Building Buzz With Videos: How to Go Viral

By Brendan Spiegel April 9, 2008, 10:50 AM EDT

This story is part of our series on building event buzz with online videos.

1. Make It Snappy
A video is not likely to get noticed if it’s more than a few minutes long. “It needs to grab you right away, because people are more likely to share it if they watch it all the way through to the end,” says author David Meerman Scott. If you have too much material, the best bet is a series. “Instead of posting a 10-minute video, post five two-minute videos,” Scott says.

2. Quality Is Not Always King
Spend five minutes browsing YouTube and you’ll see that authenticity trumps professionalism, and unpolished, uncut videos are more popular than slick, corporate-produced advertisements. “We’re at an unusual time in history in that people trust the rough-around-the edges take more than the polished, professional effort,” says Roxanne Darling of “Because we’ve all been sold, you trust someone who is on site, just went to the event, and has a fresh take.”

3. Film Something People Will Want to Share
A video won’t be a viral success unless it goes beyond describing a product or showcasing an event. It has to offer the viewer something new or exciting that they’ll want to tell people about. “To make it viral, it has to be funny, engaging, or unique,” says Thomas Harpointer of AIS Media. “We’re not going to just pass advertisements on to our friends and family.”

4. Make Sure They Can Share It
YouTube and similar video sites make sharing easy by including an embed code so that users can import the video to any other Web site or blog with a simple cut and paste. “A lot of companies don’t understand the embed code and just put the video on their Web site and wonder why no one is taking it,” Darling says. If you want your video to be shared, post it directly to YouTube or another site that uses similar embed technology.

5. Don’t Fake It
“A lot of companies have gone online and tried to disguise ads as humor. This doesn’t work, because people are savvy and they can see through that,” Harpointer says. There are plenty of videos that are designed to look homemade and are not identified as advertising, but online users usually catch on to this, which can result in embarrassing negative publicity for companies who try to pass off a corporate video as homemade. If you have a fan-made video, that’s great. If not, don’t pretend to.

6. Listen to the Sound
When filming events, don’t forget that audio is just as important as video. “When we look at a video, the brain will fill in the picture if it’s not perfect,” Darling says. “But if the sound is poor, you’ll just tune that out.” She recommends purchasing a video camera with a separate microphone input—a feature many consumer cameras don’t provide.

7. Remember: You Never Know
The one thing everyone agrees on is that by definition, it’s impossible to predict what the next viral sensation will be. “If there were a formula, a lot of people would be using it,” Darling says. “Viral means there’s a mutation there, and things take off in an unexpected way and no one can predict it.”

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