We’ve all watched enough viral videos to know that they are quickly becoming an alternative approach to reaching a broad audience, but could viral videos drive the revenue out of traditional media as we know it? Furthermore, is there a way to ensure that a video will go viral and are there any factors that can predict an online video’s success?
First of all, it’s important to realize that you can’t really launch a viral campaign. It’s called ‘viral’ because like a contagious disease, it infects you with the urge to hit the Share button the very second after you experience it. So, in effect, the people watching are the only ones who can make videos “go viral.” For a video or ad campaign to truly be considered viral, it usually means that even if you haven’t actually seen the video, you’ve heard about it from your sister, your best friend, your sister’s best friend, and at least half of the social network whose posts show up on your daily newsfeed.
Now that viral videos are taking the internet by storm, ad agencies are realizing that viral campaigns are at the cutting edge of selling products and building brand awareness. Not to mention, a viral campaign can be very cost effective if executed correctly—an advertiser’s work is essentially finished once their target audience experiences something that totally captivates them and makes them feel compelled to forward the video to all of their friends and contacts. This sort of reaction can quickly multiply to form an impressive audience.
But what determines whether or not a video will go viral?
There’s no way to predict or guarantee it, although laughing babies and adorable animals do seem to have an advantage. But, in most cases, the content of the video needs to speak to viewers in a way that will elicit some sort of emotional reaction. Not only does a video need to be hilarious, ridiculous, shocking, or controversial to be interesting; it also needs to be unexpected to be considered universally appealing.
Remember that just because a video communicates your point, does not mean it’s interesting and engaging. For example, your boss discussing your company’s new quality control strategy probably won’t generate 2 million hits, but post a video of your son on sedatives after a trip to the dentist and somehow you‘ll turn into an overnight YouTube sensation. Of course, most viral videos like this simply show silly people doing senseless things and don’t have any sort of marketing purpose. However, it is possible to create a meaningful video that presents a message within the context of an entertaining experience worth repeating and passing along. The key in building brand recognition with a viral campaign is to be covert; generally speaking, the more concealed the marketing message, the more successful the viral effort is. Be unexpected and imaginative with your ideas. Use originality to create the perception of value beyond a typical, purely promotional advertisement and your audience will do the rest.