Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The secrets to a vital viral video

posted by Andy Leff

We all receive viral videos like this in our Inbox that make us yell, "Holy #$%@*, that's insane!" Then, like the good Internet soldiers we are, we pass it on to our friends and colleagues, with the subject line "Check this out! It's crazy!"

Thus enters the "viral" part of viral videos. But what makes us furiously forward one video, and instantly delete another?

In my experience, those that click are over-the-top and unexpected, rather than simply clever. Think about it: You're more likely to forward a viral video of someone surviving a plane jump after their parachute doesn't open, than, say, those "Priceless" Mastercard ads.

My point is, people like to see shocking things that leave them in disbelief. And for businesses looking to get their own viral video going, your efforts should be just as bold.

The good news is you don't have to have a slick Hollywood production to accomplish this. Plenty of videos on YouTube and other video sites are very low-budget, yet pack the shock appeal that makes them go viral.

So it's unnecessary to hire a huge production company to make the video. Leave that to the big boys who are making “clever” video spots. Instead, go to a local college campus’s film school to find students interested in filming something over a day or weekend.

This approach ensures you get people who want to create a good video for their film school portfolio, while building their name recognition. And film school students are bastions of creativity, just waiting to create that one totally original masterpiece -- a hunger many big production companies lack.

And remember, the content of your video doesn’t necessarily have to do with your product, service, or business. Just create something outrageous that gets a great reaction. Then all you have to do is tie it in loosely with your messaging at the end of the video.

If you must show your product, do something preposterous! How many of us have seen those "Will it Blend?" videos on YouTube? And how many check back to see what will be chopped and pureed next? This one outrageous idea gets people excited every time a new video gets released. If people are excited, your company’s bottom line will get excited, too.

Speaking of bottom line, make sure you flash your company name, message, and Web site address at the video's conclusion. The purpose of these videos is to drive traffic back to you, increasing your exposure and revenue. It would be a shame to have a video with a million views, yet people have no clue where it came from.

And lastly, don’t be boring. Might seem obvious, but it's amazing how often entertainment value is overlooked. Many people tell me they made a video showing off their product and its benefits, then wonder why they don’t get any traction. The answer is simple: The video is not unique or engaging. It's more like sitting in a classroom, or at a dentist's office.

Once your video is complete, make sure you post it everywhere. Set up accounts on sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Metacafe, Revver, and Google Video.

Then tell all your friends and e-mail contacts about it. The more comments and views these videos generate, the higher they go in the rankings (see yesterday's post on SEO). And some sites, like Revver, will even pay you when your video goes viral. This is the ultimate win-win situation -- getting paid for gaining exposure!

So grab your camera (or film student), and put that one big idea into action. Who knows? You may end up being the next Diet Coke and Mentos phenomenon. After all, 1.5 million views ain't too shabby.

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