Viral Videos: How Do They Do It?

Posted on: November 28th, 2012 by Wendy Alpine

Wendy Alpine of discusses viral videos, sharing her research and providing her own notes on how you can create one for your business or cause.Many companies we talk to these days want a “viral video.” They cite the example of Blendtec’s Will it Blend? video series that use a “mad” scientist to pulverize iPhones and other gadgets to demonstrate the power of a blender. Garnering millions of hits on YouTube, the videos were created in the company’s own marketing department using their CEO and founder.

At least two companies we are doing business with want viral videos. We are working to identify firms to work with and concepts that will make their videos explode.

While researching, I came across some articles that explain why and how some videos go viral. An interesting one in BusinessWeek talked about the Kony 2012 video, which raised awareness of the Ugandan warlord and his efforts to recruit children. I learned about the video from my 14-year-old son, who came home from school and urged me to watch it, saying all the kids in school were talking about it. The video attracted 79 million hits, which, after sharing and re-posting, grew to more than 100 million.

Paraphrasing the article, here are some tips the author shared, as well as a few of my own reflections:

1. Tell a good story

Everyone wants to hear a good story, no matter if they’re watching an Oscar winning movie or a video from somewhere like online. Build it with a beginning, middle and climactic ending, like they taught you in middle school. Make it meaningful.

If it’s a serious message, use dramatic footage. If you really want to grab attention, use humor and zaniness.

Also, consider your audience and what they’re watching, eating, buying and/or listening to. Depending on the audience you are targeting, survey your kids, neighbors and friends to get a sense of your dream customer, or hire a research firm to test messages and unique selling propositions to determine what will activate the customer to make the product purchase.

2. Use yourself (or an actor reflecting your dream customer) in the video

The Kony video used the filmmaker’s son to draw parallels to the child, Jacob, affected by Kony’s actions. Parents, especially, could relate to this because it could be their own son or daughter.

Many videos use real people or an actor that reflects their dream customer to convey a message or the product’s brand promise. The author also mentions how the Kony video used the Facebook timeline feature to tell the story and how many people learned about the video through their Facebook timelines, putting them in the story. (Timeline is a section of a Facebook user’s account that replaces the Profile and Wall pages, and merges them together. It shows the story of your life, as you choose to tell it or as Facebook has recorded it, in a visual, scrolling, reverse-chronologically ordered timeline. It’s a cross between visual blog and online scrapbook.)

3. Incorporate action-packed footage

Experts say that videos with visual movement have proven to be effective time and again. I have spoken to videographers who use GoPro cameras set up in different locations on a shoot to give that History Channel or reality TV feel. Examples the writer cited were the Old Spice Guy commercials, or more recently, the Dollar Shave Club video, which uses movement to be funny.

In Kony 2012, the camera angle is continually shifting. The filmmaker uses reenactments of abductions and grainy footage of the guerrilla leader rallying his soldiers, which, the author points out, sweeps us into the action, too.

4. Share your video with famous people

The filmmaker’s charity targeted certain celebrities, and created personalized videos about why the charity needed that specific person’s help. That’s hard to do and takes connections, but sometimes it can be done by just getting it into the right celebrity’s or talk show’s hands. The author says the most famous example is the “Double Rainbow” video, about a guy’s dramatic reaction to seeing a rare double rainbow, which went unnoticed for seven months before Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about it in July 2010. To date, the video has nearly 36 million hits.

And who can forget the famous “Gangnam style” video that spread like wildfire across YouTube, and is approaching 827 million hits and counting. After you watch all the flashy images and get sucked in by the catchy tune, you realize that the title refers to the affluent Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, and is meant to poke fun at the area’s larger-than-life influence. Again, my 14-year-old told me about this one and can even do the Gangnam style dance. This interesting infographic details how the video went viral, topping Justin Bieber and Carly Rae’s “Call Me Maybe.”

To standout from your competition, your company needs a competitive edge. Time and time again, viral videos have proven to increase brand recognition, credibility, and visibility, which will lure people into buying the intended product or service.

As we move through creating viral videos for our customers, I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, do you have any viral videos you love? Please send them to me and include why you think they went viral.


Wendy Alpine
Phone: 770-321-1695
Fax: 404-806-5316

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