I think you’ll agree that most startups with seemingly regular products don’t go around making truly great viral videos. We see some companies like Dollar Shave Club nailing it but those are rare right? We’re not only going to list the best advice we found on creating viral videos but prove to you that you can do it by creating viral videos for our own boring product using that advice.
We’re Upscope, a company with a boring product based in London
Upscope is the sort of software that makes people sleep at parties when you describe it.
They’ll say shit like ‘That sounds interesting’.
No, no it does not sound interesting Peter, you’re just saying words to fill the silence of disappointment, I see it behind your dead eyes.
Upscope is what screen sharing for support and sales should be, instant, no downloads nonsense.
That’s important Peter, it makes a difference. Wipe that smirk off your face. You won’t be smiling when someone screenshares with your grandma to cut you out of her will.
To prove Peter wrong, we’re going to learn about creating viral videos and we’re going to make some.
Key summary of what we’ll cover below
- The viral videos we made using the advice on this page.
- Why we can all succeed in making viral videos.
- Understand step 4 in the creative process or lose.
- Where do you effortlessly get top viral video ideas?
- How do you find good headlines for those videos?
- What are the key elements of a viral video?
- How do you distribute your viral video?
- The REAL reason why beginners FAIL at creating viral videos.
If you read nothing else, make sure you read point 8 about beginners. It’s something we love and our gift to you.
1. The videos we made using the advice from this page
We’ve absorbed the advice, noticed the patterns and team Upscope are right now creating our own viral videos to promote our own boring software.
We’ll add them below soon.
There will be more than one mainly because some of our team members think they can make better viral videos than the others. Game on.
Attempt 1, version 1.
2. Why we can all succeed in making viral videos.
You want the traffic and you want the brand recognition it can create for you, especially now that 10 competitors pop-up in a year after you’ve launched. Brand matters but can you create one?
Here’s the important thing.
Most people who make viral videos are not viral video experts.
As Kevin Allocca says, anything we do can become completely famous including things you do… yes you reading.
Do you need a budget to create viral videos? Definitely not.
Even companies with little or no marketing budget can create viral videos and win via social media. **If your product is an amazing hot sauce.. someone can literally upload an Instagram post, tagging you’re hot sauce company and rambling on about how much they love that sauce… People are going to see that. They wanna try that hot sauce!!
How do you create a viral video for your boring product?
You begin by researching popular ideas and finding the right headline. Your video must tell a story that evokes both negative and positive emotions and surprises the viewer. Finally, it must help the user feel a connection to others and that’s what makes them want to share it.
We cover each of these points below.
3. Understand the creative process or fail
- This is awesome
- This is tricky
- This is shit
- I am shit
- This might be ok
- This is awesome
Never stop at step 4. Keep going. Repeat.
Below we have a few more mindset related points that are needed before you read the rest.
Ask the right question to begin with
Instead of asking what will make my video viral? You should ask, What will make people want to share this?
Think like a street magician and not a stage magician
While a David Copperfield type magician has an engaged audience to tell a story to, you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention, so think like a street magician. Hit the audience with quick snippets that keep them wanting more.
It’s ok to plug your brand but come at an angle
You’ll hear opposing views. While some say that viral videos should not be directly promotional but raise brand awareness, others state that actionable videos are essential.
I’m certain you can make an actionable video viral if done well, I also think it’s tempting to shove in your ‘Sale’ and that puts people off.
In our own video creation exercise we are definitely the former. We’re making entertaining videos that raise brand awareness. They won’t be a list of features but they will still plug the brand.
Are you scared to be in your video? It’s better if you’re in it.
Viewers like it when the people behind a brand advocate for it. It gives a video a human touch. CEOs, founders etc. We know they’re all busy, but if they’ve taken the time out of their day to appear in their own video, it means that they have found the time.
4. Where do you effortlessly get great viral video ideas?
Think like a reporter who wishes to get the most views of their next piece.
Find what already works
You can find ideas for viral videos by analysing what’s already working for giant publishers, newspapers and magazines.
Enter a newspapers domain into a tool like Ahrefs and go to the ‘Top content’ report and then sort by links. Reverse engineer one of those links for your video.
Use Google Trends and Buzzsumo
You can see what’s being shared the most on social networks by entering a topic related to your space into Buzzsumo which tracks those shares.
Lets say your viral video idea is on the subject of Bitcoin. If you see someone trending with ‘38 ways to invest in Bitcoin’ then do a video with ‘78 ways to invest in Bitcoin’.
See what journalists tweet and send them the opposite
You can see in the email below that Patrick is helping a journalist spread ideas they’d find interesting and it’s a very simple formula.
I noticed you shared this article (insert article) by Sam from TechCrunch. That article broke down how Google Analytics screwed online marketing. I have a similar article that’s coming up, but mine talks about: “How Google Analytics Helped Marketing.”
Don’t ignore your silly ideas, they can be the great ones.
It’s also important to pay attention to what might seem like silly ideas.
How many videos have we seen thing where someone does a normal task but in an amusing or different way?
There’s a lot to be said for natural vulnerability and silliness. The milk and cereal videos for example. It was not mean’t to be a product placement but it certainly did a good job of it and they were just singing about milk and cereal.
Everyone liked milk and cereal at one point right? It’s a universal pleasure.
5. Headlines matter and people spend a lot of time on them
Here’s an example of why great video titles matter for viral content by Karen X Cheng. Look at the progression from bad to great.
Here’s a bad title: My Journey of Dance, a Year of Movement
Better: I Learned to Dance in a Year
Even better: Girl Learns to Dance in a Year
Best: Girl Learns to Dance in a Year (TIME LAPSE)
As mentioned before, Buzzsumo is a also great source of good titles.
You can see which titles work but be careful as some are working simply because the sharer is that important. Elon Musk would not need to write a a really catchy title to get his article shared.
Curiosity based headlines work because of the ‘Information gap’
Ever heard of Bucket Brigades? It’s a hack that copywriters have been using for generations. It’s a simple sentence that makes the reader want to read on. For example they’ll add ‘bottom line?’ at some point on a page and it tugs at your attention to get you to read the next line after.
People fall for bucket brigades because it opens up an information gap in the brain. A gap you wish to fill. That’s why curiosity based headlines work.
Upworthy have legendary headlines you can copy
Look at how many Upworthy, that viral beast, headlines leave an information gap and makes you curious about every article.
It’s a company that’s legendary for the work they put into their headlines including sprints where each person comes up with 25 headlines and they ruthlessly narrow down to the very best. They’re a good source of inspiration.
Finally, keep in mind that 8/10 might read your headline. But only 2/10 read your article. If you want to generate more social shares, it is all about the headline.
How do you get their attention in the first few seconds after the headline?
Lets say you don’t have some way of capturing their attention visually by spending 1 million pounds on an amazing epic studio set.
Maybe you can use a common situation that everyone has been in.
You know, like the first day at work. It’s awkward right? We can all relate. Someone being shown to their desk by a manager who leaves and then the phone rings. Panic!
If you’re still stuck then remember the ‘The APP formula for copywriting’. It’s made of Agree, Promise and Preview.
The Agree step says to start by making a statement everyone agrees with like: “I think you’ll agree that most startups with seemingly regular software don’t think they can make truly great viral videos”. It’s how we began this article.
People know that this will be something that they can relate to.
6. What are the key elements of a viral video?
While researching the creation of viral videos you’ll repeatedly see the words ‘storytelling, emotion, connection and surprise’
Yes. SECS. Just made that order up. Just now.
Storytelling ties it together.
Don’t watch this video unless you want to be crying at your desk.
Seriously. No matter how macho you think you are, you will be in tears.
Who is cutting onions in this room?
Something’s in my eye, it must be onion flecks.
No, no, I’m ok. I’m just rubbing my face against my jumper to get the onion flecks out. I need to pee, back in a minute.
That video tells a story.
It follows the tale of a man who was unequivocally generous throughout his life and repaid it when it mattered most.
People you know are more believable than adverts.
We’ve all seen those viral videos and we don’t need to elaborate on them, we need to talk about videos that promote your brand.
Tell the story of your brand in a way that resonates with humanity
“Anytime you spend energy unlocking the boring out of your brand, it’s always well worth it.” Shopify
The following is what Jonathan Perelman of Buzzfeed said on telling the story of your brand.
Think about telling the story of your brand in a different way, in a way that resonates with people, with humans.
“Prius is a hybrid car right? Hybrids weren’t seen as very cool when this first came out. So what about the 20 coolest hybrid animals?
How about telling the story about the 20 most scenic drives in America? You know what’s interesting about all those drives they’re a long way between gas stations. You know that means? You should have a hybrid car.”
We can all agree with Karen Cheng when she says
‘the difference between liking and sharing is poking at the right emotions: Awe, anger, amusement — high arousal emotions’.
Emotions that work and emotions that don’t
Some emotions spread better than others.
Emotions that spread: awe, excitement, amusement, anger, anxiety.
Emotions that don’t: contentment, sadness.
Ego reflects the image we have of ourselves
Mada Sadhete says the 3 steps to app virality include referrals, ego and emotion. The ego part is something we all know to be true but don’t talk about. It’s the simple fact that we are more likely to share things when it reflects the image we have of ourselves.
Fear of missing out leads us to tell friends
The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) can play an important part in motivating someone to share. You send it to others because you don’t want them to miss out and coming back to ego, you want to show how funny you are to spot this.
Anger makes us share it with our tribe
Anger erupts when there are strongly opposing views and fits with ego. We take one side of an argument which reflects what we identify with. We send it to the rest of our tribe.
Do they have to be all positive feelings?
According to Kelsey Libert, shareable content needs ‘emotional complexity’ and so a mix of both positive and negative emotions and surprise.
All the great stories we’ve read involve a range of emotions and story telling is central to making content viral.
Younger people may be a little de-sensitized. So consider interactives, flipbooks, videos and more emerging media types in the planning phase.
Connections with people really matter. A great piece of content has to connect people. The key is connecting with someone and them connecting with others. This how ideas spread.
When you look at a piece of media, your goal is to make people say: “I want to tell someone else about this”.
Identity and nostalgia are powerful connectors. In what way does a video relate to you? Perhaps it’s something from your childhood, something that’s your guilty pleasure, this is my culture etc.
If it makes you remember your childhood then you’ll want to share it with others the same age or from your childhood, so they don’t miss out on those same shared memories.
Surprise is the most common trait of viral videos
The element of surprise is common to almost every viral video. Why?
Lets go all psychological for a moment.
The more random something is, the higher the synaptic activity, meaning the more joy you feel.
When a discovery is made, our reward centre goes haywire and wants more, great ideas and content spark curiosity.
Also, we like surprises. We’re bored. We’ve seen it all. Surprise us!
7. How to distribute your viral video?
Making a great video will help it spread but distributing it is part of the process.
Get those taste makers and influencers who care about that topic to spread it to their user base.
We’ve got an entire series of articles on that! The content distribution series of strategies and tactics the masters use to get traffic. That’s right.
One quick note on timing.
Timing can be an important advantage to making videos go viral. ‘If you release something great related to Star Wars, three days before a new Star Wars film is released, it is guaranteed to get lots of views.’
Also, tap into pop-culture. A catchy song works well. If you’re in the UK then you know exactly what tune I’m talking about when I say ‘We buy any car’.
8. The real reason why beginners fail
We all know that failure leads to success. You learn faster by failing.
Do you know the real reason why most beginners fail and why some other newbies make it work and go viral?
Beginners half-ass it
Yep. I do this. You do this. Most of us do this. As Tristan found out while learning to kite surfing:
If you don’t pull hard, your kite moves slowly and gives you less power. It’s not rocket science, yet 99% of beginners only pulled half way. When it was my turn, I shut my brain off, and did exactly what the pros were doing. I pulled hard, and waited for my kite to get low before pulling back. I was out of the water speeding on my first try.
With these viral videos, we’re going for it.
We’re diving in.
Go for it like a pro would.
Your mind comes up with lots of crap. Dump those thoughts in the clown box. No tricks needed, pass on that rubbish.
Next step? Watch some viral videos on Youtube. Pick viral videos related to your subject area. That is such an easy source of ideas and motivation.
See you on the other side.
Now, as Beyonce once never said, “If you like it then you shudda put a clap on it”
Put a clap on it.