By Dixie Laite
Not since Legionnaire’s Disease have so many people been obsessed with contagions.
These aren’t evil mad scientists intent on world domination through some sort of pandemic illness—these are people (only a small fraction of whom are evil) intent on world domination through online video.
Some media smarty-pants will tell you it’s vital virus-y to get a huge amount of views. Others whose pants are just as smart will say it’s better to get your content in front of a smaller but more targeted, niche audience.
What do we mean by viral video?
Actually, before defining what makes a video viral, let’s look at what we mean by “viral.” Something is viral not because a lot of people have it but because it’s contagious. A video is viral not because it gets a million views but because it’s shared.
Viral is about content being passed along. If one person sees your video and decides to share it with a dozen of her friends, then that video is viral. Of course, ideally, this content is so “contagious” that each of this person’s 12 friends will in turn share it with lots of their friends—and so on, and so on, and so on.
What’s your objective?
Before you set about creating this communicable content, you need to ask yourself two important questions:
1. Whom do you want to reach?
Figure out whom you need to target. You will need to have this audience in mind in order to create content that will be especially engaging, relevant, interesting, helpful or entertaining to these particular consumers.
2. What exactly do you want these people to do?
Decide what action you want viewers to take. Do you want people to click on a link, share the video, post the video, watch a show, buy a product, change their behavior, change their mind, vote a certain way or stop eating meat?
I know it’s tempting to pick two or three, but try to choose one primary call to action. It will help you focus your strategy and give you a clearer metric for success.
Now, the hard part!
Coming up with something cool enough or funny enough or resonant enough to make people want to share it isn’t easy. Your video should be novel, re-watchable and transmittable.
Ideally you’ll make people not only want to share your content but eager to pass it along so they will appear clever, cool, smart, innovative, informed or <insert positive adjective here>.
Speaking of which, consumers are pretty clever, with-it and smart themselves. They tune out ads, so you need to cut through the clutter with really great content they will embrace. Be human, be warm. You want your content to be savored, not merely digested, or as one media maven puts it, “It’s a play-date, not a lecture.”
Keep in mind that when we’re not talking about diseases, we tend to use the word “infectious” to describe laughter.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share some of your favorite effective viral videos and why you think they’re successful.
This is the ninth episode of “15 Minutes of Dame,” a column to help you create, develop and promote the living crap out of your personal brand. Dixie Laite has been putting the “broad” in broadcasting for over 20 years, working in television, online, print and marketing for a variety of household name brands. She’s currently Senior Editorial Director for TeenNick and also freelances as a writer, speaker and digital content strategist. Follow Dixie @DameStyle and on Pinterest, and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and post your questions and suggestions in Comments below.