Why is my Viral video not Popular?

The Viral Myth.

In the past 10-15 years, the term viral has become a constituent part of the Internet landscape. A true measure of success is always ensuring your post, comment or product video goes ‘viral’. But, in reality, what does ‘going viral’ mean?

Then and Now.

Well, back in the good old days before iPhones, a video would get uploaded to (the relatively new video platform) YouTube. At the time, YouTube was the only general purpose (free) video hosting site in town. It offered a limit of 10 minutes per video and quality was about the same as VHS. But when a grainy cat video got a million hits in under a week, people said “Gee, it’s gone viral”.

Fast forward to 2017 and things have changed a bit. Wikipedia now lists 60 active mainstream video hosting sites and a further two dozen ‘adult, enterprise and open source platforms.  The total number of people who use YouTube is currently estimated at 1,300,000,000. 300 hours of HD video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube Every Single Day.

So, suffice to say, the audience is a bit bigger nowadays, and they’re watching video on all sorts of mobile devices. We now know the difference between a ‘hit’ and a ‘view’ and the importance of viewer engagement. So “I’ve got a million hits” is, well…Meh!

What changed?

Online video has become an established way of communicating and informing. So much so, that companies and even governments use it to spread information. Countries like China have even taken the step of blocking western video platforms like YouTube to control the flow of information into the country. Instead they use their own China hosted platforms like Youku or Tudou. [So, a little tip, if you want to show your video to viewers in China you’ll need to use another platform like Vimeo.]

But all this means, unless you upload your video to every platform and then collate the video views (not hits) from all those individual platforms, you’re unlikely to know if your video has ‘gone viral’ anyway.

I’m not even going to delve in to the enormous impact things like social media and mobile devices have had on viewing habits and engagement.

In short, with such a fractured video marketplace the simple truth about viral videos is…wait for it…drum roll…they are a myth.

Popular Vs. Viral

A more positive way to look at video today is popularity. Remember Google (the online search engine) primarily works on relevance. Is the information I (Google) am giving you (the reader) relevant to your requirements. This goes for all the ads, marketing and sales material also. Most people think of video advertising in terms of B2C, when they should probably think more B2B.

For example, not everyone is interested in…clinical waste removal. An award-winning video on that subject is unlikely to go viral BUT, it could become very popular with the relevant people in that particular market sector.

This is definitely a win for the company who commissioned the video because the (B2B) video content is popular with the 100 companies who may actually use their waste services. A much healthier situation than 1 million (B2C) viewers commenting on the lack of cats in your video.

How to be Popular.

Like everything else, there are good ways and bad ways to use video in your promotion and advertising. Video for the Internet has its own rule book now and it’s not like films or TV, so don’t get confused.

Here are a few tips to help you be a little more popular:

  • Like it says on the tin.

Video for the Internet should be information and communication focused. The title and tags should also reflect what is in the video, so when people search for a video on…clinical waste management, your clinical waste video pops up. If you’re not using titles and tags, then “A needle in a haystack” doesn’t even come close.

  • One is not enough.

Whatever budget you have, spread it over at least 3 videos. Single videos have a very low success rate and can be overlooked. Multiple videos, cross sell the company and products and show you’re not a ‘one-trick pony’. Depending on your market, two versions of one video may be needed to incorporate subtitles and/or additional languages. Remember even Hollywood blockbusters have sequels.

  • Make it useful and watchable.

Think about what would be useful to the viewer and work on a clear but subtle sales message – Buy it now before the price rise, (hard sell) doesn’t work – fact. Engage people, inform or amuse them and you’ll get a much better ROI. Importantly, ensure the video is easily watchable on a mobile device, 46% of your audience will see it there first. Your video company can advise on this.

  • Have clearly define objectives.

YouTube is not the only online hosting. Depending on your requirements other platforms such as Vimeo or Wistia may be better for your needs. But if you’re starting out and YouTube will work for you then remember, gone are the days when you could film a bit about your company and throw it up on YouTube. The audience is becoming very discerning, and many successful Youtube stars earn 8 figure salaries from their online work.

So be clear about who you want to target online and be cautious. Unless you have some sort of video strategy you will most likely damage, not help, your company.

Well I hope this post has been useful and you will share it around.

As always, I’m happy to answer questions if you send them to emailme@markatodd.com or @theguvnoruk


Additional reading:

Read the history of YouTube here.

$15M per year working on YouTube videos

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