We’ve done it, just like most of our friends have done it to us. We’ve come across a viral video that either made us laugh out loud, cry like a baby or think about something we’d never really considered before; and we’ve passed it on – usually with a comment like “lmao” or “This is going to make you cry.” And some of them are just so simple: a little kid getting his finger bitten by his younger brother or a three second symphonic clip introducing a wide-eyed gerbil. These videos are getting millions and millions of views and it seems like almost no effort went into the production. Why can’t you do that and use it to promote your company at the same time?
Sadly, there is no magical equation for making the perfect viral video. A lot of it has to do with good timing and just the right people picking up on it. But there are some things you can do to help your viral video on its way to viewer stardom.
Identify Your Audience
Depending on what your company sells, you’re probably going to want to craft your ad so that it appeals to a desired age range. Are you looking to grab the attention of 40+ year olds or the teen market? Are you trying to engage the 30s group? According to an April 2010 article by eMarketer, statistics predict that the majority – 93 percent – of 18 to 24-year-olds are watching videos online at least once per month in 2012, followed closely by the 24 to 34 group at 91.1 percent. Grabbing the attention of these age ranges takes a fair amount of research into what’s popular, but luckily, there are a lot of ways to find out what’s hot these days. Just check out the top viral videos lists updated daily at ViralVideoChart.com and on YouTube, or visit social media sites such as StumpleUpon, Pinterest, and of course, Facebook.
Keep it Short
While video viewership is going up, attention spans are going down. Average videos are typically around 15 to 30 seconds long, and they usually start with a quick “hook” within the first few seconds. It could be a good joke, a seemingly impossible sports trick, or even an adorable puppy trying to howl for the first time. No matter what, make sure it happens within the first few seconds or your audience will assume there’s no point in watching the rest, no matter how long it is.
Make it Catchy
Think of a commercial, any commercial you’ve seen in the past few days. What comes to mind? Three guinea pigs rowing a boat? A singing falafel? Whatever it is, the reason that commercial stuck with you is because it’s catchy. According to the founders of the viral video production company Seedwell in a recent interview by Mashable.com, a good viral video is usually either incredibly cute, shocking/seemingly impossible or a parody of something recent and well-known. Whatever it is, you want it to be something that catches your audiences’ attention and sticks with them well after it’s over. And hopefully, it will also be something they’ll want to pass on to their friends.
Good Title and Thumbnail
A lot of your viewing audience is out there trolling through the almost endless pages of videos available on the web for something to watch, and they aren’t taking the time to watch every single video in turn. Instead, they’re looking for interesting titles and intriguing thumbnails – the little freeze frames from your video that give the viewer an idea of the content. When preparing your video for the internet, make sure you pick a thumbnail image of your video that makes you think, “I need to watch that.” To get an idea of good thumbnails, flip through a site like YouTube or Ebaumsworld and see what other people are posting. These are also good sites for finding catchy titles. You only have a second or two to grab your audiences’ attention, so you want the first things they see – title and picture – to be as attention-grabbing as possible.
Promoting Your Product
Throughout this process, you’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to promote your business with this video. The answer is with subtlety. While watching any of the videos on the links provided above, you’ll notice that products typically aren’t mentioned directly in the film. Instead, they usually appear in small boxes at the bottom of the screen. Some companies choose to have the ads pop up in a contrasting bar at the bottom of the screen, while others might already have their video in letterbox format (a black bar across the top and bottom of the screen) and the ads appearing in the dark frame. It’s easier to integrate your marketing message this way, and your video avoids the stigma of being tagged as a blatant commercial. And if your video really catches on, you could sell additional space on the video to other companies.
Above all, remember that viral videos are all about entertainment. If you aren’t entertained watching it, your potential customers probably aren’t either. Just be sure to keep it short and catchy, geared toward your audience, and your products subtlety advertised. Add a good title and thumbnail and you’re on your way to viral fame.