Written by: Eric Steckel
A recent blog entry in Mashable by Dan Greenberg, co-founder and CEO of social video advertising company Sharethrough, discussed three very excellent “things” any video needs to go viral. While we are beginning to cringe when the term viral gets thrown about, his points resonate. That said, we feel that he’s missing one very key element:
4. Effective Seeding and Distribution Campaign. The reason that we cringe at the very term viral is that most don’t really have any notion of what goes into getting a video to the point where it can be shared, nor do they contemplate that it requires strategy and budget. In other words, a campaign. We call it seeding and distribution, but whatever the case, it doesn’t just happen.
Our understanding is this- Certainly an emotional or personal attachment will lend a video to being shared; certainly ease of sharing will do the same. However, if it doesn’t get seen and generate a certain groundswell of interest, especially by key influencers, it will never reach the numbers that marketers consider viral. Mr. Greenberg mentions social video outlets that are more niche than YouTube that might allow a video to cut through the clutter, which would fall into the strategy element of the campaign. However, paid placement, social media outreach (hopefully the brand has this in place and strategically functioning well in advance), tie-in to existing campaign strategies and Web2.0 PR as well as good old-fashioned Public Relations can go a long way toward getting your video seen by the influencers who will share and make it go viral.
Here is an example.
Toyota launched the Sienna Family campaign last summer with the purpose of making Minivans “cool.” A set of funny TV commercials introduced America to the “Sienna Family”. Soon enough people where asked to check their YouTube account to learn more about them. The videos online took a closer look at these parents, a classic couple that had grand visions about themselves and their suddenly cool decision to enter the world of Minivan hipdom.
The videos where funny and ironic, showing an “I do not take myself seriously” kind of humor. The most successful of the bunch, “Swagger Wagon”, was a hip-hop mock music video, and absolutely worked on all levels. Toyota received about 300,000 views the first week it was released. Once it became a hit, people kept passing it along, getting a more than 3.5 million views, 182,500 Facebook shares and over 4,584 tweets in ten months.
This campaign brought all the different media together. Without the help of the broadcast commercials, perhaps these videos would have not gotten as much exposure as they did. Certainly the tie-in to the traditional campaign helped. Microsites, Facebook pages, and a YouTube channel generated interest by using existing elements of Toyota’s social marketing mix.
To go viral, videos don’t necessarily need a national TV spot to kick them out the door. However, in order to succeed, there is no doubt that people need to see it before they will pass it along and share it with their friends and families. There is no magic formula, but we do know this- an effective viral video will have a well-conceived, funded and staffed Seeding and Distribution campaign behind it in order to succeed.