Everyone wants to know the secret to going viral. I’m lucky (or unlucky) to have grown up with the Internet and seen everything from The Hamster Dance to “The Dress” front and center. And while you might think both of those are very stupid, nonsensical, irrelevant topics when it comes to human society, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to them by their commonly worded titles without any additional elaboration.
That means they got the job done. They went viral.
The difference between the aforementioned examples and what we’ll cover in this blog is those are not videos. The Hamster Dance was a song at its earliest stage and “The Dress” was an optical illusion photo that spilt a nation and ruined relationships and families (I assume). With society as plugged in as it is in 2016, now more than ever, video is the most popular form of media…as long as the video is good enough.
Sure, video is going to take longer to load than a photo or a GIF. But the lasting effects of 99% of photos or GIFs will not go viral, will not be shared for more than a day, and will not be featured on larger platforms like news stations and major publications. Videos have become substitutions for articles. No need for words, the video tells the story.
Ok, yeah, big deal. Videos are great, etc. But how do I get people to share my videos? Good question. Everyone wants that celebrity feeling where their phone is filling up with notifications because other people on the Internet have judged something they did as really great. A lot of those situations have a few things in common.
From what I’ve observed, every video needs to have at least a few of these characteristics to be shared:
You’ve Got To Evoke Emotion
This is the most important. Evoking emotion from people who are not you is way easier said than done. You have no idea how people are going to react to your content. And while that’s a huge hurdle, there are a few avenues you can hope to veer in to in order to have your videos blow up.
Lol. Too Funny.
Go on your Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, anything. Scroll for 2 minutes, you’re going to come across a video posted by someone they thought was so undeniably hilarious, they needed to share it. “Damn, Daniel”, Pizza Rat, that goat that screams like a human. I don’t think anyone who shot those videos woke up that morning, had a pre-production meeting, set up equipment, strategically edited their content and put it into the world knowing it would blow up. That’s a benefit of comedy. The more spontaneous and odd it is, the funnier it is. So, what’s the disadvantage of this? Comedic viral videos have a shelf life of maybe two weeks before people stop caring or render them annoying. Also, they can very rarely command action or a positive message unless carefully and professionally produced (i.e. John Oliver, etc.).
I’m Literally Crying.
Who hasn’t sat at their computer with tears running down their face because someone on Facebook posted a inspirationally triumphant video of humans nursing cute animals back to health!? Wait, no one else, really? Ok, well maybe that’s just my weakness. Any video of a child being surprised by a military parent who’s just come home, a person using medical technology to hear for the first time, or, of course, the recovery process of an adorable animal is sure to tally up views. Everyone has a heart. It’s anatomy. People share the comedic videos to make other people laugh. People share the sympathy videos to feel better or inspire others to feel better. But the biggest difference is hope. The idea of “if this is possible, anything is possible” or “there is actually good in this world” is something that will always be welcomed and reiterated by society.
Invest in those messages.
How Cool Is This?
These are the videos of the full court shots, the 3 year old who can play Mozart with his eyes closed on a cello bigger than him, or the new app that can take a picture of the dinner party of 14’s receipt and evenly divide who owes what it the blink of an eye (patent pending). These are usually presented without caption. The sense of amazement is probably less human than the previous two mentioned and it’s also a sensitive subject matter. Sometimes people view impressive content as a reason to feel worse about themselves instead of better and react negatively (see: Justin Bieber, Bryce Harper, Cam Newton, etc.). These are probably the most filmable moments, too. Guys tearing it up the bongos on a random street in a foreign country, you’ve seen this stuff, it’s on display for you. No strategy, just the moment. And that’s the part that, if appreciated by enough people, will spread the video most.
Those are the three major emotions people feel when sharing videos. If you can compile two or three of these into one video, that’s something people will want to see. Imagine a video of a baby duck that has a mustache like Steve Harvey being nursed back to health, then learning to play the piano.
You’d break the Internet.
But good luck with coming across something like that. Is there anything else you can slide into your video to get eyes on it? Sure, so let’s round up a few of those.
This is so us.
Relatability is the second most important aspect of a video going viral. There’s got to be something about your video an individual can connect to. Someone affected by a certain cause will very likely share a video related to that cause to spread awareness. Someone who knows someone in a video or is from the place the video was shot in is very likely going to share that video. Relatability is an attempt to connect people while also knowing those people are immersed enough in their own interests to think other people will care. Tagging on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is direct evidence of relatability. “I like this and I think these people I’m friends with will too.” The best part is once you know enough people care, the rest will follow very quickly.
Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t have to worry about bills, relationships, politics, or any responsibility at all? Remember that feeling? Well, this was happening during that time too, so it should be synonymous with that feeling. Full House, Saved By The Bell and Kenan and Kel have all reunited on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in the last couple years. All those videos have more than 10 million views online. All those eyes on that video came for the same reason: they wanted to remember. Any throwback Thursday, 90’s themed trend is allowing people to dive into their memories to a simpler, happier time and dust off those feelings for their modern lives. It’s relatable, casts a wide net, and already has an established trend that you can then exploit. The nostalgic elements are already there. The easy part is including them and following them. Which brings me to my next category…
Like nostalgia, parody is taking something people already have a frame of reference of and exaggerating or changing one detail of it to lighten it. Like nostalgia, it’s pretty easy. Is that Donald Trump making weird face on a debate? Slap the SnapChat rainbow vomit in his mouth. Boom. Instant viral hit. Parody is becoming more and more a crutch in sketch comedy. Saturday Night Live has beefed up its parody more recently, especially since mostly parody driven MadTV has been off the air since 2009. If comedy is not the direct target of your video, but you still want to use parody, the idea is to start with something you know people are familiar with and make it your own. Want to do an “About Us” parody video for your office? Let’s shoot it like The Office. People will recognize the intent and style and you’ll have them hooked for whatever your message will be.
Keep it short.
You get 30 seconds on Twitter, 15 seconds on Instagram, and six seconds on Vine. There’s a reason for that. The human attention span is gradually disappearing. The range is quite puzzling to me. People either want to get everything they need to know in two minutes or will spend an entire 48 hour weekend watching Netflix only moving to tell Netflix they’re still watching. And while they’re watching Netflix, they’re probably watching videos on their phones too.
Watching while watching. I have a headache.
But make the videos short. I’m sure you’ve run into a situation where you are about to watch a video, then you see it’s five minutes long and you decide you don’t care enough to even turn the video’s sound on, so you just continue scrolling. I’d say the magic runtime for an effective viral video is between :30- :90, short enough to load quickly, but plenty of time to get your message across.
You know these Tasty or Buzzfeed Food videos where they show you how to do these recipes with all the steps and ingredients? Now, I don’t watch these videos because I fear if I did my clothes would no longer fit, but that’s not the point. The point is these videos are perfect viral videos. Their intent is very clear. Their target is everyone who eats food (pretty broad). They command an action. They tell you and show you exactly what to do. And they’re all within that magic runtime. It also may not seem like much goes into producing them, but I assure you there’s a good amount of preparation, and not just food preparation.
So, take note of these videos when thinking about producing your viral video. You can implement all of these things I’ve mentioned about the Tasty videos and produce a video that’s completely unique and different.
Bottom line, we at 20/20 Visual Media are young. I, personally, spend enough time invested in pop culture and social media to know what people will like. Can we create the next Ice Bucket Challenge video for you? Unlikely. Can we work with you to create something that caters to your audience, interests, and personality? I’m pretty confident we can.