Viral Video – A Brief Definition Of The Term “Viral Video”

IT workers celebrating with smart phones in office
Lane Oatey /Blue Jean Images/Getty Images

Definition:

Briefly, a viral video is any footage, long or short, that becomes popular via social networking and Internet sharing. Viral videos can either be manufactured to become viral, although most viral videos become big unintentionally, and are simply so funny, shocking, or unexpected that they are prime material for sharing and forwarding.

The Main Elements of a Viral Video

While no one really has a magic formula to create a successful viral video, there are several commonalities that most viral videos share.

These include:

  • Humor. Intentional, or better still, unintentional humor, is the backbone of the majority of viral videos. People love to laugh, and the love to laugh most at genuine, honest events. Anything from gaffes and falls, to awful singing recitals and bizarre happenings. Sometimes, it’s possible to create a great viral video that’s intentionally funny, but as humor is so hit and miss, this is not easy to do.
  • Shock. The unexpected, and the downright shocking, is often a good way to grab the attention of an audience who sees hundreds of ads and messages every day. This can be crude, obscene, graphic or a combination of them all.
  • Topicality. At the time this article goes live, the main focus is the upcoming presidential election. Anything to do with Mitt Romney or Barack Obama will trend high right now.
  • Budget . Most of the time, you don’t need a lot of money to get your video in front of a lot of eyes. In viral, the idea is king. You can execute it with little or no budget, and quite often, it can work in your favor.

    The Positives of a Viral Video

    The big positive is maximum exposure for minimal outlay. If done right, you can spend peanuts on a viral video and get it seen by millions and millions of people. The ROI on that is incredible. It’s also a great way to tap into the social media circles and get your brand in with the right people.

    And it’s out there for a long, long time. Once it’s successful, it can run for years and years and get many more millions of impressions.

    The Negatives of a Viral Video

    One of the positives is also one of the negatives. If you are the subject of a viral video, you could see that negative press out there for many years. There have been examples of hidden cameras catching employees slacking, or internal videos that go public. Once they're out there, they stay out there. You can also catch the attention of the wrong target, or fail miserably and be called out for your hopeless attempts to jump on the viral bandwagon. Consumers are much tougher critics these days.

    Problems Associated with Creating Viral Videos

    Authenticity, or believability, is very tough to do well. Unlike those genuine falls, accidents or gaffes that do so well in social media circles, manufactured ones are easily spotted. And they never go viral because people don’t like to feel manipulated. The way around this is to be upfront about making great content that you want people to share. Examples of these include:

    • Coke’s Wassup!
    • Chuck Testa

    Success can also be an issue. Once you’ve grabbed the attention of the public, your client will want you to keep recreating lightning in a bottle. And that is no easy task.