Lesson from SXSW: How to Create a Viral Video

On Day 2 of SXSW Interactive in Austin, one of the sessions included “How to Create a Viral Video.” This was a panel discussion that included Director of Film and Video at TED, User Experience Manager at YouTube and OK Go band member. This was definitely a team of people who know a bit about the magic of online video.

Jokingly, they started the session by informing us that in order for a video to be successful virally all that was needed were boobs and kittens. It garnered a laugh, but is not necessarily untrue; there are thousands of examples of these successes.

But boobs and kittens won’t work for everyone. The panel had several useful tips for video success:

  • Think about he way the video will be seen. If your end use is on the Internet, keep in mind that it will be viewed small. Use tight shots and close-ups so the viewer can actually see what is going on.
  • Think about what you would want to watch. There needs to be an element of wonder and surprise. It is all about the reveal.
  • Think about your end audience. Would they want to be impressed with a high production value or do they want to identify with the video and think they could do something like that. The production values of successful videos vary; it all depends on what your viewers want.
  • Think about creating a smile. Content that goes viral is typically very positive. The negative videos don’t get shared as often. If you want to be a viral success, don’t be a Debbie Downer.
  • Think about building a subscriber database before you have the content ready to share. Interact with this database and build your own community. It is not about creating content and hoping people will come.
  • Think about how your community can interact with the video. Make people want to be involved with the video by encouraging and embracing shoot-offs, parodies and satires. All of these assist in the infectiousness of your original video.
  • Think about engaging with your commenters. Don’t be the distant, anonymous creator. Foster and encourage the discussion.
  • Think about aggregating great content that is already out there. You don’t have to create original content to bring people to your site; curate the great content that is already out there.