Find a few cute cats, put them in ridiculous situations, and superimpose your company’s logo. Hey presto – you have a viral video!
If only it were that simple. In reality, with over 72 hours of content being uploaded to Youtube every minute, the chances of a random video achieving even thousands of hits is minimal. Viral video marketing can be extraordinarily powerful, but it is rarely random. In fact, those businesses which think through their advertising strategy ahead of time are almost invariably the ones which attain runaway success in viral advertising.
What’s Your Story?
The first thing you need, before even going near to a camera or paying a director, is a strong story. Without this, you could cast Pacino and De Niro and you would still struggle to achieve viral status. This is, perhaps, the number one mistake made by companies struggling to tap into the power of online advertising. Simply put, adverts only go viral if they touch a nerve in the viewing audience. Whether you are aiming to shock, amuse, or tug at the heart-strings of your potential customers, your story must be strong. Without it, you have nothing.
Tap Into Popular Culture.
A strong story still needs a ‘hook’ – something which will make your audience feel that the company’s brand speaks to them. One of the best ways of providing this is to tap into popular culture memes, aligning your product or service with a particular view of the world. Audi have done this successfully in their most recent advertising campaign, which has gone viral across the Internet due to its use of Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, and its frequent references to geek culture. Whilst you are unlikely to be able to afford A-list Hollywood actors, similar access to popular culture is available to you through the references you utilise and the associations you allow your audience to make.
Don’t Be Too Cool.
Of course, all things are best done in moderation. Some of the most cringeworthy viral ads are those which are clearly trying too hard, either by including far too many ‘in-jokes’ for the story to support, or by being far too blatant in advertising the product or service concerned. Perhaps the number one rule of viral marketing is to remember that you need to persuade your audience to send your video onwards to their friends and colleagues. This simply will not happen if you come across as smug, or desperate to sell. The tone you should always be aiming for is that of a friend, communicating with his or her peers.
Spend A Little To Save A Lot.
Once you have determined your story, your hooks, and the tone you are aiming for, you are ready to put together the video itself. Here, you should be careful not to fall into the trap of assuming that the cheap nature of viral video marketing allows you to skimp on production values. If you want something that people will share, you are likely to want to have produced a video which looks good. You don’t have to spend thousands, but getting a professional to shoot the video, as well as investing in a few actors if necessary, can massively improve the finished article.
Kickstart The Buzz.
On a similar note, however good your video ends up being, you should not assume that your viral success will be automatic once you post it to your website. You will need to frontload the process by promoting your masterpiece, or it is unlikely ever to be noticed. You should consider spending a little money to boost the profile of your video through social media platforms, but your main investment should be in the time it takes to send the video to everyone you know. Not only that, but you should do your research into the biggest online platforms which might be interested in your offering, and personally promote it to them. A generic email won’t do here. Pick up the phone, and coordinate all of your efforts. The first twenty four hours of release are likely either to generate a critical mass of publicity – or not.
Accept The Risk.
Finally, before you embark on trying to generate viral marketing, it is important to understand the risks of such a route, as well as the rewards. By definition, once you release your video onto the Internet, you are not going to have control over how it is used. If it goes viral, it is likely to be adapted, parodied, and even criticised. Before you pull the trigger on your release, make sure that it is something with which your company will be proud to be associated. If it is, then viral marketing can produce excellent results.