Why does video go viral?

28 03 2012

The success of the Kony 2012 campaign recently has focused attention on why some videos go viral and some just disappear. I recently viewed this TED talk which I though was worth sharing.

Kevin Allocca is the trends manager with YouTube. Basically he watches YouTube videos for a living. Nice work if you can get it. He shared his views on why videos go viral and he should probably know. Three things jumped out for me.

  1. The power of tastemakers – social media success is often driven by popular individuals picking up on a video and sharing it with their large followings. There is an element of luck involved in this.
  2. Community participation – the online world can take your video and create a parody, a local version, an international version or a remake and easily share it.
  3. Unexpectedness – a bit like a good film or book an element of the unexpected is key to drawing viewers and encouraging them to share.

I am going to add one additional element that I think Kevin missed – relevance. The success of ‘United Breaks Guitars‘ was founded, I believe, on people having a shared sense of frustration at the experience of air travel. We have all got frustrated with an airline at some stage in our lives and this video tapped into that.

“In a world where over two days of video get uploaded every minute, only that which is truly unique and unexpected can stand out in the way that [viral videos] have.” (Kevin Allocca)

Be careful what you wish for

19 03 2012

The success of the Kony 2012 video has surpassed even the wildest expectations of the makers. With that success has come scrutiny, criticism and enormous pressure. Unfortunately it seems that the pressure has taken its toll and this has been tracked by the same social media channels that Kony 2012 used so effectively. Be careful what you wish for.

Become comfortable with ambiguity

15 03 2012

At a recent Marketing Breakfast Colin Lewis, Chief Marketing Office – Europe, 118 Directory Enquiries, addressed the topic of the future of marketing. Colin maintained that the current model of marketing is broken mainly as a result of the pace of change and the encroachment of big tech companies such as Apple and Google into industries and sectors that they would previously never have been involved in.

After his talk I asked him what are the key things that marketing professionals can do in this new age. His suggestions were:

  1. Become comfortable with ambiguity. In a fast moving world you have to be able to adapt and change quickly.
  2. Because of the multi channel nature of marketing today your can’t keep on top of everything. Have a good overview of all channels and a wide general knowledge.
  3. Then focus on a key area that is relevant for you and become a domain expert.
  4. Move outside your comfort zone. Read as much as you can from as many different sources as you can including sources you might not normally go to such as Mashable or Techcrunch.
  5. Think for your self and don’t just follow the herd. Just because a new shiny tool has arrived does not mean you must use it. Read, research, learn and then decide if it is relevant to your business.

Kony 2012

9 03 2012

The Kony 2012 video has certainly been a huge success for its creators and it is being hailed as a master class in how to use social media successfully. Mitch Joel’s blog on this puts it better than I ever could so I suggest you have a read and see what you think.

Three reasons, in my opinion, why this campaign is so successful:

  1. The campaign has a clear goal, not just collecting ‘likes’ or ‘views’
  2. The video is extremely high quality and therefore engaging
  3. There is a clear call to action so that success can be measured

On the surface this campaign breaks all the rules of social media: it is not funny, it is not home produced and it is far too long. In reality, it shows the power of social media when it is used properly.