MICHIGAN, May 1, 2012 - You have the power to capture the attention of the world without spending a dollar. Use the following checklist as a guide as you set out for your piece to be seen by millions of people.
These pointers won’t guarantee success, but are good places to start. Many viral videos have surpassed one of these categories with flying colors, making up for their other weaknesses, but you should aspire to comfortably and naturally fit as many as possible.
Let’s jump in.
#1 – Solid Production and Storytelling
As Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere stated, “You have to think about the viewer, and that the video is not just for the people who were there that day. Treat the audience like they didn’t read the website, title, description, who you are, etc.”
No one knows you, and you have 15-30 seconds before they decide to leave or stay. One of the easiest ways to lose them during your video is subpar production and storytelling.
You can have the most fantastic creative but if it looks like B-roll instead of the big story, you will lose them. Striking and unexpected visuals, a moving and engaging storyline, complimentary sound and music, are all easily overlooked, but can kill your work.
#2 – Fantastic and Fresh Creative
“The viral video has to be great,” says Andrew Bancroft, associate creative director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners.
Notable of late, Goodby Silverstein & Partners worked on Chevrolet Sonic’s nearly 20 million view SuperBowl campaign with OK Go.
“Good content tends to bubble to the top,” says Todd.
There is no substitute for brilliant creative—it can have small businesses blasting Fortune 500 companies out of the water.
You should almost always aspire to do the unheard of and the impossible. With internet audiences constantly scouring for the best content, your imagination will pay off.
#3 – Emotions
Make people laugh, cry, smile, or any other strong emotion (negatives included), and you’ll have a key ingredient in nearly all viral content. Simon Duncan-Watt, who created the It’s Time campaign, sitting at 5.4 million views, explained its success:
“It executes a shared human experience, that of love, and connects with people at a very base level. I believe people connect with the story on an emotional level, something I’ve noticed all my favorite viral content does.”
Aspire to create content that touches the soul in a universal way. His video for Get Up! Australia was also incredibly successful because it touched on something we’ve all experienced, the excitement of love.
Anyone can watch that video and see themselves inside their world. Work toward a video that has your viewer walking away feeling different than they did previously. Viral content is not a logical, cold-cognition rationality—it is a heightened sense of emotion that your viewer feels inside themselves.
#4 – Tying into a National/International Conversation
“Social networking is just a conversation, so unless you bring something to the conversation you’re not welcome,” says Ed Robinson, co-founder of The Viral Factory. “And that conversation is content.”
If you can provide quality content for that conversation, your work will be shared worldwide. Take, for example, the T-Mobile Royal Wedding, sitting at 26 million views. At that time, the world was buzzing about the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
T-Mobile reenacted an older viral video, the JK Wedding Entrance Dance, but as if it was the royal wedding. They catered to their internet audience, but more importantly provided the perfect content for a major ongoing discussion. Duncan-Watt’s It’s Time campaign did this as well.
With gay marriage, a dominant topic in the United States and abroad, it served as the perfect conversation starter for those who support gay rights.
#5 – Catering to your Internet Audience
This is a big one. Bancroft says, “Companies and advertisers already have a finicky and skeptical audience, so they already have one strike against them.”
Robinson agrees. “The internet is a deeply hostile place to most commerciality,” he said. “The audience won’t just blindly accept the marketing.”
You can’t advertise like you would on a billboard. You have to ever so gently work in the product and strategy, with the primary focus generally not being just the product.
Take The Viral Factory’s Samsung Galaxy campaign (video above). They showed a loveable elephant playing around and having fun with the new Samsung Galaxy, highlighting his remarkable intelligence.
No talking heads pushing some data plan and monthly cost, just an elephant and a human having a great time together. But they do show off the product, its capabilities, and it works toward their strategic message, “Bigger is better.”
Come back to this list as you set out to create your next work and you’ll be in good hands, but above all, remember these sage words from Todd and his 323 million views, “Don’t focus so much on what would be a hit. Do an idea that makes you laugh, that you’re excited about, motivated to go do and make happen.”
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