Why you probably don’t want a Viral video

We’ve all seen them – viral videos with millions of views. Maybe you’re thinking, if only, then success will come. The truth is there’s more to turning a viral video into a success story than meets the eye. But when it comes down to it, do you really want a million + views on your video? Is that going to result in the outcome you need for your business?

The term “Viral video” gets thrown around a lot but there is no clear definition on exactly what constitutes a viral video. It’s not clearly defined in terms of how many views it needs to be considered “viral”.  But essentially it refers to an online video that gets shared around through social networks and generates a high number of views in a short timeframe.

Take a look at three of the top viral videos from 2016 for example. Although all of these videos seemed to go ‘viral’ for different reasons the underlying reason behind all of the videos is not to drive sales but rather to simply entertain or share something interesting or unexpected with the viewers.  Let’s break these down a little;

Laughing Chewbacca Mask Lady

This video originally went viral from a Facebook Live video and is the ultimate and these days very rare form of completely organic viral video content. There was no commercial intent when making this video (although it resulted in plenty of commercial gain for both herself and the distributors of the mask). This video really sums up what I believe viral video should be all about… videos that people love to watch and can’t wait to tell other people about (ie. share).

The $21 000 First Class Airline Seat

Now for those that know serial vlogger Casey Neistat, they’ll know that he’s hugely popular on YouTube and any video he posts is almost instantly viral anyway. What appeals to audiences with this video however is that idea of being able to ‘see behind the curtain’ through the eyes of someone that could be considered just like them. Casey has an ability to do things unexpected and exciting in a way that engages viewers and feels natural. Although Casey notes that he was not paid or hired by Emirates to create this video, I do wonder if the Emirates marketing team had a hand in arranging his first class upgrade (a sweet move by a switched on marketing team if so). If Casey had approached this video from a more ‘promotional’ angle there is little chance it would have had the same level of cut through and ‘virality’.

Water Bottle Flip Edition by Dude Perfect

Again, another viral video coming from a highly subscribed creator channel, in this case the guys from Dude Perfect took the Millenial craze of 2016 ‘water bottle flipping’ to a new level. By tapping into popular culture and stepping things up to an epic scale, this video captured attention and really hits on that critical ‘viral’ ingredient – shareability.

So, does your brand need viral video?

Perhaps it is because you  cannot control whether a video will go viral that having a viral video has become a bit of a holy grail. But in terms of having a viral video as part of your online strategy, there are a few things you might want to consider.

Most viral videos, like the one’s above, are not part of a marketing strategy! Often they are entertaining short videos that are watched without the expectation of a “call to action”. People don’t watch because they’re  looking to buy, they’re looking for a few moments to brighten their day or amaze them in some way.

Using a viral video as part of an online video strategy can be risky because people don’t like being duped! And in the online age, it doesn’t take long for people to find out they have been! The fashion retailer Witchery learnt the hard way that you can’t fake a viral video during their “girl and the jacket” campaign in 2007. After it was unveiled that campaign was a hoax  – with actors pretending – the campaign collapsed on itself as people responded negatively to being treated like fools.

Even if the viral video is successful, viral video success does not necessarily mean commercial success. One of the biggest viral campaigns ever was the Kony 2012 video produced by Invisible Children Inc. Whilst the video generated millions of views, it also generated immense scrutiny, and in the end, the call to action to somewhat fizzled as people became confused and dubious about the whole project as it was thrown into the spotlight.

So whilst having a “viral video” might not be what you need, what you do want is for your videos to be viral in the right way to increase the likelihood of them being shared in the right places to hit the goals of your online video strategy.  I refer to this as ‘contagious’ video content. That is, video content that get’s shared around your immediate area. Where your customers are! If you’re business can’t serve millions of clients all around the world, what benefit is a video that get’s viewed by millions all around the world.


Often, just knowing which video to use, when and why is the biggest stumbling block for many businesses. This is why I’ve put together my free ‘Foundations’ course to help you get started with online video strategy for your business the right way. You can join the course by following this link.

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