When it comes to viral content many people think that video is the way to go. They’re not wrong. Successful viral marketing videos can do enormous things for your brand; they can drive huge volumes of targeted traffic to your website and, if they’re very successful, drive sales through the roof. But bad viral videos are disastrous.
What makes a good viral video?
Perhaps the single most important thing to remember when making a viral video is that it has to entertain. Without entertainment value you’ve got nothing.
Kevin Doherty goes one further and says that you need to focus on infotainment. Infotainment is one of the buzzwords of the moment and encompasses information and entertainment. The trick is to find a balance between the two.
Remember that people online have the attention spans of gnats, so you need to catch their attention early. You either have to open with a bang or open in such an intriguing manner that people will be compelled to keep on watching. The thing with starting with a bang is that you have to maintain it.
Have you ever seen (or perhaps read) High Fidelity? The main character, Rob, describes the trick to making a good compilation tape. You can apply the same principles to viral videos:
- Start with a bang.
- Kick it up a notch.
- Bring it back down.
- Build it up.
- End in a fireworks display
Ok, so that isn’t exactly how he put it, but you get the idea.
Don’t slap something together and hope for the best. Treat your viral video as a serious production. Edit it, add a soundtrack (if necessary), make sure that it flows and make sure that everything is technically sound. You want to make sure that it works when people click on it.
Act with integrity; don’t try to pull the wool of your audience’s eyes. Failing that, make the dupe worthwhile.
One of South Africa’s mobile network providers made a song and dance of hiring a brand new CEO (Customer Experience Officer). The chap in question was a comedian who had had a rant about their service on a video that was uploaded to YouTube. The point was that the company could take criticism on the chin and always had their customers’ interest at heart. But it turned out that the entire thing was a fabrication. It cost the comedian a few fans and cost the company credibility.
Some companies get away with faking it.
Asher Moses cites some brands that managed to temporarily deceive viewers and walk away with their customer base bigger than ever. For example:
- Levi’s was behind an apparently genuine video of a couple of New Zealand women using a hidden camera to catch men in the act of checking them out. They didn’t use any branding but the truth came out and Levi’s suffered not a jot (thanks in large part to the embarrassed humour of men and wry humour of women the world over).
- Gillette was behind the viral video of Roger Federer knocking a tin can off of a nervous chap’s head with an ace. The video had almost the entire online community speculating about its authenticity but mostly people were just utterly impressed.
The trick to getting away with deception is to create videos with panache and without obvious manipulation.
Your other alternative is not to hide the fact that you’re promoting a brand.
Remember the Old Spice ads that came out last year – the ones with the jaw-droppingly sexy Isaiah Mustafa as the man your man could smell like? It was very much an ad, it was an uber-ad, but it was funny and tongue-in-cheek and took the Mickey out of clichéd ad characters like the Marlboro Man. It didn’t hurt that Mustafa has the body of Adonis and men already wanted to be him.
Old Spice used the campaign to reinvent themselves. Let’s face it, it’s an old, tired long-standing joke that dads get Old Spice for Christmas and that the bottles end up lining their cupboards. But thanks to one ad and one hunk Old Spice is about the coolest men’s fragrance on the planet.
Avoid viral video disaster
The tips to avoid viral disaster are as simple as they are important.
1) Don’t be boring.
2) Push the envelope but don’t tear it.
3) Respect your viewers.
4) Don’t lie (too much).
5) Don’t copy other videos.
6) Don’t spoof other campaigns (unless you’re very clever and have nothing to lose).
7) Don’t be cheap.
8) Don’t expect it to go viral on its own.
Pay very careful attention to the last point. Very, very few videos make go viral by accident. You will need to optimise it using SEO (titles, tags and descriptions). You will need to kick start it by sending it to the right audience. Choose bloggers who could be interested, post it on Twitter and Facebook, send it to your friends, invite people to comment on it, in fact, start the comments yourself.
Finally, realise that you won’t please everybody. If you want to get attention not all of it will be good. Deal with the valid complaints and criticisms with good grace, ignore the obvious trolls (you don’t want to get in a slanging match you’ll never win) and acknowledge when you get it wrong.
The world hates a sinner, but loves a sinner redeemed.