Not that long ago I was sitting in a meeting with a client (a local college) and he told me he had some great news. “We just started a new class at the college and we videotaped the first class. The professor is fascinating, the subject is fascinating. We want you to take this video, put it on YouTube and make it go viral,” my client directed me.
My immediate thought was the obvious. “So what happened in the class that is so unique, so interesting, so crazy that it will be passed along from person to person across the internet?” His response was a blank stare. “Nothing crazy happened. The class is just fascinating, that should be enough for people to pass it along to their friends, isn’t it?”
Such is the problem marketers face with questions about the internet, social media and videos going viral. We all know about the viral video. Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice. The UCLA student ranting about Asians. The Korean teen who is a guitar wiz.
Understanding what all these videos have in common is the first step to understanding the phenomenon of the viral video. First, the content is either unique to the point of wonderment. Second, it may be so outrageous that it gets people’s blood boiling. Third, it is impossible to predict which videos will go viral even if they have both elements.
There is a certain intangible element to the viral video. Either it happens or it doesn’t. Either it captures the imagination or entertainment of certain core people who post it on their Facebook and the process is repeated a thousand times or it isn’t. It really can’t be planned or strategized. To sit down and say we want to create a video that goes viral and garners a million hits in two days, is like saying we want to create a TV commercial that increases product sales by a million dollars in two days. It really can’t be predicted.
That certainly doesn’t mean videos shouldn’t be produced and placed on YouTube by organizations seeking exposure. They should, and they should be produced in the most creative and entertaining way possible. However, expectations should be in check for those who expect that their video will be passed along to a million viewers overnight.
With more than 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every six minutes, competition is fierce for the world’s attention. The bottom line is that getting a video viewed on YouTube is a great part of the marketing process, but it is just that, one part of the marketing process. A marketing plan needs to be comprehensive, strategic and well thought-out. And if you do that, perhaps your marketing as a whole will go viral.