With almost 2 billion unique monthly users, YouTube can help brands and businesses, as well as individuals, reach audiences that are vast and diverse. This is just one reason why many online video producers now dream of creating and marketing a brand film that goes viral, securing millions of views and shares in the process.
The number of videos that become viral is comparatively very low, however, because the road to securing video virality is unpredictable.
Crucially though, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t strategies that you can employ to vastly increase the likelihood of getting noticed in a sea of other online video content.
So, is there a formula for viral success or is it all down to luck?
Well the short answer is somewhere in the middle. Creating a truly viral video does require a bit of luck but there are steps that you can take to maximise your chances.
Let’s look at some of the key differentiators that help videos with viral potential stand out from the crowd.
As technology improves and audiences become more accustomed to engaging with high-quality content, if you attempt to market a low-resolution video you might struggle to gain the traction you really want to see.
If you’re really looking to create something slick and well produced, then think about investing in 4K as this is becoming more and more commonplace. It’s likely that viral videos will be seen outside of YouTube so having the best resolution will really scream professionalism on a big screen.
2] Brand Identity
Audiences want to engage with content that they can relate to, which is why showcasing your brand identity and personality is so important. Your content must always reflect who you are and fit cohesively within your digital marketing strategy to ensure that you avoid confusing your audience by sending mixed messages.
Your brand identity can shine in a variety of ways, including through the content itself or the production and editing techniques you choose to utilise.
A large percentage of videos that go viral do so because they have successfully connected in some way with their intended audience. There are several successful viral marketing story-types  and they can form meaningful connections in a range of ways including making audiences laugh, providing social insight or sharing surprising information in an engaging way.
The quirky wittiness of Dollar Shave Club’s ‘Our Blades are F***ing Great’ campaign ensured its memorability and shareability. Having clocked up more than 20 million views since it was uploaded, the team struck viral gold when developing a concept that would appeal to their target audience.
The catchy tune and engaging animation of the Melbourne Metro Trains ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ campaign secures a wide-ranging appeal which ensures its message hits home with the largest possible audience. It has been watched more than 175 million times and at least 50% of its audience almost certainly still has the tune stuck in their head.
From tweets and memes to gifs and videos, humour is a distinct commonality between a large portion of the most shared content across a variety of social platforms. People enjoy tagging their friends when sharing content that has made them laugh, which immediately increases the potential reach that piece of content could secure.
Originality is often key here as illustrated by Blendtec’s outrageous ‘Will It Blend?’ YouTube videos, which documents what happens when a variety of objects including iPhones and golf balls are put in their blender.
The production techniques add to the comical nature of the videos, which makes, what is essentially a showcase of how powerful their blender is, an absolute joy to watch.
It would be misleading to imply that integrating these elements into your brand film will guarantee overnight virality. So, if there isn’t a concrete formula, does luck play a part? Well, yes and no.
5] Influencers and Timing
There are many individual online influencers with large followings that have the potential to drive hundreds of thousands of views, clicks and shares to a variety of digital content. Importantly, however, communities also have the ability to send video content viral.
Channel 4’s ‘We’re the Superhumans’ campaign promoting the Rio Paralympics in 2016 became the second most shared Olympics advertisement of all time and has been watched more than 9 million times on YouTube alone.
Conversely, sometimes videos go viral because they are unexpected or are created and posted at an ideal time to reach audiences with similar thoughts, feelings or opinions. In 2011 vlogger Casey Neistat received a fine for not cycling in one of New York’s designated bike lanes.
Maintaining that the city’s bike lanes were frequently blocked he released a short film illustrating these experiences. The video has been viewed more than 21 million times and clearly still strikes a chord with viewers as it continues to secure likes, comments and shares.
Viral content exists at an intersection between information, entertainment and culture. Although finding the perfect balance might seem like an impossible task, there is no denying that online video marketing is an exciting space to be right now and the potential rewards there for the taking are almost innumerable.