Viral Video is Not a Happy Accident – The Singapore Interview

A Singapore based Digital Marketing blog interviewed me about the method behind the crazy viral videos, this is their article, written by Huong Le

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!

How To Dominate 2017 With Viral Videos

post-2017-viral-video

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 listtweet me upconnect 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

Most Shared Facebook Video With Highest Engagement!

most-shared-video-aashish

So, Campaign India released the Facebook Top 20 videos this week, the best list of branded videos competing neck-to-neck for engagement rates. The video we did for ibis hotels ‘How to speak Hyderabadi’ hit the top spot with 43,000 shares in a week. The next best was at 25k shares (Johnson’s Baby India) then the list nose-dived to 7k shares (Bewakoof.com) and below.

Shares are the magical metric for viral videos, period.

Made on low budget, with kick-ass execution and focussed distribution, this video has created it’s own benchmark. Storytelling beats production value, and that’s evident from the phenomenal reach of 10 million this video got, imagine reaching 1 crore news-feeds in a few days, all organic, zero boost spends.

Shares are earned, views can be bought!

A Content Experiment Which Broke The Internet

playbutton

This is the story of a content experiment which grew so big, it smashed our benchmarks and created a whole new level of ‘Crazy’. It was early January and from the trends predicted for 2016, we knew this year belonged to videos. Videos are raining everywhere, from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp. More than 50% of mobile traffic is already dominated by videos, coupled with sky-rocketing mobile users in the country, it’s not just about videos but videos made for mobile. This is the story of how we took an innocent little content post and packaged it into a short and crisp video which hit 50 million views in under 3 weeks! (Learnings from experiment below)

Are You Kidding Me?

The challenge was to take a listicle with interesting content and fascinating pictures and convert it into a video. It had to move fast and engage and not look like a slide show (hate those lousy slideshows with cheesy animations). The strategy for a video listicle was born. Little did we know that this little experiment done on near zero budget, will catapult our reach, engagement and conversions to mount everest.

The Results – Beach Please!

We know from experience if something has viral potential, the numbers snow-ball, shares and views accelerate by the hour. The video hit a million views in ten hours, and on Day 3 the views were accelerating at a staggering 11,000 views per minute! Here’s the video

napkin0million

In One Week:

  • The video hit 40 million views
  • Shared by a million users
  • Received 300,000 comments
  • Reached 150 million news-feeds on Facebook
  • Added 200,000 new fans to our Facebook page
  • Made ixigo Facebook page the fastest growing in the country on that day
  • Got 20,000+ additional app installs for ixigo apps

“A travel video that broke the internet”
Gizmodo

“ixigo proves Facebook (not YouTube) is the place for video marketing”
Tnooz

“ixigo lists world’s most unusual beaches”
Inshorts

fb-ixigo-fastest-growing

All In One Week – Look Closely!

fb-video-numbers

“The power of content marketing is the fact that a near zero budget video can compete with a TV Ad and beat it with numbers!”

Learnings – From The Trenches

  • First 3-6 seconds are the most crucial: News-feeds are getting chaotic, human attention spans are dropping. First impression is crucial (thumbnail image), but the ‘second first impression’ is the first 3-6 seconds, we need to move fast, engage and get them to hit ‘share’, the magical metric for viral content.
  • Sound elevates: Even though Facebook auto-plays the video, music/sound plays a big role. Bad quality video I’ll watch but bad sound is a deal breaker. The sound / music must elevate the visuals.
  • Move fast: Nothing must be static even for one frame: we panned pictures, added fast moving globe transitions. Videos are called moving pictures for a reason ;)
  • Square videos: The vertical/square videos which vine/instagram started work well for mobile audiences, since the format is native to mobiles. You don’t have to tilt the screen and they take up more real estate on the phone. And it’s no rocket science to know that mobile traffic is killing desktop in India!
  • Facebook video: Facebook has sharing in it’s DNA, not so much on YouTube. Facebook videos work when they are short, fast moving and tell the story in moving picture more than dialogues. You can use call to action buttons on videos and most importantly Facebook provides kick-ass distribution for video content compared to YouTube.
  • Keep Experimenting: We replicated the practices into a Republic Day video, which hit a decent million in 3 days. Operate like a movie studio, do ten experiment, two will work :)

fb-reach

One More Thing, Seriously!

In the last two years it has been a roller coaster ride in producing, distributing and decoding viral content. I’m compiling it all into a non-nonsense book. It has the stories of learnings from the content marketing trenches, of how experiments became best practices for multi million views viral videos. About creating viral-worthy content, the art of news-jacking, earning users’ trust and coming up with topics for the next game changer. Join the mailing list and I will update you when it comes out :)

Oh BTW Here’s The Video

And This One Hit a Million in 3 Days, Same Learnings, On India’s Republic Day (News-Jack)

 

ixigo among fastest growing Facebook pages in India!

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 5.20.56 pm

Social Bakers just reported that ixigo was at the second spot for the fastest growing Facebook pages in India. And in two days, we added 100,000 new fans to the Facebook page. All organic and because of this video.

How a Video Got Reach of 25 Million – Case Study at #11MarCon

iamai

Presented the ixigo case study at the IAMAI Marketing Conclave in Mumbai last week. What an exciting event, enthusiastic audience and an experience to remember. On Day 1, there was an interesting session on video marketing, with who’s who of the video marketing world defending their stands.

It was a revelation to learn that we’re doing two things very different from the industry:

  • we produce all videos in-house and
  • we don’t focus on influencers (the messengers), but focus on producing kick-ass content (message) for our social community instead.

On Day 2, had my little case study presentation. The story of how we pulled a reach of 25 million from a video, and the best practices in viral video marketing. The energy was infectious, the session went off script, rapid fire answers to interesting questions from the audience. Find the slide-deck from the event below, and tweets about it. 

Slide-deck : Case Study

Tweets from the event

 

Gurgaon Toll Surprise: Story of a Viral Video

Aashish Chopra - Viral Video, Gurgaon Toll Surprise

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 was everyday routine, and coming back in the evening was worse.

An idea had been brewing in my head for many months, about turning this everyday ordeal into a joyous experience.

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. A random act of kindness, buying happiness for a stranger for Rs. 21. One day I learnt the toll plaza was shutting down, on its last day, I thought it would be cool to remember this experience with a happy memory. Took two days off to shoot and edit the video. Credit to my boss at the time for encouraging experimentation and driving action, for which I’m grateful.

Suddenly everything came together, the film workshop I had attended couple of months back, cool little camera gear I had been collecting over months, and my dream of becoming a filmmaker. A low resource filmmaker, making impactful videos for the smartphone generation. I attached three cameras to my angry little Tata Nano, hoping to document my little experiment from all angles. From going back and forth six times, to running out of money and getting permission from Toll plaza authorities to take panoramic shots of the plaza from their offices, it was a full day of a one man film shoot. Took the next day to edit, and shot little sequences, improvisations on my work table. And the end result was a nifty video under three minutes.

From Release to the Radio in 18 hours

I posted the video on YouTube and shared the video on Facebook. The next day around noon, I got a call from a Radio Jockey. My little experiment had gone viral! Phone began to buzz with messages about friends seeing the video on NDTV, IBNlive and Buzzfeed. A simple idea, had hit the stratosphere.

Here’s how far it reached

Slowly many blogs pickup up the video, and today ever after an year, if you Google “Gurgaon Toll Surprise”, first couple search results pages are about this :) For two days since the release, me and my Nano had become a minor celebrity on the roads. People waving, conversations in cafes and signs of thumbs-up from random strangers. What a memory.

The Video

The Learnings

The purpose of the video was to inspire action, and to get maximum traction I released it the day the Toll Plaza officially shut down and it was all over news. Being topical was my first lesson for success in making a video to go viral. But above all the marketing mumbo-jumbo, it firmed my belief in the democratic power of social media. If you have an idea, the world is ready for it. Woody Allen once said

“80% of success is just showing up”; Execution is everything.

Memories in Photos