Viral Video: Does it Matter?Does an online marketing video have to ‘go viral’ to be successful?

Viral video sure does get attention. Just the words alone can drive people into highly-pitched discussions of what viral means and whether it matters to the success of your blog or business. Video is already a killer app for social networks, and social sharing certainly is a major contributor to most viral memes. Although it is possible to create highly shareable videos, having a video ‘go viral’ is impossible to plan.

For the success of an online video, having one go viral may also be unnecessary. There are many types of online videos for social media. All of them have the potential to catch like wildfire, but what do marketers and online video producers really want from online video?

Voices In The Crowd

Recently, the question was asked about viral videos on LinkedIn: “Does an online marketing video have to ‘go viral’ to be successful?” Many of the answers were similar, and one theme stood out: Most creators of online video aren’t concerned about viral activity. What they really want is to capture the attention of the people who are most likely to respond to their products and brand.

For most of the people who answered the question, there were several reasons that viral activity is unnecessary, and I’ve summed them up as follows:

  • Video success depends on goals.Most videos for business are put up for a reason. For example, product demos are meant to help buyers make a decision. I love these for those times when written specs just don’t fully describe how a product will behave, like these backcountry snowshoes at Eastern Mountain Sports. Video can also tell the story of your brand or include a testimonial with a customer. The goal is to educate potential buyers and push them toward a sale.If your goals for a video include getting a high number of viewers, shares, and spreading awareness, then a viral video will be successful by definition. Most agreed that this kind of outcome is based more on luck than planning.
  • Video is about business, not ego.One user said, “A clever video that reaches millions doesn’t necessarily reach potential buyers.” And it’s true. While a viral video may make the creator feel good, it may do very little for sales, or actually attract attention from the wrong people. Unless a company is geared up to do a ton of web business without a hitch, getting a lot of inbound web traffic might crash the site or generate negative buzz.Your videos should be as interesting as your viewers need, and should above all match your brand identity. Going well outside your brand’s personality to get a lot of views can backfire.
  • Viral is too much like the lottery.You wouldn’t have a ‘strategy’ for winning the lottery, except to buy a ticket and hope you hit the numbers. What kind of strategy is that? Nobody can build a business or a career by hoping to achieve it all on sheer luck. Even the most expensive videos produced by the biggest brands fail to get noticed, while a two-minute one-take camcorder capture has an equal chance of becoming a viral phenomenon.The people who created a video, whether bigtime advertising producers or inexperienced students in a basement, can never be sure whether it will be seen by a dozen people, never mind millions.
  • Video should drive other activity.This is the key to online video. It rarely exists for itself. Even television shows are meant to sell you products during the advertisements. A business video should drive viewers to click somewhere beyond the video. Views are not dead-end streets, but are an avenue to more action. Viral videos, by definition, almost always bring viewers to them, but that is the end of the experience. The only action taken is to share the video, not to visit the creator’s site.An online video meant for increasing sales should lead viewers to a site, a shopping cart, or a landing page after the video has played, or during the playback. This way the video has done its job as one link in a longer chain, not the endpoint.
  • Video is about building trust.Every video you produce should match your brand identity and tell your story, even when it discusses a business concept or issue affecting your industry. Your brand’s voice and persona should permeate the video, in a way that lets viewers know who created it even without seeing your logo or hearing your tagline. The idea is to create a brand image that customers recognize, and has always stood for whatever principles you intend your brand to be associated with.That means using clever tricks that fall outside your brand’s personality just to gain a high number of views risks alienating your most likely customers. Your videos should be an extension of your company’s presence elsewhere, on the web and bricks and mortar locations.
  • Video should reach beyond itself.Much has been said about online video driving SEO, but a viral video is good only for its own search findings. A truly useful online video drives search activity back to your domain. You publish blog posts, use social platforms and write guest articles for the very same reasons, to gain search activity. Video is really a dynamic extension of your brand awareness, lead generation and search engine optimization efforts elsewhere.You should see your online videos as tools, not as outcomes, meaning they are meant to create meaningful activity in another place. The keywords associated with them should drive traffic toward you, not to a social platform you don’t control.
  • Video is a sales enablement tool, not just marketing.Video can also act as a moving data sheet or slide show, for your sales team to use to close business. It does not have to be posted anywhere on the Internet, but can instead be shared only with viewers who are given access to a protected portal. You can use them in nurturing campaigns, as closed webcasts, or as private webinars, because they are unique ways to tell your story and help viewers move toward a sale.While video is commonly seen as a way to gain interest from people who have never heard of you, but video can also be extremely effective at eliminating any loose ends or smoothing out details that prevent sales.

So the verdict according to users on LinkedIn, who specialize in marketing and know their way around online video, is that viral doesn’t matter. You can be very successful without ever creating a video that gets a million views. One commenter summed it up this way, “Before the dot-com bubble burst, they said it was all about eyeballs. Then the bubble burst and proved it wasn’t. It still isn’t.”

Well said.