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Going Viral

April 12, 2012

Videos go viral every single day.  They pop up on our Twitter feeds and Facebook walls.  They make waves on news programs and blogs.  What exactly makes a video go viral overnight?  No one really has a definitive answer, however, there are some principles that pop up in a lot of these viral phenomenons that could be really helpful in creating a video that can go viral for your company or organization.  eModeration did a great breaking down a list of viral characteristics that are both observable and measurable.

Instant attraction Can the first 10-15 seconds create curiosity? The “pay-off” must come quickly or otherwise be communicated clearly; users don’t want to waste time! 

Audience hook Is there something in the video that will give it extra mileage with users and webmasters? A celebrity, and awesome soundtrack, exclusive footage, sex appeal or just an intriguing title. 

Storytelling It must be interesting; something the user hasn’t seen before or simply better than previous content in same genre, Storytelling also relates to the flow of the story and the creative concept behind it. 

Shareability The content needs to contain a meme. Content that deals with topical subjects or characters of importance to people in a cultural context is more likely to be shared and discussed. Ask yourself if your content relates to anything people already talk about?  Additionally, make it easy to share: the execution needs to be done in a format and tone that users feel like sharing. 

Production Relates to video layout, authenticity, production value and overall flow of the video. Is the video pleasant to watch, does it evoke emotional response with the target audience or simply – is there consistency between layout and story? 

Overall Campaign The user journey and depth of a campaign has a lot to say for engagement and organic media. Do we have multiple content and many channels in place?  

Often times the most captivating videos are ones that show things going wrong, unbelievable things, uncover truths or depict things that are just bad.  Check out my three examples of viral videos and how they made an impact whether they wanted to or not.

1. Rebecca Black’s Friday

This is a simple case of a video going back off of the shear ridiculousness of its content.  The song and video are both highly cheesy in nature and caused people to question whether someone would create and promote a song and video that were so utterly horrible.  It gained millions of viewers, trended for days and days on Twitter and gave Rebecca Black a few minutes of fame.

2. Mary J. Blige/Burger King Commercial

This recent viral video was meant for television but was pulled after fan backlash.  The video quickly hit the internet and has spawned parodies and blog debate.  The video shows Mary J. Blige singing about a new chicken wrap at Burger King.  Fans found the video offensive and many called Blige into criticism for promoting Mammy-esque stereotypes for singing about chicken over a hip-hop beat.  This is an example of when viral videos can hurt your brand.

3. Kony 2012

This longer-form viral video hit the internet and has been one of the premiere examples of 2012 viral videos.  Celebrities hopped on the bandwagon, only strengthening the power of the Invisible Children-produced video in opposition of Joseph Kony.  Check out this article for perspective on how this particular video went viral.

For non-profits and arts organizations, the importance of a viral video may not be as heavy as a start up dot com business or a food product line.  The best bet for these types of organizations is to pull at the heart strings much like the Kony 2012 video which generate a fury of emotions from viewers.  Lining up with a cause and producing a short shareable video is the key to getting noticed by the masses.  Above all else, don’t force the content to fit into the viral box.  Viral videos, most times, were not intended to go viral.  Keep true to your brand and organization first and let your video creation reflect that even if it does or doesn’t go viral.

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