We have all seen them, those amazing viral videos – Frightened hamster, Susan Boyle, Smirnoff’s Tea Partay. Yes, it might seem like luck or happenstance that some online video gets more than say, 100,000 hits, and it often is, but it turns out that just as often that viral video was the result of some careful planning.
Planning that you can do too.
My recent post about the power of video as a SEO tool got me to thinking. Just how does a video go viral? I mean, if we could create a clever video for our own businesses and get that video to go viral, the branding alone would be priceless, would it not? So I dug in, did some research, spoke with some experts, and discovered that creating a viral video is a skill that can be learned. If someone else did it, so can you.
Is some of it luck? Sure, but less than you think. Here are the steps:
1. Make it different: First of all, your viral video cannot be an obvious ad; no one would recommend that. Instead, it has to be funny, shocking, clever, controversial, interesting, different, sexy, or quirky. Making people laugh or go ‘wow!’ works best.
Some examples of businesses that get it are
· Quicksilver dynamite surfing
· Designer Mark Ecko tags Air Force One
While you may think that the cool concept is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to going viral, experts say that is not the case. Of course it has to be intriguing, but because going viral is about more than just creating a cool video, the video is only part of the process.
And of course, make sure whatever video you come up with fits your brand.
2. Make it short: 30 seconds is good. 2 minutes max. A lot longer is not a lot better. Shorter is fine.
After it is done, upload your video to YouTube and...
3. Give it an attention-grabbing title like Dog drives car!! Think advertising. Give your video a headline that will draw attention.
4. Use the power of the thumbnail: YouTube gives you three options for thumbnails when uploading a video. Make sure that the thumbnail you choose is clear and intriguing.
5. Get comments: Comment on your own video, and get other people to comment on it too. The more comments the better.
And note. Remember that controversy creates comments, and sales (you don’t think Donald Trump really hated Rosie O’Donnell do you?) I am reminded of the time I wrote a USA TODAY column and said to small business owners: “Don’t tweet!” I was wrong, but the lesson learned was that controversy creates comments. Boy did I learn that!
6. Tag, you’re it! YouTube allows you to tag videos. Use that. But don’t tag generically, tag creatively, specifically. Tag with SEO in mind. Be different.
7. Build buzz: This is where the rubber hits the road. Once you have a good video and have uploaded it to YouTube, the magic is in getting people to watch it. You start by using some good, old fashioned marketing.
· Blast an email out to your list. Link the video and recommend that people watch it and forward it.
· Tweet about it. Embed it and share it on Facebook. Ask friends on Facebook and Twitter to share it. Digg it. You know the drill.
· Put it on your homepage
· Embed it into your blog and blog about it on your site.
· Try and get other bloggers, high profile bloggers, to blog about it. Some folks even pay bloggers to embed it and blog about it.
· Go to relevant forums, post it, recommend it, and start threads about it.
All of this is intended to give your video a fighting chance to make it onto the homepage of YouTube. What you are looking for is to get onto the “Videos” tab of the homepage. Once you get there your job gets demonstrably easier. The “Videos” page is where the most popular videos on any given day are found, and so your video will go from being one in 15,000 loaded onto YouTube every day to one of 20 on that tab.
Once you make it there, your views will skyrocket.
And remember, YouTube is not the only game in town: There are scores of video sharing sites: Funny or Die, MSN, AOL, Yahoo, TubeMogul, Metacafe, Blip.tv, CollegeHumor, DailyMotion, Crackle, and many more.
(A special thanks to Dan Greenberg, co-founder of the viral video marketing company The Commotion Group for some of the ideas in this article.)