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August 4, 2011
How to Kill a Viral Video
Clients are always asking me to produce a video that will go viral. They throw out the word “viral” like it’s an ingredient you add to food.
“Just add in a little salt.”
Their request for a viral video is typically followed with guidelines that handcuff all of my creativity.
“Just don’t be too controversial. We don’t want to offend our clients. Just stick to the facts of our product.”
If you want a video to go viral, it had better be extremely funny or have a little edge to it because no one will forward a video unless it connects with their emotional root.
Think about the videos you forward to your friends. I’ll bet my next drink that the last video you forwarded to friends made you laugh. If it didn’t make you laugh, then it likely had some sex appeal to it because those are typically the emotions that ignite viral videos.
Would you forward a commercial video on a new sofa that was neither funny nor entertaining? Of course not, but there is a better chance you would forward the video to friends if it had an edgy scene or conversation on the sofa that made you think or laugh.
Of course, there are exceptions, like the viral video that provides practical information. People will forward an informational video, assuming it holds their attention and provides expertise to a topic.
It’s simple sociology, which is why you need to learn how NOT to kill a video if you’re trying to produce a viral video.
1) Don’t think outside the box because that is already a cliché and it’s only going to ignite average ideas. Instead, think of creating a new thought or idea. Back to the example of the boring couch you’re trying to sell at your furniture store. You can either A) showcase your furniture or B) produce a video of a couple on your couch, talking about your product. You can be more creative by having them discuss what is going to take place on this couch when no one is watching. Drop in some innuendo because WE ALL KNOW sex sells. But you don’t always need to exploit sex to sell a viral video. Perhaps this couple discusses a topic that makes viewers think about life, their furniture, or their kids in a NEW way.
2) Don’t produce a video that makes people dizzy. I produce lots of web videos for nightclubs, restaurants, and lounges. I’ve had a few owners tell me they want the video to move faster so the patron can see everything in 45 seconds. The end result is that the viewer sees nothing because each shot is less than two seconds. I know we live in an ADD society (because I likely may have it) but that doesn’t mean you need to tell everything about your product in a limited amount of time. If you have a great story or product, produce several videos rather than a longer one. I produced one video for a politician who claimed he had the best story of any politician since Abe Lincoln. He told me I couldn’t tell his story in two minutes because he had too big of a career, which fittingly matched his ego. The client is always right, so we produced a monstrous documentary that few people watched. That video never gained traction. If you want to produce a video with viral aspirations, make sure you focus the message.
3) Don’t use crappy video. Sometimes we have to work with the product we’re given, but if the video is blurry or the audio is hard to understand, don’t use it. This video will represent your company, so you want to make sure the video quality represents your highest standards. I run a company, CaffeinatedVideos.com, that produces social media videos that the client actually shoots. I’ve had to send the camera back to the clients many times because their hands were shaky while shooting. The second time, they get it right and the quality is superb. Don’t force it. If you have to redo the video, then go the extra mile, just like you do with your clients.
4) Don’t be the judge. If your audience consists of 22-year-olds and you’re 55 years old, don’t try to take on the role of expert. I’ve produced lots of nightclub videos that targeted college kids. I ran the video by several of my young interns before I presented it to the client. I didn’t do that because I was questioning my work. I did that because I wanted to watch their expressions to see if it moved them in the areas where I wanted to motivate them. No man is an island, so take advantage of the other castaways next to you.

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Mark Macias is the co-founder of BigBirdFans.com. He produces social media videos for all kinds of clients and consults on publicity campaigns. You can read more at www.MaciasPR.com.

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