Vital Ingredients of a Viral Video

The 10 Vital Ingredients of a Viral Video

Author Lizzie Davey on December 5, 2013

Online video is increasingly becoming a key tool in the eternal search for the perfect content marketing strategy. In an era when consumers want information quickly and easily, video is rising to the top of the pile, providing content in visual, digestible chunks.

Most companies are catching on to the value of video and are delving into making their own using a variety of tools, including the increasingly popular and user friendly social video sites Vine and Instagram, where just about anyone and everyone can create short videos.

But just because companies are making videos, it doesn’t mean they are good. In fact, of the thousands and thousands of videos that are uploaded every day, the vast majority go unseen because, well, they’re not very good. It’s amazing how many forward thinking marketers believe they can whack up a poorly shot thirty second video onto their social feeds and think it’s going to go viral.

Videos, like all other content, have to be well thought out. Not just spur of the moment.

If anything, they should be more thought out than any other pieces of content in your strategy. Because, if done right, they could open a lot of doors for you and your company.

To start simply, here are some important points you should consider when beginning your foray into video with popular examples to illustrate them. Now, you don’t have to follow all of them religiously, but it’s worth having them at the back of your mind for reference during the creative stages.

1. Be a storyteller

If there’s one thing people love, it’s stories. Stories make the world go round. A video simply showcasing your product sat on a table is not going to grab anyone’s attention. But, tell a story that revolves around your product, and you’ll have people coming back for more and, hopefully, sharing it around their social circles like wildfire.

Remember to make it easy to relate to. People are more likely to share your video if they can see a bit of themselves in it.

Example: Chipotle’s ‘The Scarecrow’

2. Be smart with your product placement

No one likes being bombarded with a product. Yelling loudly at consumers to ‘Like this product, buy this product, buy this product PLEASE’ is not going to make you any friends. To best execute smart placement, combine it with point number one; tell a story and subtly weave your product into it. Once you have viewers hooked with the plotline, they won’t notice or mind when you add a little information about your product at the end.

Example: Chrysler’s ‘RAM Trucks’

3. Reel ‘em in

One of the hardest things with video is to get the viewer to watch all the way to the end. To do this, you need to have them hooked from the start. Right at the beginning you have to give them something to pique their interest; something that’s going to make them want to find out what happens next. Don’t give all your secrets away at the start. Instead, dish them out little by little.

Authors have to ensure their readers keep turning the pages, and you have to encourage consumers to watch until the end.

Example: ‘Carrie’ – Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise

4. Draw on People’s Emotions

Emotions are a powerful thing, and using them to reach your audience is one of the best ways to create a successful video. Providing an emotional rollercoaster for consumers keeps them hooked and makes them feel connected with you and your product. Whether you take the viewer through sad, angry, or scared emotions for the duration of the video, it’s usually best to end with something happy. You want them to feel positive about your product, right?

Example: Degage Ministries – Homeless Veteran Gets a Makeover

5. Shock or surprise someone

The element of surprise is fantastic when used right and is a great way to keep your audience hooked. It doesn’t matter if the shock is intended for the viewer or for a character in the video; as long as someone is getting a fright then your viewers are more likely to watch until the end to see the outcome.

The audience know what’s happening in the video for LG below, but the people in the video don’t. What makes it so compelling is seeing the men’s reactions, which drives the video forward and keeps viewers hooked right until the very end.

Example: LG ‘Stage Fright’

6. Short or long?

There’s a lot of debate over whether long or short videos perform better. A lot of marketers believe that short is super because we are so often told that consumer’s concentration levels are dropping quickly. In fact, all but two of the most shared videos of 2013 are over three minutes long. Crazy, right? But it makes sense if you think about all of the points discussed here. You want to tell a story, draw on emotions, potentially throw in the element of surprise, and get your product out there. Thirty seconds isn’t a long time to fit all of this in.

So, forget anything and everything you’ve been told about how long a video should or shouldn’t be and, instead, think of a great concept that will appeal to audiences far and wide and build on it from there. Use as much or as little time as you need to get your message out there. If every video was the same length and followed the same rigorous set of rules, it would be pretty boring.

Example: The most shared video of 2013 – Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’

7. Make your audience the star

It’s hard to ignore how important interactivity is now. Audiences want to believe they have a part to play and have drastically changed from passive consumers to active consumers in the last few years. Whether you like it or not, it’s consumers that have the control, not the advertisers, so give them some choice. Let them think they are an important part of the process. Lowe’s have adapted to this perfectly, with their interactive tabs at the end of the video giving viewers the chance to choose what they want to do next.

Example: Lowe’s ‘How to Hang Exterior Christmas Lights’

8. Get Tastemakers Involved

Lots of companies are seeing the importance of using popular figures in their videos in order to reach a larger segment of their target audience. This doesn’t just mean celebrities, though. Marketers are beginning to realise the potential of YouTube users with large followings who can promote their videos and products. More often than not, YouTube users or vloggers have a more devoted following than a brand because they are trusted. Most importantly, their followers listen to what they say.

It still works with celebrities, though. Take Volvo Trucks’ hugely popular video including Jean Claude Van Damme. The company actually made a series of videos, including a ballerina tightrope walking between two trucks. However, it was the popular figure of Jean Claude Van Damme that made the version with the splits considerably more popular.

9. Day One Seals the Deal

It’s fairly easy to predict a video that’s going to do well from a very early stage, and the first 24 hours are crucial. In fact, YouTube has got a knack for figuring out which videos are going to be the next viral hit after they have only received as little as 10,000 views. If it thinks it has the potential to do well, it will contact the uploader to see if they want to participate in an advertising partnership. Of course, this is in the best interests of YouTube because they earn more money from ad deals on popular videos.

However, whilst it’s easy enough to predict if a video is going to do well after it is uploaded, it’s a bit trickier to guess the outcome before you’ve shot the video or tested the waters in the online world. It helps, though, if you’ve produced a video before that performed particularly well, like Evian and the video below, which garnered over 12 million views in the first three days.

Example: Evian’s ‘Baby & Me’

10. It’s not just about the visual

Yes, obviously video is an extremely visual form of content, but you should focus on the overall experience for the viewer, and that includes the music or soundtrack. A lot of marketers add music as a last minute affair, when really it should be thoughtfully considered in the initial creative stages. Think about a video that’s made an impact on you; I can guarantee the music had a big part to play in that impact. Am I right?

I’m going to use the Volvo Trucks video with Van Damme as an example here again because, well, because. Not only is a great visual piece with a simple but effective message, but the soundtrack (Enya) makes the overall experience.

Have I missed anything out here? What other important points are there to consider when making an online video?

If you’re interested in creating video for your content strategy, get in touch!

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