July 18, 2014 Kevin Erb

Viral’s vital ingredients

“Hey!,” someone usually exclaims during the brainstorming meeting, trying to figure out how to maximize brand awareness and audience engagement while keeping budget to a minimum, “I know! Let’s make a viral video!”

Oh, that it were so simple. Unlike a print ad or a brochure or a press release or a mobile app, a viral video isn’t something you can produce. Sure, you can make the video itself; it’s just the “viral” part of the equation that isn’t under your control.

Or is it? As this article from the Wall Street Journal points out, while you surely can’t force a video to go viral or spread organically, there are certain ingredients – the element of surprise, for example, as the WSJ details – that virtually no viral piece of content can be prepared without.

Which got us to thinking – what are the other ingredients? What else does a piece of content like a video need to increase its likelihood of strong, exponential organic growth and reach (i.e., going viral)?

In addition to the element of surprise, we tend to see three other key ingredients in the creation of successful organic content:

1) Make ‘em laugh. Or cry. Triggering emotion creates an emotional connection to your content. The safest way to do so is to inject some humor; although, tugging at the heart strings with some inspirational angle is always your friend, too. Just remember not to be funny for the sake of being funny; any attempt at humor needs to align with your brand voice and personality.

2) Keep it real. Give your video an authentic, hyper-realistic look and feel. Go with a hand-held camera and keep the production values to a (tolerable) minimum. Highly produced videos tend to go viral less often than more realistic, documentary-type ones.

3) Let them in. Briefly setting the scene for viewers (“we’ve secretly switched his regular coffee…”) makes viewers feel like they’re in on the gag, which in turn strengthens the connection they’ll have to the video. It also makes it easier for them to follow along, recall the narrative and, most importantly, share with friends and family.

Again, even crossing all four of these ingredients off your shopping list does not a viral video make; however, as with anything, there are common attributes to most videos that spread like wildfire. The more you understand them and keep them in mind as you develop your branded content, the tastier your video can be.

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