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We Want “BIG-BANG VIRAL” to the World

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Before starting at Klick, I was the Director of Ad Sales for an online video production and distribution company. Producing and distributing video content for our clients was pretty much standard, but one odd email request sticks out fondly from my hey day in video world.

One day we received an email from a 400 year old company looking to inject a little youth into their marketing plan. I kid you not; the title of this post was taken verbatim from that email. Despite language barriers, the next 14 or so back-and-forth emails were an effort, on our part, to manage the client’s expectations with respect to the difficulty of making an online video go viral.

In fact, if you ask industry leaders what they think of the term “viral,” I suggest you proceed to take cover from flying objects. It’s been my experience that they loath the word, because it implies a hands off approach to the organic spread of online video content, especially if we’re talking branded content. “Viral” implies an expectation of certainty to the client. I call this the post-Bieber mentality, because there was a time, pre-Bieber, when you could upload a video to YouTube and it might get discovered, and better yet–shared. But these days, it’s next to impossible to get discovered on YouTube. I was totally prepared to show you a cool graphic, circa 2011, that illustrated how roughly 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

But guess what?

That graphic is already outdated. It’s now actually closer to 60 hours per minute! Meaning, it’s becoming harder and harder for both brands and individuals to cut through the online video clutter and find their audience.

There are literally dozens of companies in the space claiming to have the silver bullet for making viral videos, but the truth is only a handful of them actually know the secret ingredient. Most of them spend less than 10% of their client’s budget on a mediocre production, while 90% goes to bloggers and kids in China who get paid a penny per view to hit refresh from a US proxy server.

So What is the Real Secret Ingredient?

Essentially, it’s a healthy mix of good ideas and lots of money… That’s not to say a good idea alone can’t go viral, but given the unpredictability of online video, I definitely suggest building in some sort of paid push to gain early momentum. For example, many brands choose to support their online campaigns with buys on traditional media like television, which appears to kind of defeat the purpose, but actually proves to be a pretty good formula for success. The Old Spice videos actually paid for their first few million views with Superbowl money. By that, I mean a good portion of the views came from people searching YouTube for the ad they saw during the Superbowl broadcast.

Now just in case your man doesn’t smell like Isaiah Mustafa, there are a few basic things you should consider before hitting “publish” on that BIG-BANG VIRAL to the world.

Content is King

It all starts with a good idea, without one, you’re finished before you even get started. No budget in the world will truly float crap content.

If Content is King, Then Metadata is Queen

If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? In this case, no, it doesn’t. Make sure people can find your content by keeping the title and description relevant to the theme of your video. Think of as many tags and keywords you can and associate them with your video. Try using the Google AdWords Keyword tool.

Script with Metadata in Mind

When creating the actual content of your video think about currently popular search terms and try to work them into your script. That said, don’t become a content farm.

Keep it Short

General rule of thumb: under 3 minutes.

Choose an Enticing Thumbnail

Never underestimate the value of a pretty girl, fast car, or shiny new object. Just make sure whatever you choose is relevant to the theme of your content. The more attractive the image, the more people will want to click on it.

Timing is Everything

YouTube tends to give preference to the most recently uploaded content. For example, try typing “Whitney Houston” into YouTube. First you’ll see a couple of featured videos, but then you’ll probably see a homemade video that was uploaded 11 minutes ago, rather than quality content from last month that has already been outdated.

Distribution Over Destination

So you’ve produced your BIG-BANG VIRAL, now what? We all know YouTube is where it’s at, so without a doubt that’s the first place to seed your video. But what about your client’s brand site? Definitely. But let’s face it, you’re limited to the audience you attract through advertising or search. What you really want is to place it where your target audience is consuming video. Remember, this isn’t a zero sum game. I can watch your video on YouTube or I can watch it on Metacafe, or I can watch it on Yahoo, AOL, and FunnyorDie.com. There is a whole world outside of YouTube where people are consuming video, so go after those eyes, don’t limit yourself, post your video to as many relevant places as you can. Some of my most successful video campaigns were on video portals outside of YouTube. Because in tandem with quality content, relevance to your viewers is what will make or break a campaign.

So the next time your client asks for a “BIG-BANG VIRAL” to the world, do whatever you can to manage their initial expectations, because the last thing you want, is a disappointed client. After you’ve brought them down to earth, if they still want to dip their toe into online video, then be sure to follow the tips above for your best chance of success.

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