Going Viral: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Internet

AdParlor Blog Post -- Going Viral: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Internet

You’ve heard this one before: “You guys, look at this video of my dog chasing a balloon, it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen!” Alas, the video always seems to fall short of the actual funniest thing you’ve ever seen, maybe by a little, but probably by a long shot.

For a lucky few, these short clips of at-home hilarity have turned into massive success stories; think, “Charlie bit me!” and “Is this real life?”  Unfortunately, this is real life, and the likelihood that your video ad will reach viral nirvana is low, at best.

So, what can be done? Instead of hoping and praying to the YouTube gods for a serendipitous video sensation like Antoine Dodson’s “Hide your kids, hide your wife,” you need to get creative. There may not be a secret sauce to virality, but there are a few key ingredients.

Simplify

Viral YouTube Video: "Leave Britney Alone"Let’s face it, the most memorable, or even the most quotable part of any social video usually lasts only a second or two. It’s the “Oh my god, shoes,” and the “Leave Britney alone!” moments that stick in our minds and even become part of our everyday jargon.  Not so coincidentally, social viewers also have a pretty short attention span, and it’s only getting shorter from here, folks. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span is only 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds in the year 2000. That’s a tiny bit of time to make a huge impact on your viewer, so make it count. Make your social video ads short, unique, and most important, memorable.

Optimize

You might think of YouTube as being a hub for all things video. At its core, YouTube is really a search engine, just like Google. In fact, it’s the second largest search engine around. Like Google, YouTube crawls its pages to find relevant results to your search query. While YouTube probably likes a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt as much as the next search engine, you want to make it as easy as possible for your video to be found. Video titles and descriptions are keyword sensitive, and it’s in your best interest to take advantage. “Cat video!” isn’t going to cut it since you’ll be swimming against the current in a sea of 32,400,000 other cat videos. However, “video of cat playing the piano” only yields 1,340,000 results. You would still face a good amount of competition, but a lot less of it.  Make your titles and descriptions rich in relevant keywords that stand out. Then, watch your video views soar.

Amplify

Like in any good (or bad) zombie movie, virality is impending, but someone has to introduce the strain. Get ready to be that guy. Start gathering the momentum by planting the video on your company’s social channels: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn—whatever’s most relevant to your audience. Encourage your co-workers and colleagues to do the same, and share the video with their network. Don’t stop there. Once you’ve picked up some traction, create a Vine with the most interesting or memorable clip of your video, and share it as well.

Don’t forget about other outlets, like your company or personal blog, where you can write about the video production, or the inspiration behind it. Lucky you! Your blog has a number of subscribers who are already interested in your content—talk about a captive audience. Don’t forget to give them as many opportunities as possible to share, like, or comment on the video as well.

Wishing and hoping for viral video success will only turn up sad face emojis. Think creatively when producing your video or ad, but recognize that it probably won’t be an overnight sensation without some strategy to back it up. Even when your friend is like, “But seriously, this video of my dog is going to break the Internet,” just smile and nod.