Why your viral video strategy is a bad idea (and 5 ways to develop a great video anyway)
December 5th 2013
I rue the day “viral video” became a part of the marketing lexicon.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a cute cat video as much as anyone and, four years later, this still cracks me up. The term makes me shudder, however, because somewhere along the way, otherwise smart marketing people began requesting viral videos.
You can create a video that you hope goes viral, but “going viral” shouldn’t be your strategy. It’s like saying that your plan for retirement is to buy a winning lottery ticket. It could happen, but the odds are stacked against you. If it were that easy to create a viral video, everyone would be doing it, every day.
So stop telling your marketing department or agency that you want them to create a viral video for you. Instead, ask them to help you develop a really great video—one that may or may not go viral. Here’s how:
Tie it in to your overall strategy.
The most important step in the process of making a video is ask yourself some fundamental questions, such as:
What is your goal?
Is video the best way to achieve what you’re trying to accomplish?
Strategy should precede tactics. But too often we see clients who have decided or have been told that they need to create a video when there is a better approach to reaching the goal.
If you’re sure video is the best tactic, take the time to think about the strategy for the video. If you are truly hoping that your video is seen and shared by thousands or millions of people, keep in mind that most videos that go viral are not overtly self-promotional—for example, Dove Real Beauty Sketches.
This isn’t always the case though, as Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades are F***ing Great” video proved. In both cases, the approach is well-executed and aligns with the brand—hugely important factors for any video, viral or not.
Create a connection.
The best videos bring out the emotions of the viewer. While there are certainly a lot of viral videos that are funny, humor isn’t the only emotional hook. Feelings of sadness, hopefulness, happiness and surprise resonate with viewers as well.
It’s feeling that connection with the video (whether it has you rolling on the floor laughing, nodding your head in understanding or reaching for the Kleenex) that will inspire viewers to share it with their friends. Regardless of the tone you go for, it needs to be appropriate for your audience and your topic.
Consider the length.
The optimal length for a video varies widely. According to ReelSEO.com, at the end of 2012, the average length of the top 50 videos on YouTube was 2 minutes 54 seconds. We’ve come along way from just the 30-second TV spot. So what’s changing?
Well, there is a big difference between interruption marketing and permission marketing. YouTube has given consumers a way to seek out the video they want to watch, rather than encountering it in the midst of their favorite TV show. Viewers are choosing to watch your video, which they’ve encountered because they’re on your email list, have chosen to follow you on Facebook, or because a friend shared it with them.
That sharing happened because your content made the viewer feel something. And that something was not boredom. So if you’re trying to determine how long your video should be, I recommend following the simple but sage advice of Joe Pulizzi in his book Epic Content Marketing: your content should be “as long as it needs to be.”
Plan to promote it.
As you’re developing your video strategy, you should also be creating a strategy to promote it. Your video is never going to go viral if no one knows it exists.
Consider how it can tie in to your other marketing, PR and social media efforts. Share among your employees, email subscribers and social media followers. If you’ve created a great, viral-worthy video, it will begin to spread beyond these audiences, but it has to start somewhere, so make sure you kick if off right.
Make it great.
Your video has to be good. It has to be really, really good. More than 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month. Your video has to stand out. There’s no magic formula here, just a lot of thought, creativity and hard work.
If you develop a solid strategy, create a connection, make it concise, promote it well and make it great, you’ll have the makings of a viral video on your hands. And if it doesn’t go viral, that’s ok. If you’ve followed this advice, you’ve probably created a video that your audience loves. And isn’t that really the point?
Let’s talk video as part of your overall content strategy – we promise, no cats allowed.