The power of a viral video to explode all over social media sites is one of the most coveted marketing tactics that all businesses wish to achieve. With viral video marketing, overnight any business can go from a nameless entity to a household name when their video goes viral. The importance of video marketing is on the rise. In our previous article about video marketing to promote your brand, we stated:

“Video content is extremely effective in establishing brand identity, communicating a value proposition, and ultimately increasing conversions by driving traffic to your social media pages and website.”

Take Kmart for example. The brand has been on a slow decline for years. Then, they “Shipped Their Pants.” Results? Monthly Unique Views (MUVs) rose in April by 2.9% in April after the commercial went viral and another 3.6% increase in May. Not as huge of an impact as the company likely needed, but this campaign definitely re-defined their brand with video marketing and got people talking about them again.

The Science Behind Viral Video Marketing

While the impact seems magical – epic viral videos don’t just happen – most of the time. So frequently, the publisher who released the video will admit they were completely surprised by the success which misleads many into believing these videos only happen by chance.

There are tactics, strategies, and approaches that are implemented during video production to create digital media with potential to go viral on social media sites. Check out this infographic that studies the science of viral video marketing behind 20 of the most viral videos ever.

viral videos on social media sites

An infographic credited to Elon University that studies the science behind videos that went completely viral.

Based on these metrics along with other statistical evidence, let’s review some tips for your viral video production strategy.

Tip #1: Take a Chance

There is no exact recipe for viral videos. It can be incredibly difficult for companies to envision content with the potential to spread like wildfire. They often limit themselves to promotional video with their logo and information about their product or service.

It’s about risk – doing something different, quirky, funny, off-beat, taking a chance – which can be scary for investment (think how risky the Kmart “Ship my Pants” campaign was). It’s exactly this element of surprise that is found in about half of all viral videos.


Tip #2: Don’t Make These Mistakes

Some videos receive minimal views and forget about them ever going viral. Below are some examples of types of videos that don’t work:

  • Overly promotional videos turn people off. Try not to go in great depth explaining your business and what you are about with your logo pasted everywhere. No one sees the entertainment value in that. Therefore, these very ”salesy” videos will never get the viral response you are after.
  • Videos that are too general will have a more difficult time reaching viral status because of the lack of focus. Millions of people go online everyday. If your goal is to create a viral video – you need to do your homework and decide on a very specific audience you are targeting with your content.
  • Complex or overly-complicated videos or concepts within your video will only hurt your brand. It can be tricky, but the goal is to tie in a clever and unique concept in the video that directly relates to your product or brand. If the concept is too loosely related or doesn’t make sense right away to the viewer, they will abandon ship.
  • Boring videos never go viral. Why would they? People want to share videos that they connect with, that make them laugh or entice other emotions – not some boring company video with some guys talking about his product in very plain manner. When developing your video, get inside the mind of your target audience and create what they want to see.
  • Throwing too much information at your audience is a frequent big mistake. Content, in any form, is best received in small digestible chunks – not delivered as an endless buffet to fit into a short video.

Tip#3: Toy with Their Emotions

If you want your videos to go viral, they must evoke human emotion. This is probably the most important aspect to keep in mind when implementing a viral video campaign.

Think about the types of videos you share on your own personal social media websites. What are you most likely to share? Content that is funny? Emotional? Thought-provoking? Enraging?

All of these types of video deal with human emotions and are known as social motivators. If you watched a video that make you laugh so hard you shipped your pants or evoked such a strong reaction that it literally brought you to tears – you are more likely to share the video with your friends and family.

Researchers at China’s Beihang University conducted research on viral content that revealed happy emotions, i.e. joy, amusement, and awe – were more likely shared than content that evoked sadness. An interesting twist in their viral content study also demonstrated that content that enticed rage was the most viral content of all.

Take the controversial and depressing Super Bowl commercial about the death of a child by Nationwide Insurance for example. While thousands of Americans were outraged by the ad, it proved effective when Nationwide’s new website received thousands of visits within days of running the ad. This is a classic example of bad press being better than no press.

Tip #4: Timing is Everything

Don’t let the bosses know, but most videos are watched at the office during working hours (shocker, right?). Research has consistently revealed that the most viral content online is released on a Monday or Tuesday. This timing allows your video to draw attention on slow work days and build momentum throughout the week.

In addition to carefully planning when to publish your video – you also want to consider how time-consuming your video is. As a general rule of thumb, keep your video somewhere between 30 and 120 seconds.

Tip #5: Share on More than The Big Four

Social media platforms are the driving force behind making a video go viral. In fact, twenty percent of total Internet time is spent on social networking sites. This is where your customers are! Check out our previous post to learn more about the importance of social media marketing.

It pretty well goes without saying that if you want your video to go crazy on social media sites that you publish it on the big four social platforms, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. But, don’t stop there.

Experiment with other social media sites and you might be surprised by the outcome. Karen Xcheng created viral time-lapse video called “Girl Learns to Dance in One Year” that has had over 5 million YouTube views to date.

On her blog, she describes her experience and the effort put in behind the scenes. She shares that she posted the video to more than the major social media sites, but also others such as Reddit and HackerNews.

Surprisingly, Karen found that by posting her video and story on Reddit delivered the biggest payoff. Within days, bloggers in the dance niche were picking up her story from Reddit and published articles about her video – each one operated as an independent marketing machine driving traffic to the video and bringing her to the top positions in search engines.

Tip #6: Build a Community First

If you want your video to become a viral success, you better have a community ready to accept and share your video. The importance of creating an interactive and engaged audience in addition to killer content is becoming common knowledge.

Videos can only go viral on social media sites when they are shared by real live people. Businesses need to be realistic of expectations and cannot expect one video to go wildly viral without an established following/community.

Consider Old Spice’s recent successful “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial. With more than two hundred thousand followers on Twitter, half a million YouTube subscribers, and approximately 2.6 million followers on Facebook – they prove how an established social community will share original and hilarious videos.

In the past, it was widely accepted as pure chance to have a viral video on social media sites. Analysis of recent data is illustrating the secrets behind the success of viral content. Use this information strategically when crafting your killer digital marketing strategy.