of friends who finds the funniest things to share.
An example of how you can use humour to create viral videos is a video called "The Process" by Aviation Gin. On this video, Ryan Renolds mocks the clichéd ads used by its competitors. It's a creative and humorous video where Reynolds relays in excruciating but hilarious detail all the thought and care that goes into the gin-making process.
6. Other Emotions
Happiness is not the only emotion that can cause a video to go viral. Creating an emotional response in any form of advertising has a powerful and long-lasting effect. Emotion encourages sharing. A touching story that makes people sad or angry will do wonders for your brand. It shows you care as well. According to a Nielson report, emotional ads lead to 23% more in sales lifts.
As well, emotional ads also remain in our memories longer. The key is to choose the right emotion for your brand. When triggering negative emotions, you have to be sure your brand can resolve that negativity in some way.
7. Get Inspiration from Pop Culture
Using something in the news that might hit notes with your customers can work well. It can be touchy, so be careful. As long as it is widespread, and people will recognize what you are doing, parodying a common news story can work well because it is trending and also funny. You’ll kill two birds with one stone.
Along the lines of using news for ideas, pop culture can work very well. You can get inspiration from a popular or annoying song or play off of something incredibly popular like Game of Thrones. It can tie into a recent movie or favorite pop culture character. The options are endless.
8. Don’t Forget Your Brand
Using everything in your power to connect with people through viral videos doesn’t mean you should go so far off the rails that people can’t make the connection to your brand. Make sure no matter what approach you choose, you stay on brand.
Going viral to the world might sound fantastic, but if no one knows what it has to do with your brand, it will not get the results you want, which is to raise brand awareness and gain some sales.
9. User-Generated Content
This free ride can really work well. No one knows your brand better than your customers. Their stories will touch people in a different way than your internally generated content. It is cost effective as well.
You can even start a competition amongst followers who are anxious to get their videos shared. Throw a content contest, and you will have instant access to some interesting videos that are ready to share.
An excellent example is GoPro, which took a unique approach to content by using videos created by customers. The user is a fireman, and his story is intriguing without ever mentioning GoPro. Instead, it is the video he took that tells the story of how he used his GoPro. It works on a number of levels most of which are emotional.
10. Reality Check
Use real situations to help promote a sense of awareness. Your videos have to be authentic and not come across as staged or overly construed.
Real conversations, real footage of people participating in real situations, and even hidden-camera situations (with permission granted by participants after the recording) are all ways to use reality to reach your audience.
Add Video to your Digital Marketing Efforts
There are many methods you can use to create a viral video. Whether you choose laughter or tears, reality or farce, your own talent or the talent of your customers, adding video to your digital marketing efforts is one of the best ways to get noticed online.