viral-videoIf you can think of a relevant way to utilise video as part of your marketing then there's every reason you should.

Research shows that audiences are extremely comfortable with the medium (YouTube alone makes up almost a quarter of Google search queries), it's cheap to distribute, needn't be expensive to produce and ranks highly in the SEO stakes.

If you run things properly, then video can drive a huge volume of traffic to your site.

Here are a few key practices to get you started...

Part of viral marketing may be pure luck, but that doesn't mean you can't optimise your existing and upcoming video for maximum links and viral spread.

There are any number of reasons that certain video content catches the wider public's imagination and experiences rocketing traffic, but by and large successful viral videos conform to a few set criteria.

Be relevant

If you want to grab a few extra hits, then you need to be fast on your feet. If you have the capability to produce video quickly, then you can certainly hop on board with current trends or relevant news.

Just remember that this option needs to be quick-in, quick-out. Nothing dates faster than pop culture, so while it's fine to reference and riff on what's going on, remember that timing is of the essence.

Don't leap on a bandwagon too late or overstay your welcome.

Be entertaining

Just because online video is a relatively new medium, that doesn't mean you should disregard the rules of cinema. As with any other marketing stream, people want engaging and relevant content.

If you're making a video, that means you need to add drama, tension or big laughs. It's easy to create a video about your product, but if you go for the straight sell you'll end up with the online equivalent of a 1950's TV commercial.

Instead, take the reality TV route. Create a story and utilise product placement throughout.

Sell the situation and the characters, not just the product.

Be concise

YouTube recently announced plans to increase video length to fifteen minutes, but that doesn't mean you have to fill that time. A 90 second video can be more effective than a ten minute epic so make sure you start editing even before you start rolling.

Put together a concise script and really think about the visual medium. A picture paints a thousand words, so you have an opportunity to convey your ideas quickly.

Generally speaking a viewer will start to lose interest around the three minute mark, so ditch any filler.

Be progressive

Something else to think about early on is the possibility of a sequel. Just because you won't be vying with Spielberg come Oscar season, there's no reason you can't have a successful franchise (If you need proof, look at Jerry Bruckheimer...).

If you plan things properly and work with a decent director then there's no reason you can't film several short episodes in a single sitting, maximising cost efficiency and giving you the chance to progress and develop your ideas and your brand identity, creating anticipation rather than trying an audience’s patience.

A successful series will add up to more views and a longer lasting return on your investment, so plan ahead.

Be searchable

Whenever you right copy or put together a campaign, you'll be thinking about key words and compelling headlines and you should keep that in mind with video as well. A good title should be catchy and concise.

Video is often ranked highly by search engines as well, so make sure you frontload those key-words and offer value, consider using a question as a title. Overall, make sure you keep one eye on your customer research and target video accordingly.

Be clear

Finally, remember your CTAs.

Whatever you're selling, make sure you emphasise it in the final frame, otherwise you could be left with a clever, shareable video that fails when it comes to sales.

You should brand your videos throughout with an on-screen bug, add calls to action whenever possible and make sure you optimise SEO in descriptions and tags when you upload your content.

Remember to make it easy for customers to click through to your site.

Above all, video is a creative medium.

Whatever your product, it's usually best to keep a friendly tone of voice that isn't too formal, and don’t be afraid to experiment or change your branding to suit the medium. 

If you can present your product in a unique or amusing way then it will have a far greater chance of going viral.

Matt Owen

Published 25 August, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen is a marketing consultant based in London. He was previously Head of Social at Econsultancy and currently runs Atomise Marketing. Opinions expressed are author's own.

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Comments (3)


Alex Sbardella

I notice that this article doesn't mention what used to be one of the biggest factors in something going viral (and correct me if I'm wrong, but what the term used to describe) - hiding the fact it's a product placement at all (i.e. guerilla stuff). Do you feel that this no longer a relevant tactic? Have Old Spice and co. made overt company branding acceptable? Do you think customers feel cheated to discover what they thought was a cool bit of amateur video was actually professionally produced? (Although, to be honest, 99% of the time it is immediately obvious it's been done by an agency). Do you risk the video going viral but no one actually eventually discovering what it was promoting? I don't know the full answers to those questions, but I think it still has a place; lonelygirl15 et al were hugely successful campaigns.

almost 8 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

That's actually a very important point Alex, cheers for pointing it out. Personally, I'm more on the transparent side, I feel that most online users are savvy enough to figure out if something is an add or not pretty quickly (the recent 'girl with whiteboard' ad is a good example). If you can create a good ad that doesn't overtly highlight the product then by all means do so, but it's a sensitive area, you do need to tread very carefully so that viewers don't feel they are being conned, but it can still be succesful. That said, I think givven the levels of audience awareness, it's absolutely acceptable to be blatant about the product, and that it's an advert -as long as it's a funny, dramatic, interesting one.

almost 8 years ago


Alexei Lee

Some great benchmark guidelines here that can actually be applied to Social Media content creation in general.

The next step in encouraging 'viral' spread would obviously be to find relevant touch-points to seed the content out to.

almost 8 years ago

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