The Ultimate Formula for Compelling Viral Content

A quick search offers more than 400,000 articles on how to make videos spread like wildfire. I just read one called Advertising Symbiosis Key to Viral Video. The research is grounded, the fact pattern is logical, and the conclusions are compelling.

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But why are there far fewer actual viral videos than there are articles about how to make them? I was recently talking to my creative partners about the topic. We all agreed on one thing:

The formula for a successful viral video is.there is no formula.

No one would have thought "Gangnam Style" would hit a billion views, or predicted that the Charlie Bit My Finger video would create a six-figure business for Charlies family. Who would have bet that a girl who gets drunk and puts on her makeup in front of a video camera would become"the reigning queen of YouTube"?

Viral Video is not a recipe: Two cups of dialogue, a sprinkle of humor with a dash of product placement and voila! A You Tube sensation is born! If it we're that easy, anyone could do it and every company would.

As my creative partner says, Viral video is like pornography: you know it when you see it or, more to the point, share it.

A better word than "viral" is"shareable"that elusive quality that viewers respond to by reblogging, reposting, liking, commenting, and retweeting. If there's no formula, are there ways to increase the likelihood of sharing?

Here are a few general principles:

1. Go For The Heart, Not The Head

Any content that is shareable has one common theme: It elicits a strong emotional reaction. Whether that's to inspire, endear,anger, surprise, or make you laugh your ass off, if it strikes an emotional chord, it's likely be shared. Moreover, your brand will benefit. "When entertainment creates an emotional connection, it leaves a lasting effect on our minds."

2. Social Proof and Social Personality Matter

Social guru Justin Gardner put it to me this way:"Sharing a video says something about the person who is sharing it. This is incredibly important. Ideally, you want the person who is sharing the video to be the target consumer for your product or service.

3. Trust Your Instincts

It's a cliche, but the most important advice is to trust your gut. Make stuff that you like. Content you believe resonates. Share it with friends, colleagues and optimally with your target consumer to get an honest opinion.In this respect, pollsters and focus groups and six figure video budgets are not that helpful.

Small-scale, guerrilla videography based on what you yourself would like to see is a better fit with the lean start-up method. Freed of bureaucracy and approvals, motivated by the desire to build something great,and fueled by the kind of creativity that limited budgets demand, content marketing is a huge advantage for small companies. The true currency here is the Idea.

4. Have A Concept.

If the video you want to make can't be described in a sentence or two, it's probably not going to be very shareable. When people talk about viral videos, they say things like, "The one that Dove did, of the police sketch artist drawing women's faces" (55 million views and counting) or"That OK Go video that's like a Rube Goldberg thing" (40+ millionviews) .These we're complex videos, but based on simple concepts.

To go viral, a video must stir something inside you that motivates you to share it with others. That's not a formula. It's just a fact.

 

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