Is There a Silver Bullet for Viral Video Marketing?

Is There a Silver Bullet for Viral Video Marketing?
August 20, 2012

Lots of online articles claim to hold the secret – but finding the right formula for a viral video marketing campaign is easier said than done.

10 Keys to Ensure Your Video Goes Viral!

5 Can’t Miss Steps to Better Viral Videos

I see posts with titles like these all the time; sometimes I read them, sometimes I don’t. But I pretty much always take them with a big grain of salt.

viral video marketingThe truth is, no matter how talented you may be, there’s almost no guaranteed way to ensure that your video content will go “viral,” especially with so many different personal definitions of what viral actually means. To most people, the term viral represents a number. Something like, “It’s gotten over 2 million views in less than a week!” Yes, it’s safe to say that video has gone viral.

But to me, viral means something a little different. From a business or marketing perspective, when I think of viral content, I think about something with mass appeal that gains popularity without direct involvement from its creator. That last part is especially important, because it really gets to the crux of the whole viral issue and why a lot of the posts you see out there are generally blowing moderate amounts of smoke. In other words, it’s not the creator of a video that makes it go viral; it’s the audience.

For that reason, no video goes viral without a little bit (or often a lot) of luck. Sure, celebrities or talk show hosts with large built-in audiences can create a video with the intention of a lot of people sharing it and succeeding, but for most businesses, this just isn’t realistic. As a result, many of the viral videos you see these days were in some way unintentional.

For example, no one knew who Rebecca Black was at the beginning of last year. But her “Friday” video didn’t get over 37 million views since then because the song was particularly good. In fact, it became popular for being exceptionally bad, with lyrics so laugh-out-loud silly that most people wondered whether or not she was being serious. (OK, and it was also really catchy.) A more recent example is the “McKayla Is Not Impressed” meme from this year’s Olympics (though to McKayla Maroney’s credit, she is totally owning it.)

As Pixability’s Bettina Hein explains, going in with the goal of “We want to make a viral video” will likely only set you up for failure. There are just too many variables that are out of your control. However, looking at the viral videos of the past, there are a few things you can do to give your video content more mass appeal. I wouldn’t necessarily devote your entire video marketing strategy to these concepts, but they can be helpful in certain select cases.

#1. Make it funny. Obviously, people like sharing things that makes them laugh. The only problem is that unintentional comedy is the unofficial king of viral video marketing. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

Just remember that what the folks in your office find funny won’t necessarily appeal to the rest of the world. If you have a funny idea that you think speaks to your audience and reflects positively on your business, try running it by trusted people outside of your internal network. If they think the idea is as funny as you do, chances are more people will as well, and it could be worth a shot to pursue.

#2. Make it unique. One of the most infamous viral video examples that everyone points to is the “Will It Blend?” campaign by Blendtec. This was successful for a lot of reasons, but the biggest in my eyes is that it showed people things they’d never seen before (unless you’re the type that likes to blend entire rotisserie chickens in your spare time).

Obviously, campaigns like these are incredibly difficult to recreate and don’t apply to all business models. But if you can find a way to present your product as unique or revolutionary in a way that’s also fun and relatable, you’ll have some prime ingredients for viral video marketing. (And yes, those ingredients also blend.)

#3. Make it shareable. The only way for a video to go viral is for people to share it over and over and over again. So naturally, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to pass along to friends and colleagues. This is where you really need YouTube, as it’s the most used video site on the planet, and people are extremely comfortable sharing its content. Basically, if your content isn’t on YouTube, you really have no shot of seeing your viral video dreams come true.

What’s your favorite viral video? Do you think there’s actually a silver bullet to viral video marketing? Or is it all just a crapshoot? Sound off in the comments below.