If you type “How to make a video go viral” into Google you’ll get 4,300,000 results. You would think with that many responses there would be at least ONE article we could turn to for that guaranteed result.
Alas, it just ain’t so.
Why this rant? In the last week I have been confronted by two situations where people were looking for ways to make a video go viral. Perhaps the word “confronted” is a bit strong but it seems that I can’t go a minute without someone flashing advice or a request via my Tweetdeck about “going viral”.
First, the two confrontations.
After doing a workshop with one of my non-profit clients I was chatting with one of the participants who has a side job working with local bands. His first question to me was – how can I get their videos to go viral?
The second confrontation came in the form of a tweet or, more accurately, a re-tweet. This was someone’s request to “spread the word” to make a “talented” little girl’s video of a Lady GaGa song go viral. She wasn’t bad but the whole video was clearly a calculation. There was nothing special about it – just a 9-year-old girl who can sing. Quite a few of those on You Tube.
“Going viral” is the new buzz word. There are certainly agencies and services who can “spread the word” about your latest video projects – that will not guarantee “going viral”. Tweeting your link to their 10,000 followers without context borders on meaningless.
“Going viral” requires a level of credibility. We click on links for two reasons – our true friends suggest it or we see so many recommendations in so many places we are forced to succumb to curiosity.
“Going viral” cannot be planned, calculated, guaranteed or manufactured. By definition “going viral” is special. If everyone could do it then it wouldn’t matter so much. If you want to have even a chance of “going viral” your content must contain at least one of the following qualities:
Genuine – In today’s transparent world of social media people can smell a sales pitch a mile away. The goal is to entertain not drive downloads. Rebecca Black’s Friday video was clearly a calculation but the song was infectious. For goodness sake – don’t publicly ask people to help you make your content “go viral”. That is what share buttons are for.
Captivating – There has to be an “oh wow” factor to your video. You must spark some level of emotional reaction with what you create. People have to feel something before they’ll talk, blog, post or tweet about. It all starts with an individual connection. The more mass appeal the connection, the more reactions you will create. Drama and comedy both elicit emotional responses for different reasons. Your content must have that quality.
Unique – We’ve seen rainbows, kids after the dentist and crazy dancers. Music videos have been around for 30 years and the genre is pretty much exhausted all the fresh ideas. However, a Marine asking an actress for a date to the Ball is newsworthy.
Timely – If you can be spontaneous in the moment you have a better chance of being seen. A Harry Potter parody the week the movie opened might work. Capitalizing on top-of-mind awareness on a breaking topic can help you enter the mainstream.
Relatable – The funniest comedians are able to take the mundane situations of everyday life and turn them on their side. We laugh because we understand. That was the whole key to Seinfeld.
Large Network – The more people you can touch the better chance you have to succeed. Of course, just having 100,000 twitter followers will guarantee you nothing – it just gives you a head start.
The oft quoted statistic is that 24 hours of video is uploaded to You Tube every minute. That’s some pretty stiff competition. All you can do is take your best shot, be smart about marketing yourself and hope the public decides you are viral worthy.
When someone tries to tell you they can make your video go viral ask them if they’ll work with you for a portion of the proceeds. If they are so sure they can get you on You Tube Trends – make them prove it. You’ll both profit if it works.
Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist