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Go Viral or Go Home – Why Some Videos Crush It While Others Get Flushed
Posted by Cameron Francis on May 04, 2016 in Video Marketing

Why Some Videos Crush it and Others Get Flushed Web

Watch this video of a monster crab wielding a knife. What the heck! I mean, the first time I saw this video; I couldn’t get my head around it.

monster crab wielding a knife

The crab literally grabs a kitchen knife and crawls up a wall holding it in its left claw. The man who is also shooting this video tries to get the knife back, but the crab won’t give it up so easily.

Now popular as the knife-wielding crab, the video was viewed over 10 million times in a span of three days. Yeah, you heard it right – 10 million views in three days!

No big deal!

You’ve undoubtedly heard about videos going viral. If, like most people, you still don’t understand what going viral means, 10 million views in three days is an excellent example.

We will provide a more elaborate definition shortly. We will also provide expert tips on how to create videos that have a higher chance of going viral.

 

What Does it Mean to Go Viral?

“Going Viral” means content finding its way across social media platforms and reaching a very large number of people within just a several hours or a few days.

going viral

An opposing view says that content is said to have gone viral if “it briefly grabs and retains the attention of a large number of people through indirect means.”

With platforms such as Facebook that boast more than a billion users, virality is becoming quite popular. If people like something, they will want to get involved. So, if it’s a new video, then they will quickly log into their accounts and try to access the content.

The same applies to other popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and Vimeo.

 

So What Happens Before a Video Can Go Viral?

It’s simple. The basic concept behind something going viral is a chain reaction. It all starts with someone posting a piece of original content. In our case, this would be a funny, short video.

This video could be posted on YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, or any other social media platform that supports video. If for any reason, people find the video extremely compelling, the immediate friends of the person who posted the video might quickly share it with their own friends. Then the friends of these people may also choose to share the video.

Let’s assume that each person on Facebook has 300 friends and that 200 of them decide to share the video. Before long, you’d have thousands and soon millions of people viewing the video.

Look at the illustration below to understand how this works.

how a video goes viral

In the illustration, one person shares content with three friends, the three friends share it with a total of seven friends, and then the seven people share the content with a total of 18 friends.

In real life, though, no one would only share content with just three friends. Instead, it’s more likely to be 300 friends and in some cases even 3,000. That explains why some videos end up being viewed by more than 10 million users within just several hours.

Contrast with Mass Media

It is important to differentiate content virality on social media with the way people view ads on TV or listen to them on radio. You realise that millions of people watch TV and/or listen to radio. So, an advertisement coming in the middle of a popular TV show will potentially be viewed by millions.

But that’s where the difference is. With mass media, there is no chain of reactions. It is simply millions of people listening to the same thing at a go. This is not to say that mass media is more effective than social media virality or vice versa.

It’s just that the two, while able to reach a very high number of people, do so very differently.

It’s a case of old vs. new media. While old media is unidirectional, new media is multi-directional.

In mass media, people sit down to watch TV; they have little choice about what they can watch. If you don’t want to watch, switch off the TV or don’t buy the local dailies.

But social media is different. There is greater interaction. So, you’re not just a spectator but an active participant.

old versus new media

What is Viral Marketing?

To say the least, the cultural reasons that make videos go viral remain unknown. Often, someone just posts a video and soon everyone else is watching it. But other times, even an impressive video may only get a few thousand views.

Still, marketers need views, so they never stop at anything to get their content in front of as many people as possible. And, if that means going the extra mile to get one hundred thousand people to view a video, then so be it.

Viral marketing simply means an effort by marketers to ensure that their content is viewed as widely as possible on social media platform. So, if company X posts a video on Instagram and tries to get as many people as possible to view the video, then that would qualify as viral marketing.

Tech Target defines viral marketing as “Internet advertising or marketing that spreads exponentially whenever a new user is added.” They further explain that in viral marketing, there is an assumption that once one user interacts with a product, then the advertising will automatically spread to everyone with whom that user is connected.

 

How to Go Viral

Going viral isn’t something that just happens.

HotMail, for example, went viral because people liked the service. It made it easy for people to send and receive email.

But how do you make your videos worthwhile? How do you ensure that people like them so much so that they would like to share them?

Some go Viral by Accident, Others by Genius

In this guide, we dwell purely on how you can improve your chance of going viral. Therefore, we will be discussing the “genius” side of video virality.

But, let’s look at some videos on the internet to demonstrate the fact that sometime virality isn’t intended; that sometimes it just happens even if not intended.

Look at this video of a youth mercilessly torturing a dog in New Delhi. The teen brutally beats up the dog before whirling it around and throwing it against a parked car. He then posts the video on Facebook.

But it’s not his post that went viral.

Later on, a Delhi-based animal activist stumbled upon the video and informed the police. Then an NGO took the video and posted it on their page and that’s when it went viral!

 

What it Takes to Go Viral

The Harvard Business review discusses four reasons why videos go viral:

1. Social Motivation

There are at least 10 motivations for social sharing. These are;

top motivations for social sharing

2. Emotional Response

Most people think that people are likely to share videos that have a strong sense of humour. That is to say that if your video made people laugh, then there is a higher chance that it will go viral.

While this is true, marketers are warned to be careful with this category of videos. You can’t just create a video to make people laugh.

If you want them to take an action at the end of it, you also need to leave a message within the video.

top positive and negative emotions

3. The Influence of Super-sharers

Videos are also likely to go viral if they land in the hands of super-sharers.

Super-sharers are people who are likely to share at least one video a week. Some actually share as many as one video a day.

content sharing frequency

In the graph above, it’s clear that more than 20 percent of social media users share content at least once a day and another 20 percent share at least one piece of content a day.

While this is a representation of the accumulated data for all types of content (photos, plain-text content, GIFs, etc.), it gives us a clue that there are some people out there who are always willing to kick off a virality campaign.

4. Timing the Peak

Finally, it has also been found that a video is more likely to go viral if it gets a lot of shares within the first two days. Additionally, you also need to know when to post your videos. Wednesdays are by far the best days for sharing with the highest sharing recorded in the afternoon and early evening. Thursdays and Fridays also record very high sharing activities.

best times video go viral

In this graph, the region marked grey is the first two to three days of the virality campaign. We can make three conclusions from this graph:

  • First. In 2013, the tip of the graph (in this case denoting the highest sharing rate) was located in the early parts of the third day. But that has since changed with that climax shifting to the later part of the second day.
  • Second. After the third day, especially in 2015, sharing activity dwindles pretty quickly. By day nine, you shouldn’t even keep counting.
  • Third. At the climax for 2013 and 2015, you can see that in 2013, 22.3 percent of viewers had interacted with the content. But in 2015, that number significantly increases, topping off at 43.5 percent.

It shows that a lot more people interact with content early on. By end of day three, more than 60 percent of viewers would have interacted with the content.

In other words, if by the end of day three you have had 6,000 views, then you can only expect 4,000 more; meaning that you could end up with a figure closer to 10,000 views.

 

Tips for Going Viral

Marketing experts have come up with several things that you can do to improve your chances of going viral.

Keep it short

Shorter videos always get more shares. The reason is simple; shorter videos cost less to watch!

The thing is; even people who love watching videos online don’t have all the time look up and view them. Even if the video were recommended by a friend, if it is more than 2 minutes long, then very few people would be happy to watch it to the end.

Keep it simple and entertaining

Entertainment is the word. People love to be informed; they love to be excited; but above all, they love to be entertained. If your videos are entertaining, you are always going to win over the masses.

To make your videos entertaining, you need three things:

  • First. Be original. Posting a video that people have seen elsewhere isn’t the best idea if you want the video to go viral.
  • Second. Be relevant. This simply means that your videos should relate to everyday life. The more people can relate to your videos, the better your chances of success.
  • Third. Make it informative. People will share funny clips all the time. But when all is said and done, the videos that get the most attention are those that deliver great information.

Help Viewers Solve a Problem

We have already discussed the need to make your videos informative. What we need to stress is that your videos should always to help viewers solve a problem. That’s the only way to reel them in.

This video by Squatty Potty has gained millions of views on different video platforms including YouTube, Vimeo, and Instagram.

The reason it because so popular is because it actually teaches a new concept – how to poop!

People have been commenting and sharing the video in large numbers after it first appeared on the Shark Tank – a popular American TV Show.

the unicorn changed the way i poop screengrab

Here is the link to the video

Mind your Keyword(s)

If you’re serious about using the video for marketing, then you need to pay attention to your keywords.

Don’t stray too far from your niche. If you deal in athletic gears, and you’re posting the Squatty Potty video on your page, then you’re doing a huge disservice to your business.

Experts recommend staying “true to your colours.” If you sell sports shoes for college students, then find videos that are relevant to that niche and that the college students and their parents/guardians would warm up to.

Create a Coordinated Attack

For successful video marketing, you need to be fully prepared. Remember that video marketing is no vacation – it involves a lot of work.

Here is what you need to keep in mind to ensure that you push the video as much as you can.

 

Tips for a Coordinated Attack

Decide Where your Videos will Appear

This is very important. Currently, you can have you videos on more than a dozen platforms; but is that what you should aim for?

For some people, starting on YouTube and then going to Facebook can pay off. For others, platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are much more suitable.

If you think that your videos are so good, then find a social media strategist with experience in viral videos to help you strategize on the posting.

Measure

Once your video is live and getting attention, measure the interaction to determine your level of success.

How many views are you getting per day? How many views did you get per week? Who is viewing the video? Where are the viewers located? Taking note of all these will help you better target your videos in the future.

More importantly, you need to look at how people are finding the video. Are people sharing a link? Are they searching on Google or Yahoo? And if so, which keywords are they using?

Improve

We have already mentioned that it takes a lot of effort for a video to receive widespread sharing and viewing. In fact, half the time, videos that are designed to go viral end up getting only a handful of views.

If your first video didn’t perform well, learn from the experience and think about what you need to do better in the future.

 

Benefits of Video Virality

There are multiple benefits of a video going viral. These include;

benefits of going viral

It’s a Shorthand for Engagement ROI

Every business strives to gain in terms of engagement. There are several reasons why. First, engagement is what brings customers. The more people you manage to engage, the greater the potential of converting leads.

Think about it this way.

At a constant conversion rate of 10%, if you could actively engage one million relevant viewers, then you could have 100,000 leads at the end of the day.

Conversely, if you can only engage 1,000 people, then you would only have 100 leads. With more leads, chances of making a sale are dramatically increased.

Popular is Measured by Social Sharing

No one can deny that the world we live in is driven by digital media and that now social media marketing is huge.

When you have 1.5 billion people on Facebook, you just have to ask yourself what it would take to trend on such a platform.

Why? Because by trending on Facebook for just a few minutes, your business would be exposed to hundreds of millions of potential customers.

You would quickly become a hero as your products gain popularity overnight. Before you know it, everyone knows your brand!

Think about how it used to be in the olden days. If you wanted credibility, you had to quote something like: “The New Yorker reviewed by marketing platform” or “ABCTV rate my training methods 5-stars.”

That has changed. Today, you will proudly talk about: “My training methods have been shared 500,000 times on Facebook.”

It goes on to show the power of social media in the current day. Therefore, if you can go viral, say get five million views on YouTube, then you are already a hero.

Word of Social Media is a Thing

Back in the day, people talked about “word of mouth.”

Today, all we think about is Twitter and Facebook. If you want to talk about what’s happening at school, you’ll say it on Facebook.

If you want people to know how good your birthday party was, you can share the photos on Instagram. And, if you want people know about your new products, you post pictures of them Instagram.

The bottom line is; today, if you want to talk to your audience, then you can do so more easily on social media.

And, 5 million shares will always tell the story on your behalf.

Virality is Jobs

Social media is creating new jobs every single day. Recently, Facebook announced that the platform had created a massive 4.5 million jobs so far. Most companies are now employing social media staff at different capacities to help with the growing need to attend to customer needs on different social platforms.

So, some people are employed as customer representatives, some as content managers, others as social media strategists, and others as… you guessed right – content creators!

Social media strategists, managers, and content creators may all come together to ensure that a piece of video goes viral to benefit the company.

Here is a snippet from socialmedianews.com.au telling us the state of affairs in Australia.

average annual salaries of social media strategists and managers

As you can see, these guys are also taking home a lot of money… which brings us to the last point…

Virality is Money

You might have already heard about this. But again, like many other people whose videos went viral, they gained nothing from it.

You might never make a cent from your viral videos. When people are making tens of millions of dollars from viral videos every year, you too should try to make a few quid.

Today, you’re going to learn how to make money from viral videos.

 

Turning Your Dreams into Dollars

There are three principal ways of making money from a viral video.

1. Get money from YouTube ads

For people who can consistently make exceptional videos that attract millions of views over several months, YouTube is willing to make you rich! What usually happens is that YouTube keeps tabs of videos that are doing so well on the internet and then contacts the authors or marketers of such videos.

They will ask you to become their partner so that they can run ads alongside your video.

The proceeds from the ads are shared between you and YouTube. While the exact sharing formula remains a secret, rest assured that you will get more than half of the revenue. You’ll get a check each month.

The video of “The talking twins” earned the twin’s mother more than $3,000 within three weeks.

The “David after Dentist” video where a father shoots a video of his son as they drive down from a dentist has so far earned the family more than $100,000 (USD).

David after Dentist video screengrab

2. Appear on TV

If the video is good enough, it will also just be a short while before you are on TV.

The author of the David after Dentist video appeared on Good Morning America. In fact, before the dad appeared on TV, he only had about one million views.

But after the TV appearance, the video got six million views in a few weeks. He, however, advises that you should take the initiative to call the TV stations yourself, and early on before producers start camping at your door.

3. Sell Merchandise

The video is yours, use it to maximum potential. In the David after Dentist video, you will see an advert where the boy asks “Is this real life?” At that point, an ad opens up with T-Shirts and stickers with the same tagline “Is this real life?”

You, however, need to be very keen on the products you advertise lest you disappoint your viewers. Keep in mind that pop-up ads are something video viewers loathe so much.

So, track the people who view the video, see their demographics, and try to relate to their needs.

4. Make a Game-plan for Fame

Finally, don’t be caught unawares. When you know your video is good you should be able to plan for fame.

As soon as your video hits 10,000 views, producers will call you if they think your video is worth something.

“Take it as a significant business opportunity,” says one expert. “Never sign a contract without a lawyer.”

You need to discuss with experts to learn what it means to be in the spotlight; what the fame feels like.

You should also discuss the potential side effects of the video both immediately and in the future. Seek ways to protect both yourself and your loved ones from any harm.

For example, if it was a video of your kids at a tender age, you can make it clear that, at a later age when they are old enough to understand, they would be free to remove the videos if they wish.

 

How Much Money Can You Realistically Make?

For most people who create viral videos, this is the million dollar question. How much can I make?

The truth is that there isn’t a limit.

Some people have made more than $100,000, others make thousands of dollars every year, and others only make a couple of hundred dollars even from amazing videos.

Some say they only received a few dollars for videos that got more than 100,000 views.

You need to be shrewd. Think about ways of making money from the video. If you can find a company that can help with this, you can involve them.

The 17-year old below earns nearly $35,000 a year by making walk-throughs for Grand-Theft Auto.

boy making Grand Theft Auto video walkthroughs

In short, you can expect about $1.5 for every 1,000 views. That means one million views would get you about $1,500. But if you put in advertisements, that’s when you will start seeing real money.

 

Beyond Virality; Making your Videos the Best

You don’t have to stop at a viral video; you can always do better. Keep pushing the viral video and keep making more great videos that go viral.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Choose a Brilliant Genre

Some of the best-paying genres on YouTube are gaming walk-throughs, Comedy, Product Reviews, and Sports films; in that order.

Choose a Great Username

If you think the name means nothing, think again. People need to remember that name in order to share it even when they aren’t currently on the YouTube page. So keep off those tough usernames you so struggle to spell.

Make the Title Catchy and Relevant

Alongside the name, the title must be catchy and very relevant. Don’t lose potential viewers just because your title leaves no impression on their faces.

A catchy title is one that people quickly remember when they stumble upon it on Facebook or Google.

Upload Regularly

As soon as you start posting viral videos, people will be checking regularly to see if you have anything new for them. Don’t disappoint.

The more often you post, the more famous you will become. That’s how social media works.

Be Original

We can’t stress this enough – be original. Do not post what other people have already posted. Don’t even try to twist other people’s creative videos. It’s simple – be different.

Show Love for your Videos

Last but not least, show some enthusiasm for your wok. Having passion for your videos might be the extra “effort” you need to get your videos across to more people.

Fortunately or unfortunately, users can always tell when you’re passionate!

Now that you know what it takes for a video to go viral and even how you can benefit from raw virality, why not get down to work already?

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Cameron Francis

Co-Founder

Cameron Francis is the CoFounder & Managing Director of ETRAFFIC, Melbourne's #1 Creative & Digital Marketing Agency. For over a decade Cameron has been providing growth marketing and digital strategies for over 2,000 small businesses, start-ups & entrepreneurs around the country.
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