Are Viral Videos an Art or a Science?

Four Best Practices For Creating Compelling Video Content

Since 2005 when the first YouTube clip, a short SNL skit, went viral and collected more than five million views, marketers have been trying to identify the formula to recreate similar serendipitous moments for their brands.

And now, after nearly 10 years of wrestling with this subject, I’d like to think we’re all a little older and a little wiser – wise enough to realize that it’s not a perfect science, there is no specific formula for success and that video can be an effective marketing tool even it doesn’t rack a million views.

However, there are a few best practices to consider when developing a compelling video as part of your greater marketing program.

Identify a clear objective from the outset. A video can be a powerful tactic within a greater marketing strategy; however, it should not be expected to fill all gaps within a program. Keeping the objective of the video focused will help you identify the specific message you want to communicate, how you want to tell your story and what you want the viewer to do once he or she is done watching. (All videos should have a clear call to action.)

Share compelling content. If the information you’re sharing isn’t useful, adorable, unique, funny or emotionally powerful, it’s unlikely to make waves online, or contribute to your greater campaign goals.  Regardless of what you want it to achieve, viewers need to find the content worthwhile and entertaining. Good ways to create this connection include sharing a compelling story, offering a provocative point of view on an issue or revealing deep expertise viewers will find valuable.

Grab the viewer’s attention immediately. Before anyone even watches your video, they are engaging with you and deciding whether or not it is worth the time and effort to listen to what you have to say. Make sure your clip has an interesting title and thumbnail image. And, if you’re able to attract interest through your static presence, you still run the risk of losing them early on in the viewing process.  According to data from Visible Measures, 20 percent of viewers will likely click away from a video in 10 seconds or fewer if the content doesn’t align with expectations. Get to the point quickly.

Incorporate high-quality production. Gone are the days of viral videos shot on cell phones, or at least they’re no longer the norm. In fact, in as early as 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported nine of the top 10 most viral videos on YouTube were created by professional producers. Even though the viral video cult-like following originally spawned from cell phone footage, consumers have become more sophisticated in their tastes and expect a certain level of quality and coordination. Invest where it makes sense.

Measure results and learn. Like any other piece of content, video performance should be examined and analyzed. Depending on the goals you’ve identified, information like who’s watching your video, how long they stayed engaged and when they clicked away can provide a lot of information about the success of your final product, as well as help to better shape and share your brand’s point of view through visual content moving forward.

And though these best practices won’t guarantee your video immediately scoops up 10 million views on YouTube, they will help to focus your content creation efforts, which can work to generate more measurable results for your program.

What are some other best practices to consider when developing video content?


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