Many marketers consider a branded video that has “gone viral” to be a major accomplishment, and rightly so. Who could possibly resist the prospect of a brand’s content shared by millions? By the traditional measure of digital advertising – impressions – a viral video is about as close to a grand slam as you can get.
The problem with swinging for the fences is that you are, most times, going to strike out.
So much so that brands hoping to see a video take off and “go viral” might just be better off spending the money on paid media placements. Having a video “go viral” is indeed an accomplishment, but a content marketing strategy can’t rely on the blockbuster for sustained success. Nor is creating a video to go viral a strategy. A better approach is to aim for base hits. Or rather, “narrowcast” your branded videos to be seen by a more targeted and engaged audience that’s likely to buy your product or service. In other words – impressions may help lift brand awareness, but there are other metrics that determine a campaign’s success.
Video content that goes viral has a life onto its own – its popularity fueled by organic sharing. The challenge for marketers pursuing a narrowcasting strategy is to find targeted placements that draw audiences that are more likely to engage with and share seeded content – placements that will fuel the same buzz a viral blockbuster garners. The seeding of content does not have to be be ruled by the obvious celebrity, but can rather by a new class of celebrities known as influencers. Celebrities might have a huge following, but that doesn’t mean those followers are engaged. Influencers command as many eyeballs as traditional celebrities, and they can elevate a branded video campaign from a hope and a prayer into a surefire success.
Has Going Viral Changed?
If you take a step back, the way videos go viral hasn’t changed much since 2011. When YouTube Trends Manager Kevin Allocca gave a TED talk about viral videos that year, he emphasized that there were three contributing factors: tastemakers, online communities and unexpectedness.
Five years later these three factors still hold true, but have evolved.
* Consumers have become even more unpredictable.
* Viral videos are still surprises
* Content continues to shock everyone with its utter randomness and obscurity.
Could anyone have pinpointed the captivating power of Damn Daniel? Chewbacca Mom? Double Rainbow? Bed intruder? This video of a dude opening 30 plastic eggs (650 Million + views)? None of these scream, “blockbuster!”.
Further – none of the aforementioned viral videos were created by brands.
In the last several years, online communities have proliferated. Niche audiences today gather in a variety of platforms – such as Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook that were either still in their adolescence in 2011 or not even born yet. These diverse communities are bound by common interest – that range from a shared sense of humor or point of view, to a passion for an artist or hobby. Consumers belong to several at once, and new ones pop up every day.
Perhaps the biggest evolution, though, has come with the tastemakers themselves. As previously mentioned, the last five years have witnessed the emergence of influencers – an entirely new big-league of social media all-stars that eschew traditional celebrity and in many ways outperform it. In the days before social media, brands faced few options beyond movie stars and famous athletes, perhaps the occasional business magnate or retired politician (Mr. Dole, I’m talking about you) or a pitchman of your own creation (shudder!). Today, the people who can take a brand’s message to the right audience are people you’ve probably never heard of.
Want to sell detergent to moms?
Try Zina Harrington and her 1.3 million Pinterest followers. Millennials? How about Sara Hopkins or Cyrene Quiamco on Snapchat. Exercise buffs? Amanda Russell has some 80,000 people following her fitness videos. Want to hear about woodworking? Try Steve Ramsey. Tutorials on his YouTube channel have more than 30 million views.
Take a look again at those numbers. 30 million?! Those are figures large enough to get network television executives salivating. And these audiences are not commanded by CBS or NBC. They are commanded by influencers.
Welcome to The New Influencer Model
So there’s no longer a need to sit around and pray for your content to go viral (after all, praying is about all you could do). There’s now an infrastructure for influence on the social web, and influencers are its main architects.
Media has changed from a vehicle for releasing a message en-masse to a long-tail environment where everyone can geek out on what interests them. This is a tremendous opportunity because, as marketers know, real connections are made when you tap into a genuine passion.