Lessons in viral video making

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, observes Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s trends manager.

These unexpected additions to popular culture entertain us, enlarge our cultural vocabulary, and sometimes make a lot of money.

In an insightful and entertaining talk prepared for TED, Kevin explains why a very small percentage of videos can sometimes go viral.

According to Kevin there are 3 factors that need to come together to make a viral video:

  1. Tastemakers
  2. Creative participating communities
  3. Complete unexpectedness

Examples of tastemakers:

  • Celebrities
  • Publishers
  • Authors
  • Well known bloggers
  • Influential individuals with passion and lots of friends

Analytical tools like Klout or Radian 6 attempt to identify individuals who are influential about a particular subject. Once you influencers are identified, you can study the kind of material they like to share with their community.

For many brands the scariest thing about the new paradigm is the creative participating community. Once a tastemaker introduces the video into the culture it can be used by the community in a number of unpredictable ways. This new unit of culture is sometimes called a meme. Meme’s can be combined and modified much like words to create new meanings.

This Orabrush YouTube video is an interesting example. A viral video produced by a Brigham Young University marketing class helped to sell over 1 million units of their product without spending a dollar on traditional advertising. In the Orabrush video below, which also went viral, they parody themselves, their own videos, and the trailer for movie The Social Network, combining two memes to create something new and unexpected.

However, it’s not enough to be surprising. If you want positive results, it also needs to be “cool”.  The cool kids are the tastemakers. If you want your video to be cool you probably have to promote the values shared by the community and promoted by the tastemakers in a new and interesting way. Although these videos need to be completely unexpected, I believe they also follow certain patterns. I’ll talk more about those in a future post.

How to build the content pipeline

Peter Drucker once said that, “marketing is not a function, it is the whole business seen from the customers point of view.”  If marketing is the whole business, then it follows that content marketing has something to do with the whole business too. The content our customers see is the stories we tell, the problems we solve, the information we share, and the feelings we communicate through every connection with our customers whether the connection is through sales or service or the guy who delivers the package to their doorstep. The job of the content marketing machine is to collect these stories, package them and redistribute them when, where and how our customers wish to consume them.

A content machine requires a pipeline of fresh content in order keep up with demand. The question is how one gets the content to flow through the pipeline. It all starts with the voice of the customer. Customer demand tells us what content needs to be produced. For example, the sales team hears the same questions over and over again. Having written the same email two or three times to answer a question they now have a signal that there is demand for that content. When this signal is received a new concept enters the content pipeline. The exact method used to share the new concepts is less important, the most important thing is that everyone knows what the method is. You could use email, SharePoint, or a content marketing platform like Kapost.

There is another way that concepts can get started in the pipeline. Marketing conducts interviews while developing buyer personas. During these interviews marketers learn about the problems that buyers have that lead to making a purchasing decision, they learn about the decision process buyers follow, where they look for information, the criteria they use in evaluating alternatives, and the metrics used to judge their success. This information tells the marketer what content the buyer is looking for at each stage of the buying cycle. This informs the content strategy. An audit of existing content versus the content strategy reveals gaps. The gaps become the concepts for new content that then enters the content pipeline.

New concepts will be evaluated against a set of criteria that will include alignment with content strategy. If the concept passes through this step it will be placed on the editorial calendar and assigned to a writer. The writer turns in her assignment before the deadline. An editor reviews the content and evaluates it against a larger set of criteria. The content may be returned to the writer for rework or move on to the publishing phase. Once published the content is tagged for future reference with information such as persona type, phase of buying cycle, product category, format, etc…

You may have noticed that one piece of this process seems like magical thinking. Who are the content creators that show up and take assignments for new content? Where do they come from?  The answer is they usually come from within your company and many of them are from outside the marketing organization.  Sounds great, however, it’s not clear why people who have their own work to do would suddenly start creating content for marketing.

I’ll explain how to cross the content chasm in my next post.

The Inbound Marketing Ecosystem

I really like this concept of an inbound marketing ecosystem. Volinsky Consulting created this infographic. The key concept in my mind being that the parts are interdependent. If one piece is neglected you could kill the whole thing. It’s brilliant and it’s true.

You need the website, you need the blog, you need the email, you need a social component. Sounds like a lot but the good news is they feed each other.

Inbound Marketing Ecosystem - Infographic

Created by Volinsky Consulting