Has the formula for a viral video been discovered?
Viral videos have made ordinary people famous and taken brands from obscurity to overnight success when people have shared them on social networks.
It has been assumed for a long time that viral videos are an accident or a fortunate occurrence.
A marketing professor, Brent Coker from the University of Melbourne has come up with a algorithm as to why people will share some videos and ignore others and maybe discovered the “Holy Grail” of marketing.
According to the algorithm (called the BVMP or “Branded Viral Movie Predictor”), the four key elements required for a video to go viral are:
- Emotive strength
- Network involvement
- “Paired meme synergy”
So how can you harness these elements and what is the essence of the formula that can contribute to making a video become viral?
The themes of a video must be congruent with people’s pre-existing knowledge of the brand it is advertising.
Coker refers to the Harley Davidson brand as an example:
“For example, Harley Davidson for most people is associated with Freedom, Muscle, Tattoos, and Membership, Videos that strengthen that association meet with approval “, but as soon as we witness associations with the brand that are inconsistent with our brand knowledge, we feel tension.” In the latter case, few people will share the video, and it will quickly “go extinct.”
A Harley Davidson “Scooter” is not going to be congruent with the Harley Davidson Brand!
2. Emotive Strength
Creating strong emotions is essential if you want to ensure you are giving your video the best chance of becoming viral and the more extreme the emotions, the better.
Coker says that the strength of the emotion is vital and he categorises these into four categories based on strength.
4 Levels of Emotion
- Disgust is a one of the strongest forms of emotion and easily recalled or remembered
- Fear is very powerful and is almost immune to extinction from our memory
- Sentiment can be equally as powerful but is more dependent on your network attachments and involvements (eg University students)
- Humour and Happiness are weaker
Happy and funny videos don’t tend to fare as well as scary or disgusting ones. This helps explain why negative headlines can produce more traffic to a blog or sell more newspapers.
3. Network Involvement
Videos must be relevant to a large network of people and the larger the better, some examples of large networks are college students or office workers.
The ability of a video to go viral is also dependent on 2 key elements
- Size of the network
- Relevant to most of the nodes in the network
Transferring between networks is dependent on the closeness of several dimensions of each network. An example is “office workers with degrees” network could be closely associated on several levels with “university students”
4. Paired Meme Synergy
Coker came up with 16 concepts, known on the Internet as “memes” and discovered that videos only go viral if they have the right combinations of these concepts.
According to the research…”When combined, some combinations appear to work better together than others”
Example of a successful combination of three memes:
- Voyeur – which is when a video appears to be someone’s mobile phone footage
- Eyes Surprise — unexpectedness
- Simulation Trigger – which is when the viewer imagines themselves being friends [with the people in the video] and sharing the same ideals
One viral video that used all three of those memes was a 2007 ad by Quiksilver which is a global surf and beach apparel brand.
The grainy footage showed surfers throwing dynamite in a river and surfing on the resulting waves.
What Else is Needed for a Video to go Viral?
According to Brent, classic movie production strategies are also important.
- Keeping the movie short and snappy (The Old Spice videos were often only 20 seconds)
- A link baiting headline (you have to grab people’s attention)
- Initial seeding into large networks (find key influencers and get them to talk about it and share it)
- Key word and key phrase tag strategy (optimise it for search engines)
The complexity and combinations required for a video to become “viral” is not an easy task.
Maybe Professor Coker is closer to the “magic formula” for producing videos that “go viral” !
What do you think?
Have you produced a viral video? Look forward to hearing your stories.
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Virus image by Sterin
Harley Davidson image By Brett Jordan