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How to Make a Successful Viral Video?

Learn the Principles of Viral Video Creation


video cameraman

Video Viral Marketing - A Meld of Art and Advertising

Courtesy Ben Lancaster, Photographer. Copyright October 30, 2005 Stock.xchng.

A video lasts but a few minutes. As we know, if it is a great video, it is remembered for some time. And happily for marketers, an excellent video gets shared extensively and may even go viral. Seedwell is a company that knows how to make that happen. Their business is creating marketing videos and, since they have been doing it for awhile, they have some pretty firm ideas about what makes a video a viral candidate.

Here are Seedwell’s observations about what most viral videos have in common regarding theme, structure, and tastemakers.

The themes of viral videos typically involve one of three categories popular with viewers. Viral videos often create a parody of something that is current and popular. A parody is engaging because it is usually not a mean spoof, but is just pokes fun at something that is often considered over-the-top. Anyone who has watched Saturday Night Live is familiar with the formula for parody. Or a viral video may just show some footage of something that is irresistibly cute (babies, children, and pets feature high in this category). And then there is the category of extraordinarily unusual events. This last category leaves a viewer somewhat circumspect – generally with good reason.

The structure of a video is much like that in a good movie script. Viewers like to be surprised, so setting up something unexpected in the beginning of the video acts as a hook and makes the viewer wonder if there will be more surprising content later in the video. Videos of proposals of marriage are not all that unusual, but Isaac's_Live_Lip-Dub_Proposal is so over-the-top that it completely avoids cliche. And more important, it is practically guaranteeed to keep a viewer watching to the very sweet, if predictable, end. If a videomaker doesn’t have a bushel of surprising material, then bringing viewers along as the video story goes up peaks and down valleys – in a sort of emotional roller coaster, as Seedwell put it, can keep viewers engaged.

A key element in video structure is to avoid much advertising. Viewers consider advertising to be disruptive unless it is central to the theme of the video, well embedded, and tongue-in-cheek. Jennifer Aniston’s video on smartwater is a great example of this approach.

Seedwell argues that the attention span of viewers seems to be dropping. Part of this may be due to the enormous array of multichannel information and choices available to consumers. But what it means in practical terms is that keeping the viewer tuned into a video means earning and re-earning their attention until the end of the video.

Social media has its influencers, and entertainment media has tastemakers. Tastemakers are typically celebrities like Jimmy Kemmel with an enormous following. Seedwell reports that a boost from tastemakers and influencers is really the key to getting a video to go viral. Kevin Alloca, the trends manager for YouTube, recently did a fascinating TEDYouth Talk on how and why a video goes viral. He underscored the need for unexpectedness and participation. The Kony 2012 is, as Seedwell suggests, the best example of creative engineering of the power of influencers and tastemakers to promote a video to a viral level.

The partners at Seedwell, Peter Furia, Beau Lewis, and David Fine, consider themselves more of a creative team than an advertising team. But despite the prominence of a creative gene, the partners understand the business metrics that signal the success of a video. The term viral video can mean different things to different people. The Seedwell team says this lack of an industry definition leads to confusion. For instance, viral video can be used to signify a threshold number of views or a threshold number of shares, the rate of growth of the views trend line, and sometimes even the aesthetic attributes of the video.

What is the mark prospective viral video producers must aim for: 10,000 plus views, 1,000 shares in 24 hours. To make the top 100 videos list on Unruly Media’s viral video chart, that number needs to be elevated to about 8,500 shares in 24 hours. To reach these numbers, a video is going to need a provocative or compelling thumbnail, an attention-getting and relevant title, and good curation. Curation is where the tastemakers and social media influencers plug in.

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