How to Help a Video go Viral
Clients are always asking me to produce a video that will go viral. They throw out the word “viral” like it’s an ingredient you add to food.
“Just add in a little salt.”
Their request for a viral video is typically followed with guidelines that handcuff all of my creativity.
“Just don’t be too controversial. We don’t want to offend our clients. Just stick to the facts of our product.”
If you want a video to go viral, it better be extremely funny or have a little edge because no one will forward a video unless it connects with their emotional root.
Think about the videos you forward to your friends. Would you forward a commercial video on a new sofa that was neither funny nor entertaining? Of course not, but there is a better chance you would forward the video to friends if it had an edgy scene or conversation on the sofa that made you think or laugh. That’s a crucial component for viral videos: think or laugh.
Of course, there are exceptions, like the viral video that provides practical information. People will forward an informational video, assuming it holds their attention and provides expertise to a topic.
It’s simple sociology, which is why you need to learn, how NOT to kill a video if you’re trying to produce a viral video.
1) Don’t think outside the box because that is already a cliché and it’s only going to ignite average ideas.
Instead – think of creating a new thought or idea. Back to the example of the boring couch you’re trying to sell at your furniture store. You can either A) showcase your furniture or B) produce a video of a couple on your couch, talking about your product. You can be more creative by having them discuss what it is going to take place on this couch when no one is watching. Drop in some innuendo because WE ALL KNOW sex sells. But you don’t always need to exploit sex to sell a viral video. Perhaps, this couple discusses a topic that makes viewers think about life, or their furniture or their kids in a NEW way.
2) Don’t produce a video that makes people dizzy.
My company has produced many web videos for nightclubs, restaurants and lounges. I’ve had a few owners tell me they want the video to move faster so the patron can see everything in 45-seconds. The end result is that the viewer sees nothing because each shot is less than 2-seconds. I know we live in an ADD society (because I likely may have it) but that doesn’t mean you need to tell everything about your product in a limited amount of time. If you have a great story or product, produce several videos, rather than a longer one. I produced one video for a politician who claimed he had the best story of any politician since Abe Lincoln. He told me I couldn’t tell his story in 2-minutes because he had too big of a career, which fittingly matched his ego. The client is always right, so we produced a monstrous documentary that few people watched. That video never gained traction. If you want to produce a video with viral aspirations, make sure you focus the message.
3) Don’t use crappy video.
Sometimes we have to work with the product we’re given, but if the video is blurry or the audio is hard to understand, don’t use it. This video will represent your company, so you want to make sure the video quality represents your highest standards.
4) Don’t be the judge.
If your audience consists of 22 year olds and you’re 55 years old, don’t try to take on the role of expert. My company has produced lots of nightclub videos that targeted college kids. I ran the video by several of my young interns before I presented it to the client. I didn’t do that because I was questioning my work. I did that because I wanted to watch their expressions to see if it moved them in the areas where I wanted to motivate them. No man is an island, so take advantage of the other castaways next to you.
Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.