7 Tips for Successful Viral Video Production and Distribution

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The focus below is specifically on tips for *viral* video success – how to produce and distribute a video that will get people talking about and sharing the content – i.e. viral video. In other words, these are suggestions for how to get your video *shared* in the viral sence. For this reason, the focus is split pretty evenly between viral video content creation and viral video distribution.

Without kick ass content, you're not gonna have a genuine viral hit; sure it's easy to spend a bunch of money building up views on YouTube – but that's not the same as genuine viral success.

1. Get under the skin of your audience.

Think about the type of viewers you're hoping to reach and find out what they like to talk about with their friends. Online videos are a valuable social currency, increasingly used as conversation starters, social lubricants, props for self-expression and as a means of winning validation and approbation within a peer group. If the video you've produced is perceived to have a high value within your target peer group – because it's particularly entertaining/relevant/meaningful to this group – it's much more likely to get passed on.

2. Choose appropriate viral video triggers.

Once you've got an understanding of what makes your audience tick, you'll be better placed to identify the viral triggers most likely to hit your target audience's sweet spot.  A "viral trigger" is the aspect of a video that turns a passive viewer into a viral vector, someone who shares the content as well as just consuming it.

When we're evaluating content at Unruly, we find the concept of viral triggers extremely helpful for predicting levels of viral success. Lots of the viral triggers will already be on your radar: Funny, Sexy, Random and Surprising are some of the well-established reasons that people pass on videos, though Illuminating, Shocking, Spectacular and Hyper-relevant have the power to activate equally high levels of viral sharing

3. Turn the volume up to 10.

Once you've decided on your viral triggers, focus on making them as strong as possible. There's no point being quite funny, quite illuminating and quite spectacular. Better to go for one or two triggers and work them to the max, eg if  humour is your trigger, you'll need a pay-off that's worthy of a belly laugh. If sexy is your trigger, you should be aiming for steam-up-the-windows sexy – a luke-warm bath will not cut the mustard.

As a general rule, if your video is to have a chance of viral success, it should be arresting enough to elicit a physical reaction from the viewer (tears, laughter, goosebumps & gasps are all good). If you're not sure how your video rates, then check out the competition. Your video is competing with up to 1 million daily uploads to video-hosting sites around the world.  so your content needs to really stand out in order to get passed on. If you're serious about creating a viral hit, your video will need to be this funny, this spectacular, this illuminating, this random, this inspirational (you get the point!) if you want to be up there with the best of them.

4. Take it straight to your audience.

Don't wait for people to find your content; even the highest-quality videos can languish on YouTube, unsurfaced and unwatched, and there's no shortage of tools to help you get as much exposure as possible for your clip. It's often difficult to predict exactly where viral activity will take off, so it's a good idea to adopt a multi-platform approach to viral dissemination.

Use a service such as TubeMogul or HeySpread! to upload to multiple video-hosting sites. Use YouTube's auto-tweeting functionality or Twitvid to get the Tweets started and, *if it's relevant*,  send the clip to popular bloggers. But only if it's relevant. And only if they publish their contact details.

Bear in mind that if you're working on behalf of a brand, this may need to be disclosed in all communications.  In the UK, this must be done so as to conform to the UK Consumer Protection Regulations. If you're hoping to reach a more targeted demographic or niche interest groups and you've got a seeding budget, you should consider paid seeding services such as StumbleUponFacebook Social ads or UnrulyMedia.

5. Make it portable.

Do allow downloads, embeds, comments, and use URL shorteners e.g. bit.ly to create Twitter-friendly links. This is no time to become a control freak, so instead of smothering and protecting your creation, set it free! The whole point of viral is to create a piece of content that goes beyond the video-maker's control, that takes hold of the public's imagination and becomes a part of the pop-cultural landscape – a piece of creative commons to be championed, ridiculed, re-worked and re-imagined. When your video starts to get mashed-up, don't regard it as a mutilation, but as a sign that your one-hit-viral-wonder is turning into something more long-lived: an Internet meme.

6 . Get your timing right.

At every stage in the process, timing is crucial. At the conception stage, tapping into the zeitgeist and capturing the mood of a nation/a generation/a target audience will provide a solid foundation for viral activation. At the dissemination stage, you'll need to be in the right places at the right time in order to capitalise on the viral potential of your clip. You'll need lots of views to happen fast after upload if you want to make most viewed of the day or week on YouTube.  Likewise, you'll need bloggers, micro-bloggers, and activists on aggregator sites to be blogging, tweeting, and digging your video within a short space of time if you want it to make it into the Viral Video ChartTwist's trending topics or Digg's homepage.

Looking to the longer term, a seasonal piece of content, produced for Halloween/Valentines Day/April Fool's Day may have a short viral lifespan this year, but it stands a good chance of being re-surfaced next year, when Internet users are once again searching for seasonal clips to get them in the holiday spirit.

7. Work those viral video hotspots!

Once your clip is out there, be sure to track where the viral activity is taking place in order to identify and capitalise on niche communities where the clip is proving particularly virulent. If you're running a commercial campaign, consider a full-service solution such as Unruly Media's "Viral IQ." If you're in it just for the kicks, YouTube Insight will identify large referrers and show you which keyword searches are driving people to your YouTube video, so you can use search advertising as effectively as possible.

About our Guest Author:
Sarah, is a Founder and Operations Director at Unruly Media, looking after Unruly Media's growing network of publishers. Unruly Media is a video seeding specialist that works with global brands and agencies to harness and engage the social web. Its global video seeding network helps brands use great content to connect with hard-to-reach audiences in highly engaged environments on influential blogs, cult sites and mainstream entertainment destinations. By inviting the right people into the conversation and making peer recommendation frictionless, it enables the best executions to spread rapidly across massive audiences on popular video sharing and social network sites. In addition, Unruly provides a comprehensive video seeding service, encompassing the planning, execution and evaluation of viral campaigns, and offers advanced analytics around video delivery, viral dissemination and viewer engagement.


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What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.getvidloader.com jason

    I was just talking to a guy about how there's no real formula for making viral mega-hits. This is a good road map however. I'm going to send this to some of my friends. Well done.

  • http://www.tinyandmighty.com/ Russ Henneberry

    Great stuff, as always.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.r.robertson Mark R Robertson

    Thanks folks. I think Sarah polled folks within Unruly media for these tips. Certainly well thought out and great content for us all. Thanks for the compliiments

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/videomarketing videomarketing

    Great Post! I agree with you especially in #4. Tools like TubeMogul can definitely make our job easier, without hassle, and can increase production. Submitting relevant content to blogs is also very important.

    But you do also want the traffic to the site you are promoting. Views are one thing but actual traffic to a site is another. I do video marketing for local small business and appreciate the great tips. Thanks and keep it up.

  • http://www.hawaii-realty.com/ Hawaii Real Estate

    Thank you for informative article about production and distribution of viral video.

  • http://www.filmgauge.com.au filmgauge

    Now we only have to find the right clients who pay for it :) Thanks!

  • http://www.videomarketingcentre.com Web Video for Small Businesses

    After the "Will it Blend" and "Old Spice" viral video—the ROI on viral videos for business marketing has been firmly established and many more companies are becoming interested in video marketing. Wonder how many business people are thinking that they should have done it first?

    And yes, why let a small amount of adsense money stop you from your overall goal of having your brand or marketing campaign be seen in thousands of other sites by making them available for distribution—when your company's brand value is priceless. YouTube celebrities earn hundreds of thousands—but you want your product and business sales to generate millions!

  • krisadams

    That is fantastic.
    I loved this article. I am going to try get all these concepts going for my next video.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=107752479262484 BroadVision Marketing

    Very good information. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1371474345 Brian Avery

      And, anyone can talk with me! I would love to help :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=130483393709741 Your Webadvisor

      Hi Brian, just came across you site and "liked" it. That looks very interesting. Please reciprocate my "like". Thanks I like to hear more about your success with Viral Video.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000518127415 Gabriel NoWings

    Excellent set of pointers, although I found the 3 video examples in Point 3, in turn, unfunny, boring and derivative and couldn't watch any of them all through. Does this mean we must all aim higher or the general expectation-level has sunk dismally low and we can get away with junk?

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