May 26, 2010

What You Can Learn from Silly Viral Videos


Hostway Team

By Monique Martin

Your inbox is probably full of them — the latest viral video sensations from YouTube. From piano playing cats to unfortunately placed piñata bats, silly videos have become big business. David After Dentist, a video of the funny, sometimes incoherent ramblings of an anesthetized little boy has been viewed over 58 million times, earned over $40,000 and started a family business.

Businesses both big and small are creating their own videos in hopes of cashing in on the power of viral video.

Anatomy of a Viral Video

Hundreds of thousands of videos are uploaded to YouTube every day. According to YouTube’s fact sheet, there are 24 hours worth of video uploaded every minute. So, why do some videos go viral? There’s no scientific formula, but a viral video will have at least one of the following:

  • Humor: Bringing the funny is perhaps the most important feature and the most elusive. Everyone loves to laugh, but pushing the right buttons takes talent and timing.
  • Brevity: A successful video is a short one. One to three minutes tops.
  • Authenticity: Many viral videos use low-tech cameras and real people. This makes them believable and relatable.
  • Train Wreck: People love a good disaster. America’s Funniest Home Videos has made a franchise out of people getting hit in the privates. It’s so bad, it’s good.
  • Animals and Children: Nothing gets the oohs and ahhs like a child or a puppy doing something adorable.
  • Insight: We love to learn things, especially about ourselves. Insightful videos help us discover something about ourselves or the world around us.
  • Innovation: Show people a new way of doing something. Even something as simple as how to peel a banana like a monkey can be a hit.

How to Get Your Video to Go Viral

Most viral videos don’t just happen. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into seeding them and keeping the marketing momentum going. There’s no guarantee your video will hit the big time, but here are some tips to help you try.

  • Don’t make a commercial. Think outside of the box.
  • Seed your video on sites accessed by your target demographic. If you sell hiking boots and have made a funny hiking-related video, be sure to post it on appropriate blogs, forums, Facebook pages and any other Web site where your target audience is likely to see it.
  • Don’t forget to post it on your Web site, include it in emails and send to your friends and family.
  • Give it a catchy title.
  • Pick an engaging thumbnail. The thumbnail image can make or break a video. Be sure you choose one that peaks people’s curiosity.
  • SEO. Use every asset YouTube gives you (tags, titles, description) to maximize your keywords.
  • Embrace the social in social media. Make the most of the groundwork you’ve already laid in Facebook, Twitter and on YouTube. Comment and be an active participant in the community.

Viral videos embody the power of social media marketing. They’re a bit of a shot in the dark. But, considering their potential, it’s a shot worth taking.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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