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Five Tips for Viral Marketing and Online Video

Most companies today recognize the value of marketing through online video. We have transitioned to a point where today’s C-Level professionals now see YouTube and online video as a business opportunity, instead of simply a distraction for their employees. The potential for higher conversion rates on your website, more in-bound interest from customers, and the simple fact that it is a more engaging medium, has today’s marketers itching to get into what most call ‘viral video marketing.’ They know that if you can create the next great viral video, well, you’re basically printing money thanks to all the free ad impressions.

This is all true, but understanding the value of online video is easy. Developing a smart strategy that you can execute with the resources you have that is hard. So how do you tap into the unbelievable ROI of online video? Thinking of viral video as a formula, rather than a lucky guess, is one of the keys to marketing through online video.

A great example of this formula is Microsoft’s video campaign based on the Double Rainbow YouTube video sensation. Watch the two videos below (it’s about 2 minutes total between them), and then read on for five tips, which I call The Five Ts to Viral Video Success: Topic, Technique, Talent, Timing and Tension to capture the hearts and clicks of the world.

Tip #1: Pick an already viral Topic for your video

Great viral videos often start with a topic that’s top of mind for the collective internet unconscious. In this case, the Double Rainbow Guy was already a YouTube phenomenon, and to date has over 24 million views of his original video. Just like the skits your audience might see on Saturday Night Live and Conan O’Brien, or breaking news stories on the major networks, smart online video means keeping pace with what’s happening today.

Tip #2: Use an interesting Technique in your video

Many people watch videos because of how they’re made. “Hey did you see that video that was…”

…all in one take

…a picture a day for a whole year

…from such and such live event gone terribly wrong

…a parody of ABCD video

…an Auto-Tuned version of … and so on.

These types of videos are also known as “memes,” and because the Double Rainbow guy was so wildly popular, he started a meme of his own: By using a technique, or meme, Microsoft was able to tap into the people who were already searching for “Double Rainbow videos/parodies/who is the Double Rainbow guy.” With 24 million views that audience was huge.

Tip #3: Choose the right Talent for your video

Who you choose to put in your video has a huge impact on whether or not people will care. You shouldn’t go putting up a video of your boss yelling double rainbow at the sky, unless your boss is famous. Figure out a way to work a person, real or imaginary, into your video that your audience already cares about.

The Old Spice Guy, for example, was able to get Ashton Kutcher and Alyssa Milano “into the video” by making short videos directed at them and tweeting it out. Someone can actually be in your video or just be implied, both will help your bottom line.

Tip #4: Pick the right Timing for your video

The original double rainbow video was released in January of 2010, but it wasn’t until July that it started going viral. Microsoft was able to react very quickly, releasing the commercial and behind the scenes video in September, just as the trend was becoming recognizable by the masses. Other examples of good timing include: releasing videos based on holidays or events like Christmas or the Super Bowl. Think about your audience’s behavior in certain times of year or in reaction to trends or events. Think ‘How can I create and distribute a video that fits into that behavior pattern?’

Tip #5: Build or resolve some kind of Tension in your video

This is the single most important T, and the reason that people will share a video. Tension in this context is the unexpected, the irreconcilable, or the improbable. It is what drives one of the major conversations that viral videos create…’Is it real or is it fake?’ Microsoft was able to resolve a great deal of tension for Double Rainbow viewers who were asking each other, ‘Who is this guy?’ Where did he come from? What’s he like in real life?’ Another great example is the Comedy Central hit Tosh.0. It is very subtle, but the show has a way of pausing the most outrageous internet video clips at just the right time to create a dramatic tension. You often find yourself on the edge of your seat in anticipation of how the video is going to end.

You can have a great video with all four of the other T’s executed flawlessly, and that may get everyone that hears about it to click and watch, but is the irreconcilable tension we feel that forces us to share with our friends, family and colleagues. Why? It is because we can’t make up our minds on our own. We need an outside perspective, a la, ‘I think this is real, what do you think?’

Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned from Viral Videos
Arik will be presenting a web seminar with ASPE-ROI, Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned from Viral Videos on August 4th, 2011 at Noon EST. He will look at how many fail to recognize the simple principles that all viral videos follow to get people to search, click, watch and share. Several successful marketing campaigns and the viral videos that inspired them will be discussed. You’ll leave the 1-hour, free event ready to go from thinking like the average marketer to thinking virally.

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