Why is your “viral video” just sitting there languishing in obscurity? You had such high hopes for it. But there it sits, gathering dust on YouTube like the kid who threw a birthday party and no one showed up. It’s not viral, it’s just a video, and that is an important distinction. So repeat after me: You cannot create a viral video. You can only create a video that has high viral potential.
Going viral simply means that a video becomes popular and attains a massive consumer redistribution that you didn’t have to pay for. Granted, that can happen with any content, but in this format, we can actually track it. What constitutes a video going viral is entirely up to the individual brand. For some, 10,000 views on YouTube or Facebook is a massive success, for others, 1 million is the magic number.
I like to think of viral as 100,000 views. Why? Besides being a nice number, 100,000 unsolicited views could probably turn roughly 10,000 people into advocates for your brand (there is usually a 10 times multiple from advocates to views). And it’s the advocacy behind a brand that is important, not viewers. Otherwise, paying for rich media video banners and force-feeding them the same video content would work — but it doesn’t. At 100,000 views, most video has to be compelling enough to illicit redistribution purely based on interest.
You can use any of the great social media monitoring tools to help monitor those advocates and check your sentiment score. What you are looking for is positive sentiment score movement. If your video is successful in positively changing brand perception then your positive sentiment score will move up. Simple as that.
That’s why weighing views as a measure of viral success is dangerous. Advocacy is actually the most important attribute because it measures the positive effect of distribution. While the number of views may be an indicator of video content going viral, they are not an indicator of it having a positive impact.
If you are just counting views, the video content or message could be hurting brand perception. It’s the why behind consumer redistribution of your video that is most important. There is a direct and predictive correlation between the number of advocates a brand has and the amount of positive sentiment it is creating — with both terms leading to how many people are actually purchasing the product (the return on investment).
But before you decide to embark on this viral journey, you have to ask:
Why do you want to create a viral video?
Think about that. Do you have a promotion you are going to run and want to drive interest? Are you desperately trying to prove digital’s worth against TV?
We often try things because we’re bored with the status quo — not just for our companies, but also for ourselves. And while the safer route is to stick with the status quo, some brands are crying out for change. I’m not talking about the people at those brands, I’m talking about the brands themselves. The brand has a voice. It is what comes to mind when someone mentions that brand.
When someone says, “Mountain Dew,” I think “X Games,” hip, athletic, adventure, hardcore, and alternative. The brand has a voice in my head, and it does in yours, too. You may not be consciously listening to it, but it’s there. What makes a brand resonate is that universal agreement between vast groups of people and the qualities the brand name embodies. Seriously, the name is Mountain Dew. We should be thinking about a wet morning as we frolick through the hillsides. But what makes a brand a brand is its ability to create a new and unique meaning for itself, and a great way to achieve that is through viral video.
The impetus is change
So why is your brand’s voice important when talking about viral videos? Change. One of the fundamental strategies of a viral video is to change perception. That’s the reason it goes viral. If you said “Old Spice” to me a few years ago, I would have thought – isn’t that the old-man cologne I bought my dad for Father’s Day? But now when I think of Old Spice, it’s something very different, and that’s all the result of a brilliant viral video outreach effort.
If your brand name garners responses like “stodgy, old, tired, safe, or bland” then your strategy for a viral video should be about changing the perception of what you are as a brand. A brand needs to stand for something that emotionally affects people and compels them to become advocates.
You should not create a video that merely reinforces your brand position; you should use the opportunity to change what consumers think about you. The difficulty here is that company culture often invests in the status quo of a dying brand with dwindling sales. But it’s your job to change that.
The most successful viral videos are not ones that reinforce a brand position, they are the ones that stake new territory for the brand.
Finding and understanding your advocates
The seeders and advocates are the important ones, not the end viewers. End viewers are those who felt the content was not compelling enough to redistribute. Just because someone has a large social network does not mean that everyone they distribute to actually engages. So don’t get caught up in the actual view number. That number combined with a positive social media monitoring sentiment score is usually a good proxy for advocacy of your brand.
The consumers that you initially distribute your viral video to (seeders) are crucial. Some people have engaged networks of friends, and others don’t. You can make someone aware of your marketing campaign, but you cannot guarantee that you can turn them into product advocates.
Don’t distribute your video to everyone you, your agency, and company know because guess who they are already familiar with? Your brand. While it’s great to score political points, it’s very difficult to reach the kind of viral network that will help spur the spread of your video and your brand by staying so close to home. That group would be a great place to test your video, however, because if it’s not working, they will tell you, and if that’s the case, then it’s time to go back to the content drawing board.
Whatever you do, do not just post your video on YouTube, send out an email blast, and hope that viewers will come — because they won’t. There are plenty of highly engaged consumers out there — in some cases celebrities — with great networks that could align with your brand for a good viral boost. You just have to do some work.
Here are the top six takeaways:
- For viral video to be deemed a success, 100,000 views is the magic number.
- Counting views only as a measure of viral success is dangerous because it’s advocacy that is important.
- What you are looking for is positive sentiment score movement using a social media monitoring tool.
- The advocates are important, not just someone viewing your content. People trust their network recommendations more than they trust you.
- Seeding your video is crucial. Find someone or a group of someones that align with your brand to help propel your efforts.
- Don’t just post your video on YouTube and Facebook and hope people will come.
You have 100,000 views! Congratulations, you made a viral video. So now what do you do?
So what about the content?
I didn’t talk about the content in viral videos because there is no secret formula for successful content. If there were, there would be no use for creatives in advertising. However, the content of the video is what will communicate what you want to change, shift, or reinforce in people’s perception of your brand.
Here are some tips to help get you started:
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Use humor, but ensure that the humor supports your brand. Humor is very personal, and in order for most things to be funny, it will usually push the edges of NSFW (not safe for work) — and if you don’t know that acronym then you should definitely not be judging whether something is funny).
Don’t do creative by committee. If you want a viral video effort to work, you must free the hands of your agency from company politics.
Be aware that it might backfire. Inform those in the company that it may generate a lot of chatter, which is not always bad.
Don’t get discouraged. If one viral video fails, get up and make another one.
So there. That’s about as much of a formula for viral video content as is possible. But remember, you can make a really funny video with a 1 million views, but if it isn’t turning people into advocates for your brand, then it’s probably not worth your time.