This was going to be called ‘The War On Viral – AKA stop using that bloody word’, but I refrained because a.) I’ve become a little more SEO conscious recently and b.) the apparent negative slant to the afore mentioned title does not give precedence to genuine viral content, and runs the risk of detracting from it.
And please don’t get me wrong – I LOVE viral content. For one thing it truly epitomises what is awesome about online culture and perfectly exemplifies, in a way, how much we love weird shit.
Excuse my french.
My problem lies in the intention behind viral content.
Let me explain.
As I have used this example before, I see no reason to not use it again. Although it might be considered bad practice to re-use examples, this perfectly makes my point. Video in the break (pretty sure you’ll recognise it)
The old classic. For many this was the beginning of online marketing (or at least it was a wake up to brands that online activity could seriously damage their brand). While other videos have gone more viral in its stead, it still set the precedent – and for me at least is an example of the pure form.
United breaks guitars was not created for hits. It was simply the response from a pissed off customer to a complete lack of customer service and care from a huge airline (they subsequently got fu**ed I believe, although this was only one of the reasons – don’t quote me on this)
And that is my problem – now days people are spouting BS, promising viral content, providing viral video as a service and generally completely missing the point.
Viral is a description of a state, not a service.
I’ve seen a fair few blogs that have echoed this point – You cannot make a viral video, you can only make a shareable video. Whether it goes viral or not it completely and utterly down to the audience which consumes it.
This is certainly worth thinking about. There is probably a loose formula which can make a video more shareable than others, and therefore more likely to go viral, but there is not a magic formula for viral content.
for example, a recent Techmap event saw Mike Williams from Isobar talk about digital planning. He talked about the concept of disruption; that campaigns needed to disrupt a persons view of the world to make a lasting impact. I will talk more about this idea in a subsequent blog post, but the point I am trying to make it that Mike was looking at how to navigate human psychology to make digital campaigns more effective. Unlocking the code to Viral behavior/exposure.
Perhaps a more salient example of this is the famous CVIV from the ‘comms anarchist’ himself, Mr Graeme Anthony. Graeme was completing a move from Manchester, where he had been a successful PR professional, to London, where he hadn’t. Wrestling with a changing world and difficult job market, Graeme thought outside the box to get employment. But he didn’t stop there…
He thought outside the stratosphere.
Graeme took a tired format, and added new media. He combined new tech with old ideas and came up with a fresh and exciting permutation on how to sell yourself.
If I had more to my CV than intern experience I would have followed suit.
You can read over at Graeme’s blog about the aftermath of this incredible spark of genius, but if you don’t have the time to click (I appreciate this is already quite a long piece) then I shall pick out the most important bit in the context of the viral discussion. The @wearesocial crew asked Graeme if they could publish the CVIV to the world. 2 hours later and after a flurry of Twitter and email activity, Graeme emailed Robin Grant to see what the hell was up.
A simple response was received: ‘you’re going viral’
And this is my point. Graeme never intended for his video to even be shared, let alone hit the viral mark. Now you can ask anyone in PR or digital media who has half a head screwed on and mention the CVIV and they will glow in recognition of this incredible effort by Graeme, and how it really gave a breath of fresh air to a tired concept.
Viral video cannot be enforced. Viral video can only be created through mass consumption. A video maker cannot produce mass consumption, and so must rely on making the video as consumable as possible.
Quite often viral video is unexpected. It is borne of creative professionals who like to think outside the box, and who know the idea will resonate, but don’t see the degree to which this will happen before it does.
So next time someone pitches you the creation of a viral product, be it a video, an app, or a game, just stop them in their tracks and ask them how.
Because as they say, the pudding is in the eating…
And if you have made it this far, I shall treat you with one of the greatest viral hits of them all, starring Will Farrel no less in… The Landlord.
I think over 70 MILLION views pretty much equals viral…