Creating a viral video can be a big deal for a brand. More views equal more leads, which usually equal more sales. Plus, getting your product, service, or logo in front of millions can generate a long-term boost in brand awareness that allows you to compete with more established rivals.
Who wouldn’t want that?
There’s just one problem with going viral: No one really knows how it happens. It’s essentially impossible to predict whether a video will capture the hearts and minds of viewers (or leave them looking for something else to watch).
Even content creators who are known for publishing regular viral content only experience success a fraction of the time. The disappointing reality is that there is simply no magic formula for achieving internet celeb status overnight. Moreover, creators who publish content with the explicit goal of going viral often end up producing insipid, forgettable experiences that waste time and resources.
This is not to say you shouldn’t aim high. But your primary focus should be on making useful content that supports your brand’s message. You may not hit a home run with every video, but you should always strive to provide a compelling, high-quality experience that imparts important information in a strategic way. By thinking about the elements that many viral videos tend to share—and incorporating those into your own content—you can put yourself in the best position to succeed.
Follow These 4 Steps to Make Going Viral More Likely
1. Get to the Point
We all know attention spans are shrinking (props if you’re still reading this article), and your video will compete for views with virtually everything else on the internet. Your challenge: Provide as much value as possible in the little time you have. If certain elements of your video don’t serve a clear purpose, cut them.
What’s the ideal video length? Generally, you don’t want viewers to sit through a video that lasts more than a few minutes. But a lot can be accomplished in a matter of seconds. For instance, if you’re one of the 871 million people who have viewed the 2007 YouTube hit, “Charlie bit my finger – again!” you know that 55 seconds of home video footage can be pretty hilarious.
If you haven’t seen it, you’ll probably click the above link to watch it now. After all, it’ll only take a minute. On the other hand, if the video were five minutes long, it likely wouldn’t have had the same reach, and we likely wouldn’t be discussing it.
2. Make them feel it
The best stories elicit strong emotions, regardless of medium. Branded video content may not follow a story arc in quite the same way that “Game of Thrones” does, but it should still make viewers feel something—preferably something positive. Yes, negative viral content is a thing, and it can be painful for brands.
Remember Pepsi’s 2017 ad featuring Kendall Jenner? It earned millions of views, but for all the wrong reasons: It was accused of appropriating the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement. The backlash ultimately caused the beverage brand to pull the ad and probably cost Pepsi more than a few customers.
Having people watch your video out of frustration, anger, or disbelief isn’t ideal, so what emotions should you be trying to elicit? In 2018, the content marketing agency Fractl published “The Role of Emotions in Viral Content,” a study that looked at the specific emotions that viral videos commonly evoke among audiences. The top five? Amusement, interest, surprise, happiness, and delight.