One question many people ask me is how to make a video viral? You don’t make a video viral, audience makes it viral, all you can do is focus on making it share-worthy (we don’t want views, we want shares), focus more on storytelling than production value (it’s a tiny screen you’re making for), keep it fast moving (attention span is super low), think how it can start conversations (stop thinking campaigns all the time), make for mobile experience (keep it clutter free), have an extensive distribution plan (hope is not a strategy) and for **** sake .. don’t make an Ad, keep it authentic, and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Marketers dream of creating viral video content. However, with shorter human attention span and crowded and chaotic newsfeeds, it’s difficult to score a viral hit. You only have 10 seconds to make an impression before nearly 20 percent of viewers opt out, so what are the tricks to increase your odds of viral success?
In this blog post, we will unpack the magic behind viral videos by talking to award-winning viral video marketer Aashish Chopra of Ixigo, India’s leading travel search marketplace. He has made and marketed many viral videos, one of which reached a staggering 46 million views in two weeks. Aashish will explain what makes a video viral and share his tips and tricks.
Q & A with Viral Video Marketer, Aashish Chopra
Why is video marketing becoming more important? What is your take on the state of video marketing in 2017?
If 2016 was about videos getting attention, 2017 would be about the explosion of videos on tiny mobile screens. Look around, videos are dominating mobile traffic everywhere, to the point that all major social platforms are becoming video-focused.
Facebook added a dedicated video tab, giving tough fight to YouTube for video dominance. Even LinkedIn has joined the race with native videos, which might become mainstream this year. I expect many brands to jump on board the mobile video production bandwagon.
What was your first experiment with viral video content?
Back in 2014, every morning on my way to work, I used to dread passing through the bottleneck at the toll plaza at the Delhi Gurgaon Expressway. Long lineups, chaos, and frustration—they were all part of my everyday routine. Coming back in the evening was worse.
So I did an experiment. For many days, when my car reached the toll plaza, I paid the toll, and also paid for the car behind me. It was a random act of kindness. One day, I found out that the toll plaza was shutting down. On its last day, I thought it would be cool to remember this experience with a happy memory. I took two days to shoot and edit the video. I was in the news in a few hours.
At which point did you realise that viral video was not just a matter of chance?
I decided to study what made viral videos so successful. As I kept going, I recorded the learnings and applied them to my videos. After conducting some experiments, another one went viral. It blew my mind. A video made in August 2014 about the coolest travel hacks clocked seven million views in a few months, was shared by 350,000 people, and reached 25 percent of Facebook users in India.
I knew at the back of my mind that the day I stop making viral videos is the day I head back to the rat race. The learnings and experimenting grew into an obsession. I learnt that the secret for viral video success was to focus on the fundamentals of why we share, and adapt the content to make sharing easier.
I realised that changing the focus from ‘viral’ to ‘shareworthy’ could make all the difference.”
What are the rules that marketers can adopt to increase their odds of viral success?
We have to remember that our target audience is very different from the audience watching films in dark movie halls. Our goal is also different. We don’t just want people to watch. We want them to share our videos authentically. I’ve come up with this set of basic rules for viral video marketing success.
Basic Rules of Viral Video Marketing Success
#1: Is It Shareworthy?
The key metric for viral video marketing is shares—authentic, organic shares. The more people share on their own, the greater your organic reach. Select shareworthy topics, and make the video useful so people will share within their peer groups.
Use your video as a vehicle to share a sentiment about a breaking news, to inspire your audience, to celebrate their life.
Video views can be bought, but shares are earned. When shares start snowballing, that’s when the magic happens.
Case in Point: What Indian Students Pack When They Go Abroad (7.7 million views on Facebook)
#2: Move Fast and Engage.
Our videos have to compete for user attention in social media newsfeeds. We live in a constantly distracted world, and with so many apps and pings screaming for our attention all day long, the video must get straight to the point and keep the user hooked till the end.
As marketers, our dream is for users to stop scrolling through their newsfeeds, start watching our video, watch it till the end, then share it. For me, you only have three to six seconds to make an impact.
Case In Point: Unusual Beaches Around The World (40 million views in a week on Facebook)
#3: Storytelling Beats Production Value.
For viewing on a tiny screen, you don’t need the production quality of a TV show or a movie. Keep the production simple, but the storytelling in top gear. All the videos that hit millions for us were made with near zero budgets but high on ideas.
Keep the video fast-moving and make creativity the differentiator between your videos and your competitors’. It’s not about “how” you will make a video anymore, it’s about “what” you will make. The tools—HD camera, editing apps—are all in your pocket.
Case In Point: Coolest Hotel Room Secrets – Tricks For A Smart Traveller (465,000 views on YouTube)
#4: Make For Mobile.
Vine and Instagram introduced square videos, but Facebook made them huge. Square videos give you more real estate on the screen, and you don’t have to tilt them. Making videos native to mobile screens is, by far, the biggest learning we’ve applied to all videos.
Facebook’s algorithm is favouring more video content on the newsfeed. What’s more, Facebook has sharing in its DNA, unlike YouTube. The number of shares is an integral metric that can make or break a video.
That said, you have to:
- Make the videos square in format (no tilting required, more real estate on screen).
- Make them sound-proof, so that you can engage the audience even without sound (Facebook auto-plays them with sound off).
Case In Point: How To Speak Hyderabadi In A Minute (2.8 million views on Facebook)
#5: Have a Great Distribution Strategy.
Without planning the distribution, great videos ideas can die in a vault. Apart from sharing the content on all available channels, we need to build loyalty with the seeding core group. This is the group that shares the video in the first 10 minutes.
For video numbers to go snowballing, we need to kick it as hard as we can into the universe and hope it turns into a snowball. What we do in Ixigo is set a benchmark of getting 100 shares in the first 10 minutes. I go ringing bells in the office announcing the new video, and get creative to get those initial shares from within the office.
The launch time is also decided based on when this core group is best available to share. Apart from this, reach out to bloggers and journalists. They may not pick your video up, but they’re always hunting for good stories to write about. After this, distribute to all channels available to you, from mailing lists, mobile notifications, to different native versions for WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram.
#6: Please Don’t Make An Ad.
Content marketing is the exact opposite of advertising. Nobody cares about us, our brand, services, or products. It’s about your target audience, their pain points, and challenges. If, through our content, we can make an impact in their lives, then we have evangelists on our side.
When we have a million people sharing our video, we have a million messengers. Ads target eyeballs. Content marketing, in my opinion, should target hearts and minds— that way, people would be more compelled to share.”
#7: Think Conversations, Not Campaigns.
Thinking of marketing in terms of campaigns is the traditional marketing approach. What we should focus on is driving conversations. Social is built on conversations, and that’s where our videos swim. If our brand can facilitate conversations and people start tagging their friends, that’s the sweetest spot to be in.
Good News: Users Still Want More Video Content
According to a HubSpot survey in 2016, 43 percent of people want to see more video content from marketers.
To recap, here are Aashish’s actionable rules for video marketing: choose a shareworthy topic, prioritise storytelling, make it mobile-friendly, engage right away, distribute effectively, avoid making an ad, and think conversations.
Apply them all, and you’ll never know—maybe you’re just one video away from your first million views!
An amazing year comes to an end, with mobile numbers sky-rocketing, viral videos breaking the internet, organic reach nose-diving and content marketing becoming mainstream*. If 2016 saw the rise of online video, 2017 will see the explosion of video content on tiny mobile screens. It’s raining videos everywhere, from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp.
More than 50% of mobile data is already dominated by videos and this trend will see sharp rise next year.
NASSCOM estimates India to have 700 million smartphones by 2020, and 2017 will see the curve climb north, with majority of those consuming video content. With 4G expected to become the norm, we’ll be getting a lot more videos in our news-feeds.
From Branding To Kick-ass ROI
Facebook is planning to add a dedicated video tab in their apps in a major redesign, aiming to become the home of videos on the internet. That’s just Facebook, YouTube is paddling hard to stay relevant, new platforms like snapchat are right at the border and LinkedIn has jumped in the race with native video for B2B.
For me, this year videos came full circle, from just being conduits of branding, to impacting ROI. Just this year, we experimented with share-worthy videos, which reached millions (one almost broke the internet), drove massive app downloads, and even had impact locally, where a viral video increased footfall and enquires at a local restaurant.
Uphill And Against The wind
The challenge for creating branded video content would be to tailor the videos for short attention spans for the mobile only generation, make them native to tiny mobile screens, be free of blatant brand promotion and provide value. With distribution of videos becoming expensive (Facebook organic reach nose-diving), the content will need to work harder, coz it’s not the views we’re after, but organic, earned ‘shares’ from users. And organic shares help in beating platforms at their own game, as the content gets shared like wildfire, be it on Facebook on WhatsApp.
Views can be bought, but shares are earned! And that’s how you beat the big guys at their own game!
This is the time when brands become their own media companies, creating and distributing content to their own communities on Social. When users are migrating to tiny mobile screens, so will the budgets from TV ads to online video. All in all, exciting times for India and opportunities for marketers and storytellers. With eye balls migrating to tiny mobile screens and time spent on social rising by the year, video will be a phenomenal growth channel for 2017.
My Seven Secrets of Viral Video Marketing
And slide-deck for reference :)
One More Thing..
If you would like to be in the know about my ongoing content experiments and learnings in viral marketing… join my mailing list, tweet me up, connect on LinkedInor check the blog :) An FYI for 2017, ixigo is taking limited clients for videos, Happy New Year :)
* As confirmed and validated at DMAi’s Content Marketing Council Leadership Breakfast, December 2016
Here’s a non-campaign, non-commercial, non-branded CHALLENGE! In your daily routine, can you find someone you can help with the skills / knowledge you use at work daily! Post picture with #BringTheChange Here’s mine.. a little CTA ;)
Update: One Week
One little sign with a clear call to action, 5 minutes of execution and 2x growth in sales over a week. And when I took my slippers for fixing, this startup founder refused to charge for it :))
So ibis India asked us to make a video about their new hotel in Goa. The challenge was to figure out a way to celebrate an overly celebrated destination. For the video to be share-worthy, it had to be about the users, not about Goa, or the hotel or the brand or us. So we asked ourselves.. What’s the number one problem for youngsters when they plan for Goa? Take a guess.. Parents! After few hours of brainstorming of all the things they say, we flipped it and our idea was born :)
Making it Share-Worthy
Mobile Native: Square videos are mobile native, and don’t need tilting for the full experience. Videos have been rectangle for long, but now we consume them vertically. Vine and Instagram started the vertical ‘square’ video trend, but Facebook is what brought it front and centre (at least in India)
Make It Easy to Understand: After much discussion, we decided to meme-ify the video and add a black strip with title on top, so when Facebook auto-plays it you know the context till the end. Even though meme videos are like the graffiti of video world, but what the hell.. it’s about storytelling and share-worthiness :)
Make it Sound Proof: From our data, 75% of video views are without sound on Facebook, so the video had to be sound proof and since this was a first where we had actual dialogues, subtitles are super important. And subtitles not in a different language but the same as script, so it matches the visuals.
Move Fast: First 3-6 seconds is our target, to make it compelling enough to continue. As marketers our dream is for people to stop in news-feeds, hit play, watch the whole thing, share it and then give us their kidney! lol First 3-6 are most crucial.
Execute, Execute Execute: We were really skeptical of going all in with in-house capabilities. Heck, I played a role too (my first). The only thing I told myself: Let’s follow the plan, however it looks and execute.. if it doesn’t look good. we’ll figure something out. But wallah, team did a kick-ass job.. :)
Results: The video is off to a good start, got about 200k views on first day (On Facebook)
After our success in videos over the last few years, ixigo is taking on limited clients (Travel brands only) for videos, ibis being our first :) Do check out the other video we made for ibis Goa titled ‘How To Fake a Goa Vacation‘
Remember I was writing a book? Yes I’m still on it going strong. Sign-up to get it before anyone else when it comes out :)
Unusual Beaches video gets shortlisted for DMA Asia awards! :) More than the award, the learnings from the video have generated 80 million views, 2 million shares from 7 successive videos. How can you not get romantic about #ContentMarketing :)
Humbled :) Thanks for the mid week motivation :)