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4 Elements of a Successful Viral Video

4 Elements of a Successful Viral Video


Creatively Corporate Viral Video

It’s hard to believe, but fewer than ten years ago organizations weren’t worried about social media strategies. As popular as it was at the time, even having a presence on MySpace wasn’t necessary. Now the game has changed, and for companies to remain a going concern beyond next week, they not only need to be on social media, they need to stand out. Many organizations are making videos for social media in the hope that they will go viral and reach more people than they could with conventional print or TV advertising.

A viral video is one that spreads like a virus – it’s shared by almost everyone who sees it. It’s kind of like that Faberge shampoo commercial from the 80s. Once someone sees an interesting video, they share with two friends, and they share it with two friends, and so on and so on. Only the internet has sent that process into hyperdrive.

One example of a viral video is the infamous Sneezing Baby Panda. I’ll give you a minute to recover from the cute. Now that’s a moment that was accidentally caught on a video running in a panda pen. But many companies are making commercials specifically to be spread on social media.

If I can bore you with one of my favorites: Puma created this video for European football fans to play for their significant others on Valentine’s Day, which happened to coincide with Match Day on this particular year. Match Day is a huge day for football fans and men had a real dilemma as whether to watch the game at the pub or take their beloveds out for a romantic evening. This was Puma’s possible solution for these men.

The purpose of the viral video for companies is clear: Promote your organization through organic social media interaction. So if you’re looking to create a viral video for your company, what should you know about this medium? What are some of the elements of a successful viral video?

It Entertains
This seems obvious, but remember that in order for people to share a video, they have to be entertained by it – to the point that they watch it repeatedly and share it because their friends just HAVE to see it! Old Spice has created several entertaining videos, like this one, that have been shared by tens of millions of people… and you can see why.

You don’t necessarily have to be knee-slapping hilarious in your approach. A more serious tone works as well. But if you’re trying to be funny or make a powerful statement and end up falling flat, your video probably won’t be the next big internet sensation. So be smart. Pick an interesting topic or concept. Easier said than done, I know. But try getting a few people together you consider smart and/or creative and bounce ideas off each other. See what sticks.

It Plays On Our Emotions
Some of the best viral videos are usually the ones that play on emotions – whether positive or negative. A video that make people laugh, cry, become angry, or think will be shared. This video from Dove connected with millions of women, for instance, because it plays on an important social issue – the concept of beauty.

This isn’t to say you need to make a powerful social or political statement. If you’re a retailer selling a product, it’s best to try to create controversy, although sometimes controversy finds you. McDonald’s Carry On ad (sorry for the quality on this one) probably well intentioned ad created negative buzz by those who thought it was exploiting men and women in the armed services.

As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad press, but if you’re not a well established brand like McDonald’s, then just be smart about your video. Try to target basic human emotions and you’ll be on a good path to creating a video to which people can relate.

It’s Based In Truth
Popular internet videos are often those that come straight out of reality. The Sneezing Panda video is a perfect example. This video discreetly taken by a cell phone of a man giving his shirt to a cold homeless man on the subway created a buzz and reminded us about the true nature of humanity.

These slice-of-life videos don’t have to be accidental; they can be staged. Some organizations have injected themselves into everyday situations, causing spontaneous reactions from ordinary people with “flash mob” videos. Here’s a great example of this by the Opera Company of Philadelphia was a big hit on the internet, when it caught market-goers off guard with a spectacular performance.

The key takeaway here is that it you don’t always have to frustrate yourself trying to think of a brilliant concept video. You can take a real-life scene and think about how you can inject your organization’s brand or message into it.

It’s Educational
You’ve probably seen a video or two on the internet that instilled a sense of wonder or surprise. These are the ones that reveal something we didn’t know about before. Upworthy has several human interest stories you might not have ever seen otherwise but for the awesome power of the internet. This one provides a touching story about a bakery that gave an ex-felon a second chance. This video by Vox, for instance, featured information on getting quality sleep.

The latter is a good example for a corporate communicator – particularly marketers. If you can add value to your viewers’ lives by teaching something or giving them tips, like this video from Lowe’s that teaches you how to remove a stripped screw. Then there are those quick, helpful recipe videos we enjoy (and save) when we see them on Facebook. And hey… Wanna know three breakfasts you can make in a mug? Here ya go!

Of course the examples I’ve given here are just a water molecule on the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure you know dozens of others you could cite as your favorites. So why not do that in the Comment section? Link to your favorite viral videos and tell us why you like them!

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