The Viral Video

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Most people by now are familiar with the term ‘viral video’, but for those who aren’t, a viral video is one that has become popular or famous due to mass-sharing on social media or email.

Most of us are familiar with ‘The Star Wars Kid’, which is no surprise as nearly 1 billion viewers have seen the clip since 2003. In recent years, we have been watching much less traditional TV and more online video from websites such as YouTube.

YouTube is now the 3rd most popular website on the Internet and many newer TV’s allow for direct playback from websites like YouTube. Many businesses are trying to capitalize on this trend by producing a video they hope will go viral in order to promote themselves. Can your business afford to ignore this trend? Let’s examine the benefits and pitfalls of going viral.

The Good 

If you are successful in finding the magic formula to make your video go viral, you will reach a far larger audience than possible with traditional media and you will boost the ‘Cool Factor’ of your company significantly. Viral videos have the ability to change fortunes. Last year, a homeless man in Ohio became a sensation when he was shown on video showcasing his ‘Golden Voice’ for a little bit of spare change in order to feed himself for that day. Before too long, the homeless man had job offers rolling in. Part of the charm of viral videos is that they have the low-budget look and feel and not over-produced. Therefore, viral videos can be much cheaper to produce as compared to their traditional counterparts.

The Bad 

Viral videos can take on a life of their own. If your video manages to go viral, you may have no control over its spread online nor do you have any control over the market you are reaching. If you produce a catchy little video and even if it hits millions of viewers, there is no guarantee that any of those viewers are your target market. Also, trying to create a video that will go viral is a gamble in itself. There are no guarantees that the video you have paid to produce will get any views at all. If your video does not produce an emotional response that people want to share, it will be relegated to the dust bin of the internet.

The Ugly 

The only thing worse than having a video not go viral is one that goes viral for the wrong reasons. Are they laughing with you or at you? A poor attempt at humour can lead to embarrassment and damage the company’s image. Instead of boosting your ‘Cool Factor’, you may become the laughing stock.

Attempting to make a viral video may not be a good idea for all. Some companies deal in matters that are simply not conducive to the viral video format. For example, a funeral home would not benefit from poking fun at death and sorrow. For others, if you manage to hit the jackpot and your video does go viral, the windfall could be enormous. As sites like YouTube prepare to overtake traditional media like TV, you must ask yourself, is a viral video right for me?

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