Marketers Need to Understand the Power of Viral Videos

Client testimonials, product demos, company explainers are all ways to give companies an online video presence. But sometimes, these videos aren’t enough. One way to really create strong brand loyalty among the greatest audience possible is to go viral.


It may not be easy – but it’s possible.


Why Viral is Vital


It goes without saying that online is where you want to be. With television and traditional media viewership steadily decreasing, your largest audience is going to be on online platforms. Not only are more people online, but also more young people are online – and they are craving relevant content. If your video is entertaining you’ll get their attention, no matter who you are.


What Makes a Viral Video… Viral?


Let’s start with a classic.



We’re sure you’ve all seen or heard of this video. With 843,4663,281 views, you can’t ask for much more. Consider the production cost of this video. Now, consider the price tag on a TV commercial with the same potential reach. It makes our budgets hurt just thinking about it.


What makes this video successful?


It’s Funny


No one can ever doubt the power of humor in making a video go viral. When you laugh, you want to share the feeling. Social sites make it so easy to spread the positivity with just one click, so make sure to send a message worth sharing!


Next, there are babies! Who doesn’t love a cute baby. Or a fluffy animal. Or a cute baby fluffy animal. Use the human inability to overload on cuteness to your advantage.


But not all viral video is babies and animals, so then what makes it viral?


It’s Relevant


Relevance is a quality that is extremely important to viral video, as viewers are interested in content that relates to current topics. If your video relates to the current trends, you’re making your content much more relatable to the general public. That means more eyes on your video, and more shares.


That’s the idea behind this next viral video 



James Corden hosts The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS, but most of his segments get shared wildly online after they air. In his segment “Carpool Karaoke”, Corden brings together popular stars, popular music, humor, dance, and relevant pop culture topics, to create a mega-viral video sensation. When segments containing the most relevant stars are released online, there isn’t a newsfeed unaffected.


This example also shows what viewers really value in their content: personality.


It’s Personable


Gone are the days that we are satisfied with traditional media’s scripted shows where our favorite stars have little personality beyond the character they play.


With the growth of online video, viewers want to see behind what other media are showing them. They want to see reality more than ever before. That’s why videos of celebrities sitting in the passenger seat singing along to your favorite songs are so entertaining.  Making a video that shows viewers what they want to see, that other traditional content isn’t showing them – that’s how you grab attention.


We also can’t forget to mention that sex sells, scare tactics work, and everyone loves a good parody.



So, you want to make a viral video.


How do you do it?


There’s no one way to make a video viral. Once you realize what viewers are looking for when they’re scrolling through their newsfeed, you’re on your way to having their attention.


Here’s our tips for how to keep it.


Keep it Short


Viewers lose focus fast, and unless your content is gripping until the very end, chances are people are going to click/swipe out of your video before it ends. You want to pack as much value as you can into a short amount of time to increase the chance that viewers will watch until the end, and share with their friends.


Leave Room for Change


One quality of video that we can’t overlook is the opportunity for others to remix it. This is good for you. When others change your video, they have a vested interest in promoting your content for their own benefit. Now, someone else is working just as hard to get your video viral. If you create your video so that others will care enough to make it their own, you’re in a good position to see your video go viral.



Be Relatable & Universal


As we already mentioned, viral video is a cheap option that relies on personality. Don’t ruin that by spending too much on increasing production value. If your video seems too high budget, you’ll come off as inauthentic and lose much of what makes viral video so entertaining.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your video makes it all around the world, so make sure it’s translatable or subtitled. Put the viral, in viral video!



But You Can’t Forget SEO!


Here’s a secret: your video will never go viral if no one can find it.


Use Clear Titles – Picking the right title gives you an enormous advantage getting noticed, but don’t use misleading phrases like “leaked video” to generate excitement and clicks. It can backfire when your audience feels tricked.


Provide an Accurate Description – Include a call to action directing viewers back to your website or possibly to a contest you are throwing in conjunction with your viral video.


Choose the Right Keyword Tags – Use Google Adwords for help compiling a complete list.


Generate Back Links — Connect with bloggers that relate to the topic of your video, and be sure to post on your company’s social media. Keep in mind that different social media platforms are better for viewing video.


Generate Views – Do what you can to share the video yourself by promoting it to your personal and professional connections. Pro tip: Add the link to the video in your email signature.


Don’t forget!


YouTube has it’s own algorithm when it comes to viral videos.


Factors that contribute to a high ranking in the YouTube search results include:


  • The number of views a video has.
  • The number of ratings the video has.
  • The number of comments (good or bad).
  • The recency of the video.
  • How many views the channel has.
  • The number of subscribers the channel has.
  • The channel’s activity.
  • Other videos on the channel.


Given YouTube’s system, work to increase your viewership without being weighed down by spam and other less valuable content.



Make it Last


The ultimate goal of any company venturing into the world of viral video should be to build a long-term position for your brand. Sure, the buzz you generate with a one-hit video is great. But once you’ve invested the time, money and effort into building an audience, you should continue to utilize it.
After a couple well-conceived, well-executed videos, your audience will start seeking out your content. Viral video is no different than any other marketing tactic – the goal is brand loyalty.

  • Viral videos are great, but not very appropriate for businesses.
    First of all what makes a video viral is:
    scantily clad women with guns
    rednecks doing stupid things with vehicles and appliances
    natural and not so natural disasters
    off color and politically incorrect comments
    bad versions of pop songs

    Is your brand ready to do any of these? I video with obvious corporate overtones is an automatic failure because it’s seen as a marketing endeavor right away. Exploding Coke bottles was not created by Coke or Skittles. Neither would have approved it as it was not sales driving or brand elevating. The only videos with viral impact that have been used by major brands (Chocolate Rain for Dr. Pepper, Trans Siberian Orchestra home Xmas light show for Budweiser) were viral before they were used by brands, and went nowhere when brands used them. All of the other viral videos shown in your blog and mentioned were consumer generated.

    When agencies talk about creating viral videos clients think they’ll be getting millions of views from word of mouth. That is not what will happen. As many people that would watch their commercial on YouTube would watch their viral video, they won’t generate the same kind of traffic.

    Submitting a press release, tagging for SEO, and pushing on bloggers is a sure giveaway that it is a marketing gimmick and will turn off viewers immediately. The only brand spots that get any visibility are either from Does it Blend, because they put EVERYTHING in their blender, not the best way to show it off to their homemaker target audience, and European commercials, mostly because of their nudity, sexual humor, and the kind of edginess that American brands are scared to death of.

    If you’re an edgy brand or a brand that is willing to put your brand perception on the line, I encourage you to do stupid and dangerous things, videotape them, post them on YouTube without a link. They may go viral. But, do you want that? If you’re a skateboard manufacturer or Comedy Central, sure. If you sell anything not targeted toward gamers, sports fanatics or teenagers, probably not.

    February 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm
  • Great article — thanks! Thought it was very interesting that people on Twitter will watch a video for almost twice as long as someone on Digg… very interesting! Of course, the flip side of that is the people on Digg will only watch for half as long…

    February 9, 2010 at 11:26 pm
  • Bill Zave

    Good article. I particularly agree with points 2, 3, and 6 in the first section. Would like to see those points expanded upon if possible?

    February 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm
  • Nice! I enjoyed reading that 😀

    March 10, 2010 at 1:21 am
  • “The most obvious factor in YouTube SEO is the video’s number of views.” – This is so true and that is why I am using a self developed tool for increasing my youtube views lol Great article by the way. Most of the points you mentioned are so practical.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm
  • I’ve had some mixed feelings on viral marketing. First and foremost, viral marketing if a success is not economically sustainable, nor is it sustainable in lamest terms. Secondly, depending on your goals, viral marketing only generates short term success while the viral effect itself is still taking place. Perfect example here would be the Old Spice Guy from a few months back. During the campaign that became a viral hit, everything from numbers on awareness to sales rose significantly. However, once the viral efforts ceased and everything went back to normal, the numbers post-viral went back to pre-viral levels. The reason for this and my final point is that viral marketing is in fact very similar to biological viruses. These things come and go. Although they had an effect while they existed, the fact of reality is that after viral effects, everything goes back to normal. Viral marketing would in fact be a great aspect to an overall marketing campaign as a element to it. But on its own, viral marketing has no longer term effects unless you continually feed the effect or build upon it.
    .-= Josip Petrusa´s last blog ..For Millennials- Online Friends Are Real Friends =-.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:40 am
  • Great article – candidly written and informative!

    May 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm
  • Hi

    These harlem shake youtube vids are awesome… A company in my field just put one out and then it’s like everyone in the industry followed. Gotta get on the band wagon 🙂

    February 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm
  • This was on TV last night, Mysteries of the Museum. Love that Program!

    September 25, 2014 at 1:42 am
  • Great article – thanks! Think it is quite interesting that individuals on Twitter will see a video for nearly two times as lengthy as someone on Digg… quite interesting! Obviously, the switch side of that’s the folks on Digg is only going to watch out for half as long…

    January 14, 2016 at 6:07 am

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