It’s Easy To Make A Video, But Takes A Lot To Make It Viral

This is a cross-blog post from Stage Two’s website where I worked and wrote on their blog. Originally posted on Stage Two’s blog on March 1, 2010.

Inbound Marketing Summit - Tim StreetLast year, I was very fortunate enough to attend the Inbound Marketing Summit hosted by Chris Brogan and Justin Levy. It was there that I was first introduced to Tim Street, a video producer and social media marketer perhaps better well known for French Maid TV. It was there that he brought up the topic of how to create a viral video. You know about a lot of them “you’ve probably seen them and also passed them along to your friends and family. They’re the ones that really catch on “ like the one featuring Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent“ remember that one? Well since that conference, I’ve been hearing a lot of people asking what does it take to create a viral video. The answer is a lot of work – just because you can create a video does not mean that it’s automatically going to be a hit on the Internet and that millions of viewers will want to watch it.

According to Street, there are four components to making a video viral:

  • Make it easy to share.
  • Make it OK to share.
  • Controversial takes risks.
  • Emotionally engaging.

The first part is pretty easy make it easy to share. If you’re going to create a video, dont just put it on your website. Make sure that it’s placed in a high-traffic area, like YouTube or Facebook where people can find it and refer others using other viral tools. If you put it only in one spot and don’t help people share it on social networks, then you just have a video, NOT a viral one. People love it when the options are there to make their lives easier. If you make it too difficult, chances are that they’ll simply watch it and give up on sending it to friends. Why? Because no video is that good to endure such difficulties. Keep it simple and accessible.

When talking about being “OK to share“, I believe that you shouldn’t make it too risque but I’m sure it depends on the tastes of your audience. In other words, make sure that it’s safe for work and that your message gets through without diminishing the intent of the video or being too vulgar that it soon gets pulled off the website. But let’s not confuse this with the third component: be controversial take risks. A plain video with no message about which side to take probably doesn’t go anywhere, but being controversial always sells and can be a good attention grabber if anything, people who have seen your video will tell others about it just so they can either support or admonish it later. Make sure that you take a risk and play on your issues provocative nature.

Lastly, never forget that people become invested in something when they are emotionally engaged. Videos of Susan Boyle were a hit because people felt compelled to watch and the emotion they felt helped to spread the movie clip further. Find a way to get the viewers involved whether that’s a comedic bit, happy ending, anger or sadness, emotions are a powerful tool in video virality.

So now you’ve created a viral video, what steps can you take in order to help people pay attention to it?

Through relationships, strategic placements and syndication can you achieve virality at least according to a ClickZ article.

One of the first things to do is to make sure some influential people in that industry take a look at the video and see if they’ll pass it along. It is also recommended that you penetrate the video networks like YouTube, Vimeo, Blip, etc and see who is doing the most sharing. Just like you might do with a story idea to a journalist or how you pitch an influencer, doing video marketing is no different. It would behoove you to go ahead and start building a relationship with some of the people in the community and after a while, when you’ve earned their trust, you can go ahead and see if they would be interested in your video. Granted, simply being friends with them will not guarantee that your video will be shared in fact, at that point, it depends on whether your video is good to begin with. You can also tap into some video seeding services like TubeMogul and VidMetrix for help or talk to social media enthusiasts either in your company or agency you work to see if they have any leads.

As for strategic placement, if you have money in your budget, you might want to consider doing some paid placement. You’re not paying for people to share your video, but you’re just non-chalantly placing your video where the most trafficked areas on the site are. For example, you could have your video on the front page of YouTube where that’s the starting point for millions of people everyday to find interesting things to watch. That alone could generate the returns you seek.

Lastly, make sure your video is syndicated. I’m sure this goes in line with the principle we discussed earlier of making it easy to share, but just to re-emphasize that you want people to easily pass along your video. Don’t be afraid to let influencers embed the video on their website or other networks. Like it’s written in the ClickZ article:Let your viewers decide where and how they want to view your videos.” Don’t disrupt the process or interfere in how they share.

While you might think that the above steps are easy to do, I must caution you against underestimating what it takes to build a viral video. Yes, it is easy to create a video, but when you want to begin trying to make it viral, you need to balance between making sure people find your work organically and without pressure AND that it’s also not bordering on being too marketing/sales-like. The best viral videos are user-generated and anything commercial may be frowned upon.

A closing thought?

Advertisers will always have a difficult time playing in the viral space. People want pure entertainment. Even the most minimally branded videos are often rejected.

Where will you draw the line on your video?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."