The concept of creating a viral video for a viral marketing campaign has been a bee in my bonnet ever since I started in social media marketing. The truth is: it’s impossible to develop a video and know, with 100% certainty, that it will go viral. You could have a million-dollar budget, the best creative minds in the industry and still not achieve true virality.
But, in order for me to make my point, we have to take a few steps back and examine the nature of viral marketing, its history and why everyone seems to think there’s an ‘art’ or a ‘formula’ in creating a truly viral campaign.
A viral video is typically uploaded to a platform like YouTube or Vimeo and becomes popular because thousands, even millions, of people share it, interact with it, talk about it, and love it. Check out some popular examples here:
Virality is a digital extension of word-of-mouth marketing, which has long been considered the most powerful form of passing information and generating ‘buzz.’
This commonly held conception isn’t wrong! And, there are definite ways for an organization to take advantage of online word-of-mouth buzz in their marketing material. In fact, it’s what every campaign should aim for. Collective interest in a digital recapturing of word-of-mouth marketing is the reason why social media for business has become so widespread over the past five years or so. It’s the new word-of-mouth.
Creating a viral video is very attractive for a number of reasons, all boiling down to two key motivators: fame and money.
A handful of the most famous celebrities in popular culture today were born out of YouTube success. This, in turn, made them very wealthy. Even YouTube celebrities who don’t extend their act into other forms of mainstream media can be remunerated for their stroke of luck. YouTube compensated the parents of “David After Dentist” about $100,000 for their video’s success.
From a marketing standpoint, being the mind behind a viral campaign is an alluring prospect. In effect, many creative marketers use it as a benchmark for having championed the Internet, so to speak. At their core, most online platforms exist now to sell us things.
Whether we’re buying them by actually, physically purchasing them or buying into the idea through sharing it with our network of connections…we’re all digital consumers. Actualizing a viral video means whoever created it manipulated the selling power of the Internet to the highest degree. This is why a viral promo video is the digital white whale for so many creative marketing departments.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter…these platforms all have advertising. You can create a reasonable facsimile of a viral video by promoting it through social advertising. This has its benefits. If you pour enough money into advertising, you can generate thousands of views for your video and that looks really good when organic viewers stumble upon it.
It lends your brand credibility and brings a certain caché to your campaign. However, in my opinion, true virality is an intertwining of organic and viral: videos that take off on their own steam, with minimal promotion, simply because they speak to a majority of people…those are the truly viral videos. They have the most impact, create the most buzz and are the most elusive to content creators.
The Viral Myth stems from the widely held belief that you can harness the power of social networking and word-of-mouth marketing to blast something into cyberspace on an instantaneously global scale; that, using state of the art technology, psychology and creative juice, you can tap into people’s emotions, their will to learn, their very idea of themselves to catapult your YouTube video into astronomical success overnight.
Viral videos are successful because of certain compelling elements—aspects that tap into viewers’ need to share, their sense of common experience. No one can predict these hooks. If I were to guess, they’re most dependent on the widespread climate according to current affairs; what the major, international news stories are and how people are reacting to them. To forecast this type of sentiment requires more intuitive tools than I (or, I’d venture to guess, ANY creative digital marketing person) have in my arsenal.
A more realistic, attainable goal is, instead of setting out to make something viral, aim for impactful. You can still incorporate creative, emotional, and educational elements…just don’t do it for the sake of going viral. The worst thing about so many marketing campaigns now is that you can just tell they’re only making promo videos for the sake of going viral.
It’s as predictable as some of Stephen King’s more recent work…. you know, when he started writing books with movie scripts in mind. Let’s be honest–’Dreamcatcher’ vs. ‘Shawshank’? The quality is incomparable.
Lately, the message is secondary to the viral potential. Believe it or not, when you’re trying to predict which psychological triggers, which lame jokes and which crazy graphics will resonate with millions of people, you aren’t focusing on strengthening your brand. Like the Brad Pitt Chanel commercial, for instance:
I mean, obviously they would get a ton of views because A) It’s Brad Pitt and B) It’s Chanel. But is this a truly viral campaign? I don’t think so. I really don’t. It was discussed on popular talk shows. But, that’s because it was ridiculous. They weren’t on message and they were reaching. They were trying to create something dauntless…a testament to their company’s insight, their ability to gauge what gives people the shivers. But, his looming, vainglorious face was just unsettling. And it was so obvious they were just trying to go viral! They’re selling a woman’s perfume, for God’s sake and they used a man! Perhaps the most recognizable man in the world. Instead of skillfully crafting a message embedded in a clever, resonant ad campaign, they went for broke and artistically flopped.
Of course, Chanel isn’t the only guilty company, but this is a good example of how even huge multinationals can miss the mark when their only marketing goal is creating something viral. I think the most effective marketing campaigns, the ones that really deliver, are the ones that are tailored to a specific audience for a product. Well-rounded market research and thoughtful, targeted creative will yield the most impressive results. If the message is genuine and people relate to it…I think you may have a better chance of appealing to a larger common denominator, thus increasing your viral potential. A classic case of finding something when you aren’t looking.
Image Source: Gilbert Wilson, Moby Dick Arises from the Deep
There’s no denying it…starting a social media campaign from scratch is daunting.
As part of a company, you want to find a way to build your brand and attract new prospects. Social media is a new, increasingly widespread way to create a community around your corporate identity.
But, how do you navigate all those channels? How do you find interesting ways to interact with users on every platform? How can you create enough branded content to draw and hold the interest of a new generation of web-savvy consumers?
How do you find your social media voice?
I’ve spent the past four to five years working in and around content creation for the web and social media. I remember making my first Facebook page, editing my first YouTube video and breaking 100 followers on my Twitter account.
I think what’s resonated most throughout all my social engagement is how exciting it is; knowing your messages are reaching people and realizing users are interacting with the content you share.
This sense of novelty and excitement is the engine behind social media as a tool for successful online marketing.
Howard Schultz, now-CEO of Starbucks, famously credits social media for pulling the coffee giant out of dire straits.
In 2007, Starbucks’ stock dropped 42 percent. It didn’t look good.
He used the web and interactive digital media to drive a complete overhaul of the company’s image and branding. Because of that initiative, Starbucks has raked in over $10 billion in revenue and employs around 150, 000 people.
In an article posted on MyNorthwest.com dated 2010, Schultz is quoted. “(…) Trust isn’t something you build through traditional marketing. You do that through integrating social and digital media. It is a science, as well as an art, to understand how to do this in a way that is authentic and genuine, and not just marketing.”
That, in my opinion, is one of the most ringing endorsements for finding your social media voice in order to run a successful program. Utilizing social networking for your business is cost-effective and wide reaching.
In 2013, Palmer Marketing is committed to increasing our social media footprint, digging down to find a real identity on the social web and becoming an example and a resource for clients, new and old, as they venture into social media as a marketing tool.
Here are some tenets of our newly resolved commitment to social media. They’re centered upon three key platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
1. We are going to drive engagement on Facebook by making it personal.
Not everyone wants a presence on the social web. That’s totally fine. Nothing wrong with wanting to keep your personal life out of the public eye. But, as a Social Media Coordinator, I’ve committed to integrating my social profile into the ones I manage. I’ve reached out to my network via Facebook and garnered more attention for Palmer’s page. The most successful social media platforms are the ones with the most company involvement. When everyone engages, shares, likes and posts, it creates an undeniable buzz. This will be a key element in finding our identity on the social web—making it apparent that real people are driving engagement.
2. We’re going to use LinkedIn to network with other business professionals and share important industry information.
LinkedIn is an endless font of industry news, networking opportunities and sales leads. We will use this platform, in the right measure, to position ourselves as a resource for people and businesses within our network.
3. We are going to engage more via Twitter and we’re going to sound like human beings when we do it.
Twitter has a user-ship of over 500 million. This comprises a wealth of interest groups. Twitter offers tools for targeting people, discovering what they’re talking about and joining the conversations. We’re hoping to see a lot more engagement, attract a larger audience, and build our brand. As with our Facebook engagement, we’re going to humanize our Twitter feed—ensure our voice is well received and we’re approachable.
As we continue to experiment with and grow our presence on social networks over the next few months, I’m really hoping to create our social media voice. I’m excited to engage our existing community on the social web and attract some new members. We want to act as a resource for social networking knowledge; we’re going forward recognizing that it’s a little unnerving to start building a social media campaign from the ground up, but with a voice, some consistency, commitment and lots of interaction, social media is a powerful marketing tool.
If you haven’t already ventured into the online world of social media and marketing, there are probably only a few reasons why:
These are reasonable responses to the question of “why?” but with a little further research, I think you may just change your opinion as many businesses have, including us!
It can be a little difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially in a business to business scenario. There are several benefits, so maybe now is the time to jump in!
You don’t know how to – It can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have an understanding of what it takes to get involved in social media. The best thing to do is search for one of your clients on these social media platforms, or even one of your competitors to see what they are doing and how they utilize Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Word Press, LinkedIn, etc. Read, read, and read… it will give you more insight in how to join the online world as well as keep you up to date on what is going on in your industry. Who knows, maybe you will have something to say right away. Commenting on other businesses blogs and pages are great ways to introduce yourself and share your knowledge on the web.
You don’t have the time to – You don’t have to dive into everything at once. Maybe you are already more familiar with Facebook than any other site. Start there. If not, just pick one to start with for the first few months and you will gradually gain the confidence to implement others. Setting up a Facebook or Twitter account will not take you long to accomplish, just get it done and you can do some tweaking later. There are actually a lot of great blogs out there that will walk you through the entire process of creating these accounts.
The best in the business are posting and tweeting multiple times a day. They most likely have the resources to have an employee dedicated solely to social media. You should shoot for at least once every couple of days and if you start up a blog, try to start by posting relevant news to your company or your industry once a week, or at a minimum, bi-weekly. The more you do it, the better you will get and thus, take less of your time to create frequent posts.
You don’t think it will benefit you – It is true that social media is more effective for B2C companies but that doesn’t mean that it is not beneficial to B2B. The idea behind social media is to first of all, create more brand awareness on the web. The more websites your company is listed and active on, the easier it is for people to find you, understand you and learn what specifically sets you apart from the rest. These sites show up on general searches through Google and other search engines, so if you post quality content, rich in industry keywords, you will get a higher ranking. It’s all about posting good content as regularly as you can to try to get people involved in your business and your industry. Start a dialogue, talk to people that you otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to, drive businesses to your website, and ultimately make a positive impact on your business. We’ve seen it work.
Remember— If you do want to get into social media and even after your research you don’t think you will be able to pull it off, you can always outsource it to a trusted company.
15 Benefits of Social Media:
A Few Points on Social Media Sites