Surprise, have a big reveal, be positive, know your audience.
These are some of the tips presented in the SXSW panel: How to Create a Viral Video, featuring Margaret Gould Stewart from YouTube/Google, Damian Kulas from the band OK Go and Jason Wishnow from TED. The SXSW hashtag is: # howtocreateviral.
The group began with definitions of what makes a video viral:
Damian: A video is viral if a significant part of the viewership wants to distribute it. Or if it has anything to do with with ‘boobs and kittens’.
Margaret: It’s all about showing something human, love, laughter, sex… Lots of videos go viral by accident.
Jason: TED Talks tries to spread ideas and its videos – essentially taped lectures – have been viewed 230 million times. He attributes TED’s success to the fact that they begin all the videos with a bang and incorporate professional, high production values; HD video shot from multiple angles with many cameras.
Damian: Know your audience and what they’re looking for – sometimes ‘homemade’ or rough works best. Do something impossible and bring it to life; create sense of wonder using the most appropriate production values for each video. As an example, he showed this backyard dance parody his band made using a static camera.
Margaret: Agrees production values should match content. She mentions research that shows positive content seems to go viral more often than negative videos. Incorporate elements of surprise and juxtapose the unexpected, as they do in this video of Cookie Monster and a German metal band.
Tips for promoting videos
1. Build a subscriber base/audience and connect with your community. Get them involved by encouraging them to be creative with you.
2. Enable embedding. Let bloggers embed your videos onto their site. This is key to building word of mouth. Then, once you’ve achieved a tipping point, people start viewing the original – provided they can find you, which leads to…
3. Meta data – Good titles and tags are essential. But don’t be misleading as that will eventually go against you. Damian acknowledges sponsors in tags. He likens them to modern day patrons of the arts, or, as he calls them – ‘Metaci’. Sure doing this may spawn some criticism, but it’s better to be transparent.
4. And finally, make sure you distribute your video on multiple sites so more people can find it.
What’s next? Lights, camera, action…