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Online video • February 2015

Going “Viral”: What It Takes To Be the Next Internet Video Sensation

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Going “Viral”: What It Takes To Be the Next Internet Video Sensation

Basil Shadid
This article was contributed by
Basil Shadid

In January, I was asked to participate on a panel at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The event, organized by Digital Hollywood, focused on creativity challenges for media outlets that are trying to create viral experiences. The audience was full of tech manufacturers, software developers, marketers, CEOs, and others who are interested in evangelizing their product.

So, what does it take to have your message not only heard but spread like a wildfire? Here’s the recap of our panel’s lessons when it comes to “viral” content: 

Engagement leads to success.

As marketers, we’ve gone beyond the word “viral”. Instead, our goal should be to engage groups of people who are socially connected to their friends, families, and communities. The rest will follow. How?

If you focus on building a strong audience from the start, you will have advocates when you need them. Also remember that a mix is always critical. Just because Facebook and Twitter may be the channels with your largest audience, it doesn’t mean relying on those alone will garner the best engagement – make sure you have a thought-out plan that goes beyond one channel.

Tap into popular trends.

There’s a reason that celebrity endorsements are so popular. Creating content that ties into a pre-existing trend (without just repeating it) will boost its performance. Just make sure it comes off as authentic and meaningful. People will see right through any attempts to just tie your product to a famous face. It needs to make sense to the brand. 

Create something innovative.

It’s no surprise that doing something the same way over and over won’t lead to success. Think beyond the tactic of a video. What experience and engagement can you create? Get people involved and they will remember – and share.

It’s a pay-to-play world.

Regardless of your method, there will be a moment when you’ve just uploaded your video and are waiting for the first view. How do you turn that one view into 100,000 views? Paying to promote something that you intended to go viral on its own may seem counterintuitive at first, but your video won’t be shared if people can’t see it. And in today’s social world, you have to pay for that visibility – even if you are relying on your existing audience. Remember to not use all of your budget on the production itself – promotion is just as important. 

Three rules for developing viral content.

Nothing is guaranteed to go viral, but chances are better if you follow these rules.

  1. Be authentic: It can be a challenge to create content that is authentic, on-brand and has social appeal, but the magic formula will lead to the best results.
  2. Capitalize on trends: Sometimes a trend doesn’t last more than a day. There’s not always time for a highly-produced, highly-edited piece. Timing is critical and should be factored into the creative process.
  3. Use your budget effectively: Sometimes, having money makes something less unique or interesting than the projects that are created without it. Really think about what it will take and remember that overproducing can be just as harmful as low quality.
  4. Develop great content. Viral is the ultimate audience barometer. People share what they like so know your audience and deliver something they will like.

So, what does this all mean?

With all of this information, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Viral content is still a risky business. But really, the best thing you can do is test the waters. Don’t be afraid to dive in.

Thanks to the other panelists:

  • Mariana Danilovic, CEO, Hollywood Portfolio (Moderator)
  • Craig Palmer, President & CEO, Wikia
  • Paul Schoknecht, Digital Experience Director, Sr. Partner, JWT Atlanta
  • Kirstin Benson, Editorial Director, WhoSay
  • Jim McArthur, SVP, Digitaria
  • Lia Navarro, Sales Director, Entertainment Strategy, Reddit, Inc.