Go viral: The secret to making viral video content

February 28, 2018
When it comes to video marketing, viral video content looks a lot different from fluffy kittens and adorable puppies rolling and bouncing about. A lot of thought and effort are put into those because they require ROI. For marketing, the views, comments, likes, clicks and shares have to translate to ROI else “viral videos” are meaningless. How to achieve that? By providing the target audience with real value via quality content.

What exactly is quality video content?

According to a study by Rice University Department of Psychology, viewers tend to equate likability to quality. That they’re more likely to rate a video’s quality as “high”, even if it isn’t — if they like it. This is an example of what marketers already know about a lot of customers in general. That they have a subjective take on quality and they tend to be emotional decision-makers more than rational. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says 95% of purchase decision-making are done unconsciously and that the conscious mind will always generate justifications for the emotional decisions. This behaviour, this very human tendency, is why the advertising and entertainment industries will never die, but just evolve. The objective side of creating a video deals with the technical aspects of production, such as technique, and hardware and software. They’re the essential medium or vehicle for the idea or message, but they must take a backseat to the formulation of a vivid customer story. So, what is quality video content? The answer is, again, psychological and not technical. Quality video content is one that influences the viewer to take the next step, which usually comes in the form of effective storytelling, which essentially addresses and solves people’s problems. In short, it should answer the customer’s question of, “What’s in it for me?” Insight Demand CEO Michael Harries says to tell stories because according to research, they activate the part of the brain that processes sights, sounds, tastes, and movements, “Contrast this [storytelling] approach to a salesperson delivering a data dump in the form of an 85-slide powerpoint presentation.”

How to Make Valuable Content?

YouTube Influencers’ Benji Travis and Sean Cannell discussed what makes good content using LinkedIn Influencer Gary Vaynerchuk‘s #AskGaryVee:
  • Good Content Appeals to the Heart – What is your why. “At the end of the day people just want to know that you care.” This is where good storytelling comes in.
  • Good Content is Shareable – Why do people share videos? There’s a lot of reasons, but it must serve a purpose. This is where the customer pain point is addressed.
  • Good Content is Native to the Platform on Which it Appears – The video must follow the rules and culture of the platform. The keyword is “user” as in user experience. What works for Facebook might not work for Snapchat. This is where knowing the target audience is key.
  • Good Content Breaks through the Noise – A content that stands out is polarising. So, pick a side and start a discussion. This is the perfect opportunity to engage.

Examples of Viral Videos with Quality Content

1. A Video Conference Call in Real Life
Why did it work?
  • Relatable. The content not just stated but literally demonstrated the most common pain points of customers regarding conference calls. This earned them points in empathy.
  • Funny. It made people laugh about a seemingly hopeless situation, which is a deposit on connection.
  • Professional. That added clip, a CTA, at the end of the video, presents the viewers with a better solution or an alternative solution to their problem. It creates credibility that the product probably doesn’t yet have relative to big players like Skype and Cisco. It’s a masterclass in brand positioning.
2. Happiness Machine
Shot way back in 2010, this YouTube video has 8.3 million views, 31k likes, and the 51st CLIO Gold Interactive Award in the bag. Pretty sweet metrics, right? What story was Coke telling? According to Coke’s Definition 6 Creative Director Paul Iannacchino Jr., “Our strategy was to deliver doses of happiness in an unexpected, innovative way to engage not only the students, but the audience at large. Whether you were present during the shoot or experiencing the event online, our goal was the same – to put a smile on your face and share that emotional connection.” Would the video be considered “quality” in terms of production? Nope, Coke used hidden cameras to capture real emotions. How much did they spend on promotion? Zero. Why did it work?
  • Creative. More than money, it was sweat equity that produced this gem. They were able to avoid the hard-hitting in-your-face commercial route by using simplicity and reality.
  • Relevant. There were no actors or models on the set. And even the set is a natural setting. The creative team chose a particular campus teeming with Coke’s demographic. Target hit.
  • Emotional. In a positive way. Who would say no to a refreshingly surprising gift of happiness? Literally? The video captured raw emotions and in the age of disillusionment, people will approve of rare moments of authenticity.
3. The Footprint Poster (Anti Bear Farming Campaign) – Teddy Bear Museum
Although this probably falls under experiential marketing and wildlife activism, the presentation wouldn’t have been this effective without the video. The client, Teddy Bear Museum, came up with a massively emotional and highly creative idea to raise awareness and protest against bear farming in South Korea. Did it work? Definitely! South Korea Takes Landmark Step to End the Cruel Bear Bile Industry Why did it work?
  • Heart-Hitting – It appeals to people’s emotions and the general notion of ethics and morality. The copy “Don’t turn away, what your indifference trampled” hit people “right in the feels”.
  • Socially Relevant – It’s a campaign for a good cause. Bears suffering for people’s whims won’t sit well with the public. But if they find out they’re part of the problem, immediate action will be taken to pressure lawmakers to make bear farming illegal.
  • Experiential – The campaign made people experience the effect of their indifference to the suffering bears via a poster they unknowingly walked on every day. Over time, the image of the bear reveals the bars that imprison it. The campaign also used a QR code linked to the signature collection campaign site making it easy for people to participate.

In summary

Making a viral video isn’t enough for marketers. Their viral video has to serve two other purposes:
  1. Successfully deliver their message to the target audience
  2. ROI
How to go beyond viral? By implementing the content first before production policy. Viral videos that impact the bottom line adds value to viewers, which is usually dispensed in the form of great content a.k.a. superb storytelling. What accounts for great content?
  • It appeals to the heart.
  • It is shareable.
  • Native to the platform.
  • Breaks through the noise.

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