4 Tips to Help You Create a Viral Marketing Video

Not that long ago, marketing involved creating ads for print publications and maybe producing a television commercial or two. Now, with the popularity of the Internet, social media websites and YouTube, more and more business owners, hoping to take advantage of viral marketing, are using short videos to promote their companies.


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Of course, not all videos are created equally—some are long and cumbersome and are ultimately not all that successful, while others achieve viral video status and go on to be viewed by millions of potential customers.

For business owners who wish to join the video revolution and create something that will be memorable—and most of all—viewed and shared with pretty much everyone on Earth, consider the following tips:

Keep the Quality Top-Notch

With videos essentially being a dime a dozen, it’s imperative that a business owner create a marketing video that not only has a great message, but is well-produced and looks really good. This is not the time for a grainy, poorly-lit video that is hastily shot on a smartphone. The video must be top quality from start to finish—this includes using an actual camera, microphone and a decent editing program to put it all together. Also, when adding effective mood makers like music, which can really add to a video when done properly, business owners don’t have to rely on extremely expensive soundtrack sources. Instead, they can visit a website like Shutterstock, where they can browse through a vast selection of music and select the stock content they want for a very affordable price.

Remember the Acronym STEPPS

Viral videos don’t just happen by chance. Instead, six key factors will inspire people to share videos with others. According to Forbes, these principles include social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value and stories, or STEPPS for short.

For example, the social currency concept revolves around the notion that forwarding a video to friends and family will make us look smart or current. With this in mind, business owners should try to create a video that will make viewers feel like they are “in” on something new and exciting and that they will feel smarter or more clever when they share it.

Make It Short and Sweet

In a world where people are accustomed to watching seven second videos on Vine and posting 140-word tweets on Twitter, super long marketing videos just aren’t going to fly. And by long, it doesn’t mean 20-minute mini-movies about how wonderful a company is; even something that is three minutes in length is pushing the average attention span. When creating a marketing video, make it as short and sweet as possible—around 45 seconds or so. This should give company owners and marketers plenty of time to say what they want to without running the risk of losing their audience.

Keep It Light

As Inc. notes, people are also more likely to forward a video if it creates a positive emotion. In general, videos that inspire happiness or laughter are especially popular and after that, clips that make people feel alert are also likely to go viral. Videos that focus on something sad or negative may still be forwarded too, but not as frequently as something that makes the viewer feel good.

In general, the least-forwarded videos are boring and monotonous. Business owners can keep this in mind when creating their scripts and focus on a funny work-related anecdote or other story that will make people laugh.

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This article is published by Will Sherwood | The Sherwood Group |Website Design | Graphic Design | Marketing Communications: The Sherwood Group has over 30 years of experience working with all sorts of companies, small and large. Our clients range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 firms, in nearly every business sector, from across the street to around the world (and yes, even Europe, China, and South America). Our goal is to create advertising,  graphic design, website design, and marketing communication that still looks fresh and relevant 10-15 years later. Our mission is to stir your imagination and leave your competition shaken and wondering,  Now what do we do?”  We are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Please comment. We’d like to know if you found this article informative or helpful?


  • By Doug Finelli 24 Jan 2015

    I wish the term “viral video” would disappear. Videos go viral for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with a video produced for the sole purpose of going viral. Want to guarantee your video won’t go viral? Put in a product demo, lots of redundant copy points, and everything else your client insists be mentioned. How about instead of doing a “viral video” we sell our clients on a great idea or great content and we call it what it is, smart marketing

  • By Teresa Weber-Freeman 24 Jan 2015

    How do you get people to watch your video? Business videos are boring because most business is pretty mundane (unless you’re a race car driver or something wild like that.) Viral videos usually involve something really silly, like a talking dog; or really scary, like teenage boys doing dangerous stunts; or worse, the Domino’s Pizza fiasco! Would love to see examples of successful business videos gone viral. Yes, you’d have to create lots of videos…

  • By Bruce Miller 24 Jan 2015

    As a video producer and brand guy, I recommend that you have an “Explainer” video or a brand video long before you start worrying about viral videos. The latter require more production value, budget, creative smarts, and lots of luck to succeed, whereas an explainer video can be created for little or no budget and offer a quick-to-grasp product snapshot. Plus, given the choice, Web visitors prefer videos to reading through a site.

    Also, viral videos intentionally bury the brand message, so you need a strong brand position for them to succeed.

  • By Dave 24 Jan 2015

    The term “viral videos” should go away. Everyone in this discussion needs to read Optimize by Lee Odden. It talks specifically about creating content that’s relevant, which produces leads, sales and engages your persona. The goal should never be to create viral videos. The goal should always be to produce content that educated, informs and builds trust with your audience, thus producing a lead, sale or E-Commerce conversion. How do you determine what’s relevant to your audience? Read Optimize and don’t waste your money on a 7 hour phone consult to learn about blogging and social success. Instead, spend $17.47 on Amazon, and just start producing content! (if you need solid web-content writers, ping me and I’ll introduce you to my contractors-they’re awesome)

  • By Geoff Martin 24 Jan 2015

    Video is a tool and can be used for many things. Want more users then go for a viral flavor, want more invested users from your current base then relevancy is your driver. Emotional videos can be polarizing driving some to respond but many more to run. Using targeting with an emotional message can be very powerful. The more defined the objective becomes the more apparent the best video approach becomes. It is advisable to come up with a stratified approach that allows you to take the user through socialization, to understanding, and ultimately to recommendation using a series of different approaches and videos. So, video is a fantastic way to engage your customers but only if the message and tone are right.

  • By Jennifer Mercer 24 Jan 2015

    You cannot create a viral video… you can create a video and tip the scales a bit with the right marketing channels to help a video go viral, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.

  • By L.R. Cote 25 Jan 2015

    Viral happens on its own, you can’t create anything and tell people it’s “gone viral” just because you want it to.

  • By Tom Henry 25 Jan 2015

    First off, marketing still involves creating ads that may run in publications (printed and digital) or via broadcast channels (traditional, cable, even Internet), in addition to using social media, PR, events, websites, and other channels to get the word out. Videos are a part of that mix and can be effectively utilized across several of those mediums, and I don’t necessarily need them to go viral in order to deem them effective. Product-focused videos, tutorial videos, customer support videos – they all have their place in the marketing mix and yet do not need to go viral for them to hit their intended target audiences and deliver the marketing message we want delivered.

  • By Vernon Riley 26 Jan 2015

    I think this recognises that a story is all about the “script”.

    With written text the proposition is that the reader will (or may) “have cognitive reactions to the text presented.

    With static graphics the suggestion is that reader will (or may).. to the images. The slight snag is that the scope for misinterpreting the image (“getting the wrong script”) is a bit greater. It can be hard – to find exactly the “right image”.

    Ironically with video it’s still about the script. Does it let the viewer become passive and treat the experience purely as entertainment. Or is it engaging… and how do the pictures (series of static images or moving) add to this.

    The seotwist.com video is mismatched (for me) – although clearly expensively produced. The music (whilst upbeat etc.) and lyrics only fit loosely with the on screen messages and subject matter. The latter are pretty standard we’re great sort of stuff..

    I think there’s scope for video to use talking head with dramatic images; and also cartoons which can allow stories to be dramatised taking the viewer away from “instant reality check”.

  • By Isabelle Dumortier 26 Jan 2015

    There are 2 things in that article that don’t really add up for me when it comes to videos that go viral.
    Of course, what’s not in the article, but what’s important to start with, is that you cannot know in advance if a video is going to go viral. It’s an outcome, a great one, but not to be defined beforehand.
    First in the article, I don’t believe viral movies are always in top quality…. of course, if it’s a brand movie I believe it should be of the quality your brand represents, but a brand movie is most likely not to go viral.
    Second, “keep it light”, some viral movies are pretty heavy in their message, because there is finally someone or a brand that is speaking up…

  • By Jeff ernst 26 Jan 2015

    Truly some great discussions points. The real fact here is that marketing is about the value proposition of your brand. The brand is the promise you make to your customers in which companies want to increase their customer life-time value (CLV) and customer referral value (CRV) – which ultimately drives revenue. We all know the greatest marketing are when your customers act as your sales team and that isn’t achieved just through marketing. I look at it like a movie. Those millions of dollars spend on advertising may impact first week sales, however, if the movie is bad, sales will decrease simply due to word of mouth and reviews.

  • By Debbie Dreher 26 Jan 2015

    Our video went viral – close to 10million views. It happened quick and it was organic – which I think is very rare. We didn’t seed it but because we produced a good story that moved our target audience, they shared it like crazy. You can see an updated version of it here: http://youtu.be/jc5XQSVeQ2c. In my experience people share stories that move them emotionally, catch them off guard, or make them laugh – if you can do all three, you’ll have gold!

  • By Daniel Laws 27 Jan 2015

    I think that the videos should serve a purpose and have goals. Creating a video that goes “viral” but doesn’t generate any value for the business is pointless. By going “viral”, it doesn’t mean that you reached your target audience, impacted the brand, or generated any leads. My question would be: what’s the strategy beyond creating a viral marketing video and how do you/we proven value/results?

  • By Benjamin Von Schuch 27 Jan 2015

    Providing enough value for consumers to sell a service or product for free is absolutely a goal of marketing but “viral” should never be a goal. Who cares if non-targeted consumers “like” or “share” a video. Will the CEO be excited to hear that millions of people that will never be purchasers, really enjoyed a promotion? The key to video is engaging the targeted audience with a brand story….Yes, video can be used to motivate action such as sharing but if it is not a brand story and not viewed by brand fans, what it the point.

    I watch and share a lot of Red Bull and Go Pro videos as they target my interest and actually motive me as a customer. Neither one attempts to make viral videos but creates really great stories that I happily share. My daughters and are huge fans!

  • By Jay 27 Jan 2015

    I am always astounded at business owners’ penchant for catching lightning in a bottle; creating that one brilliant video that goes viral (and actually moves the revenue needle) or creating a blog or newsletter in the hopes of reaching a massive audience of potential buyers. These things are incredibly rare and time-consuming. And how many billion blogs are there on the internet now? How many videos are currently posted on You-Tube? What makes people believe that their blog or video is the one that will rise above the clutter?

    I truly believe locally marketing a small business is relatively simple, because I’ve seen it done very well over and over.

    Step one- When you create a business plan, include a significant annual marketing budget. To do otherwise is akin to expecting to enjoy a long, prosperous retirement without ever investing a dime in your retirement account. (If you don’t agree with this premise, you can stop reading now.)

    Step two- Define your target audience.

    Step three- Identify 2-3 traditional media in your market that effectively reach that audience and are not already dominated by your competitors. This can be a small, community newsletter, the local newspaper, magazines, radio, TV, billboards, etc. The key is doing your due diligence. Whatever media you choose, it must have a significant sized audience and not be over-run with competitors. Whoever gets there first, wins.

    Step four- Invest as much as you can comfortably afford in one or two of those media. Think long term, don’t dabble and don’t try to be everywhere or everything to everybody. Be there every day, every week, every month and, if after a year you determine that it works well, plan to do it every year for as long as you plan to be in business. Also, be prepared to protect your turf. If competitors notice it’s working for you, the smart ones will try to horn in.

    Obviously, step three is key. So where have I seen this work so well? Public radio and public television. When I worked selling newspaper and magazine ads, I did not even consider public TV or radio to be the competition. I was wrong.

    When I was on the other side of the desk, buying media instead of selling, I realized that they both offer a massive audience, affordable rates, little to no production costs, and almost no immediate competition vying for the eyes and ears of that very large audience. Sure, public media audiences are not as large as commercial TV and radio, but not sharing that audience with a half-dozen direct competitors who had already branded viewers or listeners, more than made up for the difference.

    More importantly, public media consumers are educated, affluent, influential and looking for fair value. They don’t buy cheap, they buy quality. Using an underwriting message to direct prospects to a well-done, easy-to-use Web site that educates them on the value of doing business with your organization will get their attention. Treat them right when they buy your product or service and they will stay loyal to you. Go above and beyond their expectations, which is not particularly hard in today’s environment, and they will tell others about their experience.

  • By Teresa Weber-Freeman 18 Feb 2015

    Wow, that first one brought tears to my eyes. Right away I wanted to send it to friends!! In fact I think I’ll post it on FB right now… They were both good but you are right about the impact. The Verizon spot didn’t hit me in the gut the way the Always video did. Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t seen either one before today.

  • By Dave 18 Feb 2015

    The worst way to create something that has the potential to go viral is to try and create something for the purpose of going viral.

  • By Kirk 19 Feb 2015

    The short videos are great and a powerful way to mix it up from usual image sharing, posts or tweets. To engage your demographic beyond the short few seconds it takes to look at a photo or read a new promo brings an additional level of attachment, recall, and recognition. I do believe that the videos are more effective once you have gained your audience, especially in a retail sector.