The Ultimate Guide to Going Viral With Social Media Videos

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Viral social media videos are the stuff of marketing dreams. A viral video has the capacity to launch a brand from relative obscurity to international fame. They can rewrite people’s opinions on a brand they had thought was mundane or outdated. Viral videos can change the course of a company’s future, and they can do it in a single day.

A viral video is lightning in a bottle, marketing on steroids, a unicorn. You may think there is no way to ensure that anything you produce will ever go viral. In that, you are about half-right. 

There is no way to be sure that anything will capture the minds of the masses. There are, however, specific things you can do to dramatically increase your chances of going viral. Before we get down to the key elements of a viral social media video, let’s look a little closer at the definition itself so we have a better idea of where the bar sits.

A Simple Definition

There are numerous definitions of viral when referencing social media videos. The general consensus is that a viral video is any video that is spread rapidly over social media. How many people need to view a video in order for it to fit that definition? 

That can be a little trickier to articulate. After all, if a video goes viral on TikTok, but not on YouTube, it may only get around 30,000 in a four hour period and still be considered viral. On YouTube, it is generally accepted that a video has gone viral when it hits over a million views in a month. Facebook viral is normally considered up of 40,000 likes in an unspecified amount of time.

For the sake of your personal marketing plans, you may have to come up with your own measuring stick. After all, no one knows better how many views and shares you generally have on your videos than you do, and you are the only one who can quantify your ROI.

Viral Commonality

At its very core, marketing is a study of humanity. In order to understand what to offer people to buy, you need to understand their buying preferences and habits. You need to know not only what they are looking for, but why they are looking for it. 

Think of your social media videos in that same psychological light. Viral videos are a study of human behavior, so by analyzing what they all have in common, you can more easily create one of your own.

Thinking back on every video anyone ever felt compelled to share with you, can you pinpoint what it was that caused them to share those particular videos? Think about just the last one. Was the video funny? Was it sad? Did it make you angry or shock you? Why does it matter how the video made you feel? What do any of those things have in common with each other?

Intense emotional response. Every video that has ever gone viral elicited an intense emotional response from the viewers who shared it. This is true whether the video made them laugh until their stomach hurt, cry, gasp, or declare they were going to a march to support a cause. In every single case, without fail, viral videos have elicited deep emotional responses.

Is it easy to get under people’s skin and raise their passions? Not really. If it were, everyone would have at least a few viral videos and you would not be reading this in search of the key. Crafting a video that will get the kind of gut reaction you need to make it go viral, while also advertising your brand, can be a challenge. However, knowing what helped everyone else who ever went viral get there is still half the battle. 

Catching Lightning in a Bottle

Of all the videos that go viral across the internet, the most common ones tend to be those that are so funny people hurt themselves laughing. Certain topics are taboo, and care should always be taken not to offend, but most topics are fine. This is especially true of videos making light of the company itself. Humor can range from dark or sarcastic, to silly situational.  

Take a look back at some of the tv commercials from the ‘90s. In Particular, there were a number of KitKat commercials that came out during the mid-nineties that were dark and slightly twisted, but were highly effective. A quick search for KitKat Frankenstein will bring up a great example of what we mean. Had those same commercials been released more recently, they could very easily have become viral sensations. A more recent tv commercial that ended up banned for its content, known as the ‘French condom commercial,’ was still wildly popular and went viral on social media.

The key to creating a truly funny video is in many ways the same as creating a viral one. The whole point of the video must be to capture a part of the human condition and present in such a way that everyone who sees it will laugh. Far more importantly, because we humans enjoy making our friends and family laugh, a humorous video is far more likely than any other type video to be shared with our entire social network.

The next most common viral video is the sweet/pitiful/sad video. Think about the dogs shown on the SPCA. These videos are effective because they show the viewer a pitiful animal and it activates a protective urge in us. These videos are typically shared with a more select group of social media users, primarily the ones you assume would feel something when viewing them. 

The same can be said of videos that make us feel outrage, and those that make us feel like crying. These are more personal feelings that a viewer may not necessarily feel like sharing with their entire network. When seen in that light, it should be clear exactly why funny videos are the viral kings.

Get Your Followers to go Viral for You

Can’t think of a really good video to film? What better way to gain attention, in this age of selfies when anyone can create and post a video, than to get your followers to do all the work? 

One of the best ways to garner excitement about a product or a company has always been to run a contest. Social media has opened up an entirely new landscape where contests themselves have the potential to become viral and reach millions of potential customers. 

You can use this new landscape to your advantage. Instead of creating your own videos and trying to make them go viral, encourage your followers to create promotional videos for a cash prize. A contest like that can be run on a variety of different platforms that enable sharing and ‘likes.’ 

Where Do We Go From Here?

No one can guarantee that anything will go viral, but if you at least create your videos with the aspects that most often do go viral in mind, you will always be ahead in the game. Sometimes creating a video and putting it up on social media is all it takes to reach millions. Normally, even the best, most hilarious videos will need a nudge.

In most cases, you will need to advertise the video you have created to help the right people find it. Spread your videos across multiple platforms and track the results to see where they do the best. Get influencers involved in sharing them. Ask employees to share them across their personal networks.

The most important thing of all is to just keep trying, build up your video repertoire, and if all else fails, do not be afraid to seek the help of your followers. Remember, some videos go viral as soon as they are posted, but for most it takes time for them to pick up momentum. A slow start does not mean the video will not pick up.

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