When we think of viral videos we often think of cute cats, the Star Wars kid and free hugs. They are also an incredibly useful tool for DIY musicians to connect with a large audience. However it’s not easy to make a viral video happen, if it was everyone would be doing it. You can’t just make a video and say “we’re making a viral” and expect people to share it, rarely will people just discover it. You need to make videos so remarkable that people want to share them and make sure they are shared by influential people who have a large audience themselves. Here are a few viral video essentials:
- Get the right content - Do something newsworthy or useful or shocking or funny. Think about something you’d want to share online, like something so bad it’s good (think Rebecca Black) or something useful that helps you promote your band. You playing a song on an acoustic guitar is not remarkable, unless your guitar is on fire or you are playing the song in the street while a riot is going on. The content you make has to make you go “wow, I must show this to my friends”. That is how viral videos happen. The key is to get influential people to share the content, then you have a chance. Don’t forget the details like giving your video an interesting title and the correct keywords, little things can make a big difference.
- Will it be featured on Stumbleupon.com/Digg/Reddit? – These sites are often where videos start to go viral. They are discovery engines based on recommendations from users, if your video is recommended by enough influential users you have more chance of your video featuring on the front page and being viewed by millions. If you can find the most popular Digg users and get them to submit your content you’ll have more of chance of making this happen but once again it is very competitive.
- Will it be shared on social media? – Twitter and other social media sites are amplifiers. People sharing and re-tweeting your links can make your video go viral if the people sharing the content are influential enough. Even some Twitter users with thousands of followers aren’t that influential, it is about how much the audience are interested in the Twitter user and how connected they actually are. So someone with a small connected, engaged following may be of more use than someone with lots of followers who don’t care.
- Can you influence the influencers? – Its all about Bloggers with lots of readers, influential Digg Users and Twitter users with thousands of connected, engaged followers. The hard bit is getting your video to these people when they are constantly being bombarded with information from other people trying to get their videos to go viral. You need to build real relationships, over months and years. Comment on their blogs and reply to their tweets, regularly. Don’t try and connect with everyone, build relationships with a few key influencers and grow your audience from there.
- It is not about one thing – Sure a tweet from someone with a million Twitter followers can provide the spark for a viral video but the way a viral actually spreads online is a very complex process. If all viral videos spread the same way it would be easy to replicate. All you can do is try to help that process along by networking with influential people and creating great content. One thing alone is unlikely to create a viral sensation.
- Don’t chase viral success over everything else – Remember playing live, talking to fans on social media, listing your gigs on Live Unsigned and all the other daily essential tasks are going to do you more good in the long run than chasing viral success that may not happen. Often a spike from a viral video will be of less use to you in terms of growing your audience than you think, and those fans soon go away. If you want a career keep working everyday to build a long term fan base.
So essentially the idea is to make great, shocking, funny, newsworthy and remarkable content then get people with a great deal of influence on social sites, blogs and news sites to share your content. That is it. It sounds fairly easy but unfortunately everyone is trying to do it, everyone is trying to influence the influential people and get their content out to the world. The only way is to have the best relationships with these influencers (built often over years not weeks) and consistently make incredible amazing content. There is a lot of talk about how Web 2.0 has removed the old gate keepers (magazines, radio and TV) but in fact what we have is a new generation of gatekeepers spread across the web, some with an audience of 10 some with 10 million. If you want your video to truly go viral you need to reach the most influential people and that is why, now more than ever, it is all about who you know and the relationships you are building every day online.