Going Viral Is Not a Video Strategy

The budget came together, the shoot went smoothly, and the first cut gave you chills. You’re confident this great video will get people talking. Your audience will see it and want to become customers. Your customers will see it and want to spend more. So you post the clip on your company’s new YouTube page. You wait a few days to check the data and… your video got a whopping 12 views.

This story is all too common for marketers. Unfortunately, hoping to go viral is not a video strategy.

The online video space is a deeply crowded market. Everyone from big brands to middle schooler vloggers flood the space with content. Every minute, 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Marketers are taking notice of the boom, and they’re expected to spend $83 billion on online video this year just in the U.S. alone. That reality means your content will get lost without a clear video strategy.

How do you break through the noise? It takes an adjustment in thinking. The painful truth is that there isn’t a single, magic method to finding an audience. Television networks and movie studios spend millions trying to pull audiences in and they still miss the mark all the time. Did you catch Melissa McCarthy in Happytime Murders? Yeah, neither did anyone else.

Here are some nuances to think about to increase the odds your video gets seen by the right people.

Put people first, products second

If you want to get your message out there, the first thing you should do is eliminate bad marketing habits. Start thinking like a wise TV executive, instead, and ask yourself a simple question: Would a person really watch this?

We get caught up with target personas and product specs and optimizing for algorithms. Those factors all matter. But imagine your audience scrolling through their feeds and think about what would make them stop and watch. Then, consider what would keep them watching after a few seconds. Though it can be tempting to make a flashy video that runs through all the benefits and features of your product or service, our customers tend to see better results when they focus on the elements of good storytelling.

Determine how you can show your brand, product, or service impacting people’s lives. In other words, focus on characters. Let them guide the narrative. That way, your videos can strike a balance between being informational and relatable.

Eni, the global energy company, partnered with Contently on a video program to educate consumers who may not even know their lives are touched by the brand. For example, “Powering Mozambique,” the first documentary, told the story of how increased electricity and drinkable water in villages changed the day-to-day life for people living in the African nation. Better infrastructure impacted everything from healthcare to education to job training.

To come up with these kind of ideas, seek out video production talent with a strong portfolio of narrative videos that grab attention. They’ll be able to help develop storylines that emphasize the problems you solve.

Create a program, not just a video

Getting attention is a good place to start. But the point of investing in content marketing is to hold attention, right? However, for some reason, there’s a strange dissonance between how we view written content and video content.

It would be really strange to see a brand blog with one article. Content marketers publish there consistently. But when it comes to video channels, brands may only have a sparse page. It’s hard to break through with a one-off video. Take a look at successful YouTubers and Instagram influencers and you’ll notice one thing very fast: They post a lot of content on a regular schedule.

Granted, budget plays a factor here. You can create a lot of blog posts if they each cost $500. You may only be able to set up one or two video shoots for $10,000.

Even if that’s the case, you can still make a few smart tweaks to maximize your output. Once you know the parameters of your shoot, plan out multiple deliverables. If you are aiming for a 15-minute documentary with interviews, siphon off some of the footage for 30-second interviews with experts. Prepare 15-second clips for social distribution (more on this in a bit.) Maybe even split that original documentary into two or three parts.

If you just have one video, the audience’s journey ends right there, even if they want to stay engaged. If you have even a small batch of interesting, relevant content on your site or social platforms, you provide your audience an incentive to stay and learn more about your brand.

Invest in paid social distribution

Remember that great video from the intro that only had 12 views? Here’s where you turn that 12 into 1,200, 12,000, or 120,000.

Paid distribution on YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms ensures your content will be seen by the right audience. You can target ads based on location, industry, job title, and more. As the data comes in, you can optimize frequently to boost the efficiency of your ads.

Short snippets, targeted the right way, can pull your audience in. Work with your video team to find ways you can utilize what you’re already created to craft some divisible content. Use these quick clips as promos that drive viewers to the meatier stuff on your channel or blog.

When editing your videos, pay particular attention to the first couple seconds of, well, everything. We make up our minds very quickly when deciding whether to watch something or click away. Ask yourself, would I keep watching this or would I skip ahead? Ask some trusted coworkers at your brand to weigh in.

We do this a lot internally at Contently with our Content Marketing Minute videos. Since each clip only runs 60 seconds, they play well on social, racking up hundreds of views every time we post. Eventually, users became familiar with the series and took action by clicking through to existing content on our site.

When you’re planning your video strategy, avoid the temptation to rely on the false promise of viral success. That’s like building your entire life around the idea that you might win the lottery. Instead, take the time to plan out a strategy that uses relatable, character-driven video, commits to consistency, and captures the attention of the right viewers with effective paid social. Test content and optimize your approach. Video content takes time, but when done well, it can invite and engage new audiences and help your message stick.

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