Don't you?  Have you ever heard a client say they wanted a viral video?  Have you ever told someone to make you a viral video? 

There's just one problem; you can't make a viral video.

I was reminded of this earlier this week in this post from Tim Jackson.  Tim explains how to create a video that has a good chance of going viral:
you have to know your audience and what they like or find entertaining/ interesting. Sounds familiar doesn't it? It's the same stuff we've all been preaching about blogging over the years. Easier said than done, I know. BUT... learning about your audience is very easy if you just participate in their worlds and simply... get this... ask some questions or answer a few from other folks. That's it. It's as "easy" as that.
This is a big reason why many videos never go viral.  They aren't created with the viewer's interests in mind.  Many companies and businesses want their marketing message to go viral. 

Good luck with that one.

The videos that have the best chance to go viral are the ones that contain content that we can quickly and easily find value in.  It could be something funny, or sad, or informative, or gut-wrenching.   But the content and message strikes a cord with us, and that's why we share it. 

In the comments section of that post, I mentioned Dove's Evolution video that's one of the best examples of a company-created video going viral in recent memory. 

Notice that Dove didn't use the video to promote itself, but rather a message. Also notice that the video is approaching 7 million views.

Many companies just love the idea of a viral video, because they see it as a way for their marketing message to quickly and easily be spread over the internet. But the problem is, people usually don't get too terribly excited about marketing messages, and the last thing they want to do is push marketing messages onto their friends.

So there's two takeaways here:

1 - You can't create a 'viral' video. A video goes viral IF it resonates with enough people.

2 - Videos that go viral do so because they contain content that people want to share with others. It can be a funny video, it can be an eye-opening video like Dove's evolution, but the odds are it's not going to be a commercial for your business.

But perhaps the biggest key to remember when creating a video that you hope will go viral is, know the 'rules of the road'. Make the video with your audience in mind and understand what they are looking for. While you may not be able to directly promote yourself, if you're smart, you can create a video that goes viral with a message that resonates with your audience, and also promotes you in the process.
May 28, 2008

Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post,, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.


aww, that's not a recent viral video. ;) Dove's Evolution campaign already came out with a second iteration about 9 (?) months ago! :)

Here's a really recent viral video. ;)

Thanks Tamar. But if you'll notice, Tim referenced Pork N Beans in his post at Daily Fix, so I didn't want to completely lift his post ;)

What's interesting is that their success is due to finding a popular idea that is compatible with the message they want to vehiculate about their brand. They're latching onto the self-esteem/real beauty movement the same way that other companies are latching onto environmentalism.

You make an excellent point. It's an accurate summary of the plight we all feel with some clients, but I'd like to see a follow up post on how to best convince clients of this dilemma. Further, how can we convince them to invest in a viral video that doesn't reinforce their central selling point? It becomes especially difficult when you talk about posting the video on youtube, at which point they won't even get the link-juice.

"What's interesting is that their success is due to finding a popular idea that is compatible with the message they want to vehiculate about their brand"

Gab you are exactly right. And this is how we can deal with clients that want a 'viral video', by educating them on how and why videos go viral. Then explain to them how if they can create a video that gives us value, and that also delivers a message that's consistent with their branding, that if it goes viral, the company can also get positive exposure, as Dove did.

Viral video is so often used wrongly I glad to read this article. You are so right, there is a big difference between just a video, and a video that goes viral. Thanks

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