Working in digital and social media, I have heard it about a thousand times: “I want this video to go viral.”
It’s no surprise why brands would want to launch a video campaign. Statista reported that as of June 2014, 78.4 percent of Internet users in the United States watched online video content and according to a study done by Digital Sherpa, videos increase understanding of company products by 74 percent and 75 percent of people will visit the marketer’s website after viewing a video. Those are just a few good reasons brands want those eyeballs to come across their content.
But, every time a client asks for a viral video goal, there is a tangible cringe on the creator side of the table. What many brands don’t understand is the complicated formula behind the creation of so-called viral videos and how marketers work every day to create amazing content and promote those videos with hopes of “going viral.” Additionally, a significant amount of video concepts come to fruition and just fall flat, often resulting in wasted time and money.
So, what are the content and promotion strategies supporting great viral video campaigns?
Naturally, I turned to a company that has been on the winning end of serving up viral content – SoulPancake. SoulPancake is the creative genius behind the 2013 Kid President viral video sensation. You know, that spunky little kid (actually it’s 9-year-old, Robby Novak) who shares life lessons from a juvenile perspective in a way that resonates with everyone? They offered to share some of their secrets with NewsCred and advice for anyone wanting to create video content that has the chance to “go viral.”
Yeah, that’s Kid President. His video series was launched from the direction of creator/actor Rainn Wilson (of “The Office” fame), who teamed up with Devon Gundry, Shabnam Mogharabi, and Golriz Lucina back in 2009 to create a website (that became SoulPancake) where people would feel catalyzed to engage in discourse about ‘stuff that matters’ - creativity, spirituality, philosophy and more. Kid President is just one of their many videos that have seen great viral success.
Georgia Koch, Channel Manager at SoulPancake said, “There are a lot of things that make a video go viral. Most importantly, it’s great content that either surprises, inspires, educates, or shocks – therefore making you want to share it.”
Koch went on to explain that timing has a big impact on the virality of a video. For example, the Kid President’s Pep Talk video, garnered a whopping 33,739,895 views with 237,254 likes on YouTube. The video was strategically posted right before the Super Bowl. Koch explained that the time of the realease was perfect for the theme of sports and a “pep talk,” something that will likely resonsate with sports fans who love a good motivational chat.
The Kid President video series, and most other viral videos, contain great content and use the storytelling framework. Videos must allow the audience to understand what they are watching, especially when 90 percent of users say that watching a video about a product helps them make a purchase decision. So putting a product or service into a bigger theme and telling a story, is much better than simply explaining how a product works or showing its benefits (that’s a commercial).
When asked what one piece of advice SoulPancake would give other brands trying to launch successful video campaigns, Koch replied with an simplistic idea that most marketers tend to forget:
“Create content that you want to watch – that always aligns and stays true to your voice and mission. Today more than ever, we want to understand the brands and businesses we choose to use in a truly authentic and personal way.”
So from a marketer’s standpoint, we need to always be thinking about our customers, but also avoid letting that lead to tunnel vision. SoulPancake suggests making videos that you or your consumers would want to watch, but also ensuring the video meets internal expecations. Chances are, if you are bored with your own video, your cutomers will be bored, too.
What else do you need besides great content within a storytelling framework? SoulPancake suggests consistency. With emphasis, Koch expressed that, “Consistency is key to building your audience!” To be consistent, stick to your brand. Of course you can take chances, but always refer back to your core message. If you feel you’ve strayed too far, you probably have and you need to reel it back in.
So let’s say that you followed SoulPancake’s advice and you spent time creating great content that is consistent with your voice and mission, arranged it into a captivating story, and then posted and promoted it online. You sit back in great anticipation and wait for the those clicks and views to start rolling in. To your surprise, the numbers unfortunately don’t meet expectations. What happened?
Failure and rejection isn’t something we like to experience, but it teaches us something. SoulPancake has been through the deep waters of disappointment and shares how they waded through.
“Sometimes those crazy ideas end up being amazing videos, and sometimes it just doesn’t work,” says Koch. She went on to stress that, “if we aren’t failing every once in awhile, we aren’t taking enough risks.”
But have no fear! Online and digital content facilitates an outlet for instant feedback and can help you collect valuable information and data to make your next video more successful. On the positive side, co-founder, Golriz Lucina, pointed out that the feedback from a video (the views, likes, shares, and comments), “showed that there were a lot of people who were craving positive, nonpreachy, content.”
The lessons to be learned about “going viral” are simple. Great content presented using a storytelling framework with consistency and the right timing are the key ingredients for helping make great video campaigns go viral. Remember that failure can be a teacher and know that every video campaign may not go viral, but take risks and it may end up being the winning campaign that keeps your brand relevant in the new age of digital marketing.
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