Let's face it, making a viral brand video is a marketer's Holy Grail. From the classic sneezing baby panda to the more recent human Gumby dog toy, viral videos pop up out of nowhere and swiftly take the Web by storm, amassing millions of views, shares, and press hits along the way.

With that much social love up for grabs, it's not just YouTube power users and the staff at Buzzfeed who should take note. Marketing leaders must, too.

From the tiniest startups in Silicon Valley (or in my case, Silicon Hills) to the largest global organizations—both consumer and B2B—marketers are pouring more resources into video. Why? Well, besides Internet fame and the personal satisfaction of being able to say "I did that" at your next company happy hour, 77% of consumers have been convinced to purchase something based on a video they've seen, research finds.

Now imagine the millions of views and engagements that viral videos command, and suddenly we're talking real ROI.

Of course, wanting to launch a viral video and actually doing it are two completely different things. There's never a guarantee that your video will be a hit; and, as more businesses create videos, the competition for attention will only increase.

If your company really wants a shot at joining the ranks of video hall-of-famers, here are five steps I recommend.

1. Tell a story worth sharing

If you're going to spend the time and money to create a beautiful, high production video (and you should), you want to make sure the result is shareable. Consumers love to share videos: Social video generates a whopping 1,200% more shares than text and images combined.

The elements of a shareworthy video coincide with the three elements of engaging storytelling, which in turn align with our underlying motivations as humans for sharing:

  1. Ego: We share stories that we're proud of and elicit recognition from our peers.
  2. Info: We share stories that inform others and make us feel as though we're making a difference.
  3. Emo: We share stories that make us feel something—whether happy, sad or fired up; and the stronger the emotional reaction, the better.

Incorporate one element, and you're on the right track; two elements, and you're well on your way. But to optimize your content and get the most bang for your buck, build in all three elements—and you've got a video people will share and share again.

2. Tell it quickly

This seems like an obvious one, but the quickest way to grab a viewer's attention is to, well, do so quickly. Very quickly. We know from our own measurements at Spredfast that the best-performing videos on all include a narrative hook within the first 3-5seconds. That's because it really only takes that long for a viewer to decide whether they like what they're seeing or it's worth their time.

REI recently produced prime examples of this approach with its #OptOutside campaign videos. Within the first three seconds of watching, the audience knows the entire premise of what's to come. Within the first five, they've already seen three distinct and beautifully captured outdoor scenes. Factor in a little upbeat indie music and a labrador retriever, and you've got yourself a winner. The video I linked to with the OptOutside hashtag was re-tweeted over 15 thousand times.

3. Give it a human touch

Featuring people in your videos is an excellent way to bring a bit of humanity to your story. Doing so makes your video more relatable, and research shows that incorporating people in the content drives twice as many opt-in views.

As humans, we are innately curious about one another and look for ways to feel connected. Viewers aren't interested in simply looking at your product for 30-seconds; they want to see how people similar to them are using it and incorporating it into their lives.

Take Airbnb. Its video ads don't focus in on the floor-to-ceiling windows or granite countertops of the Airbnb homes; rather, they focus on the people and the experiences those people are having while traveling and staying in Airbnb rentals. Sharing a human experience drives these videos to viral status.

4. Study your competitors, then do what they don't

As video popularity increases, marketers need to create new ways to take advantage in ways that are different from others' in their industry. The only way to find white space is to become familiar with what the competition is creating. So ask yourself: Is there something they're doing that I could improve upon or, better yet, something they're not doing that I can use to stand out?

An example: Everyone In the software industry can appreciate a well-executed product demo. Video is the fastest and easiest way to explain what a complicated piece of software is capable of and how it can impact a business. All software companies create demo videos, including my own. However, when we looked to create a product demo that aligned with who we are as a company, we noticed no one in our industry was incorporating humor or storytelling into their videos. We used that opening to make sure our story stood out.

5. Follow the data to video nirvana

We marketers know that art and science blend together in everything we do, but nowhere is that more apparent than in video marketing. In an increasingly digital world, where you're able to track shares, engagement, likes, and more for each piece of content, your data tells a story and will let you know when know something isn't working.

Listen to the data, and adjust as needed. There are some things our gut feelings may never be able to tell us, like the ideal length for a video, or how often we should publish them and across what platforms. But data can direct us down the right path and help drive conversions through video marketing.

* * *

If you're just getting into video, these tips should help guide your strategy. When your brand produces the next keyboard cat sensation, hopefully you'll remember to tell a story worth sharing, do it differently from your competitors, and optimize it all with data.

Enter your email address to continue reading

Five Ways to Make the Most of Video for Marketing

Don't worry...it's free!

Already a member? Sign in now.

Sign in with your preferred account, below.

Did you like this article?
Know someone who would enjoy it too? Share with your friends, free of charge, no sign up required! Simply share this link, and they will get instant access…
  • Copy Link

  • Email

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Pinterest

  • Linkedin


image of Jim Rudden

Jim Rudden is chief marketing officer of a social software company Spredfast, where he is responsible for worldwide brand, product, and revenue marketing.

LinkedIn: Jim Rudden

Twitter: @jimrudden