Unlocking the Secrets of Viral Video Success

by: | September 2, 2011

Creating a successful viral video can seem about as easy as winning the lottery. In some ways, it is. As you likely know, there’s no foolproof, step-by-step formula for viral video success, but what we can do is look at the common aspects that all viral videos share to increase the chances that your videos can perform as well.

The use of viral videos is a coveted tactic because it’s the ultimate in word-of-mouth marketing. It’s also not easy to accomplish or deduce what’s going to get a video to go viral. Here are a few commonalities many successful viral videos share that you can use as pointers to help you create a video with the potential to go viral:

1. Emotional connection: make them laugh or cry— or both! 
The majority of the most memorable viral videos are funny but don’t assume that your video HAS to be funny. A moving piece that evokes a strong emotional connection can be a powerful motivator for people to share. Think of the difference between the Old Spice videos and the Dove Evolution videos.

2. Use the element of surprise. 
Think of the last time you saw a video that made you think, “How’d they do that?” or “Is that real?” An unexpected surprise or a sense of wonder also drives the impulse for sharing. Think about the Sheep Light Show (is it real or staged?) or the John West Salmon Bear Fight (looks real until, SURPRISE).

3. Keep it short and easy to spread.
People have short attention spans, especially when it comes to videos. Keep your videos short and compelling, and you’ll have a higher chance of it spreading. It also has to have universal appeal. An inside joke for your industry is unlikely to spread, but something that people outside your industry can connect to (and laugh at) has a high chance of spreading. The Acrobuttocks video is short and to the point.

4. Exposure: extend the reach as much as possible.
You have to get your video into the right hands. Upload your video to as many video websites as you can, and add in the right keywords to show up in searches. Then, post it on your networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Be patient, though. It may take some time to get discovered and spread like wild. If your video is good, get it in the hands of online influencers, and you’ll likely see a more sudden surge in traffic.

What’s the point? 

Viral videos are great for brand recognition, but unless it leads to sales, it can be a pointless pursuit. If you can show a reason to buy your product or service, you have a compelling proposition.

3 Perfect Case Studies

Will It Blend?  
With more than 65 million views, BlendTec’s Will It Blend series is one of the most successful viral video campaigns around. The idea is simple: use their blenders to destroy just about anything they or their viewers can think of. Who doesn’t love to watch destruction? It also shows the incredible quality of their product: superior blenders.

Dove Evolution
“No wonder our perception of real beauty is distorted.” Dove set out to brand itself as the company who cares about and celebrates “real beauty.” Their award-winning evolution video raked in millions of views, a series of parodies, and helped fuel a national dialogue about beauty and advertising. It also gave Dove a double-digit sales increase. This is a perfect example of evoking shock, outrage, and an emotional outpouring that helped fuel sales with a successful video campaign.

If generating sales through informative, funny videos is the name of the game, Orabrush’s online videos hit the mark. As a new company with no brand recognition and a product that could easily be placed in the “Oh, I already have one of those” category, Orabrush had to show how their product was unique and desirable. Their videos are funny and show you how to test your own breath (proving your fears correct!). Combining successful strategies to raise awareness, these videos mix humor, product information and the unexpected— in other words, viral video gold. Take a look at their channel page and notice the perfectly placed and easy to see call to action to get a free Orabrush when you follow them on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to their YouTube channel. This gets you to try their product, engage with the company socially, and continue viewing their videos.Marketing Zeus

What are your favorite viral video campaigns, and how do you plan on using viral videos in your business? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in: Affiliate, B2C, Banner/Display, Branding, Campaign Development, Content, E-Commerce, Facebook, Lead Generation, Rich Media, Social Networks, Twitter, Video, Viral Marketing

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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