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What Makes a Video Viral?

Lecteur videoVideo is one of the most engaging forms of digital marketing. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Because video combines visual and audible elements, it brings the best parts of other the other digital media and combines them in a super-sharable package. That’s why when a piece of media takes the internet by storm and goes viral, more often than not it is a video.

But what makes a video viral? There are plenty of business owners who ask the same question. They’re always looking to be the next viral sensation, gaining a huge amount of notoriety and publicity from just one video. Is there some sort of secret sauce anyone can tap into to make their videos viral?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. There is no checklist you follow in order for your small business video to go viral. Viral videos are the result of a perfect storm of great timing, off-the-wall creativity, pop culture and internet sharing habits. Some videos may even be the result of expensive advertising campaigns, which to many, may seem like cheating.

Even if all of these factors are in your favor, your video may or may not go viral, and there isn’t much you can do about it. But, with a better understanding of why videos go viral, you may have a better chance at it.

What does it mean to go viral?

Viral videos spread through the internet and the collective conscience of our popular cultrure like a virus. That’s how they earn the label. But what qualifies a video as viral? Is there a certian number of views, shares, comments or news stories written a video has to earn before it can earn the viral label?

The answer is honestly no. It is almost like the famous Supreme Court ruling from 1964, you’ll simply know a viral video “When you see it.”

Probably the best way to tell if a video has truly gone viral is through offline means. If your friends, family, and co-workers are all talking about the same video, its safe to assume that the video has gone viral. Even better is if those people seemingly come from different age groups and have different interests. In that case, the video has truly connected with us on a much deeper level than just the interests of a particular group.

Here are some of the factors that can affect a video, and cause it to go viral.


Timing can be everything with the internet. In many cases, the virality of a video can be fleeting, and can be completely dependant upon what is happening in pop culture at the time of it’s release.

In the case of the “Sad Affleck” video above, the timing of it’s release could not be better. The video is all about the movie Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, one of the most hotly anticipated releases of all time, and was released just days before the film hit theaters. It was also posted just after many of the critic reviews were posted online, and most were not kind. There was a fever pitch of fans searching for any word on the film, and any reactions from cast and filmmakers about the poor reviews.

The inclusion of two of the film’s main stars, one of which is a genuine A-list superstar, didn’t hurt, but this video’s popularity is all about timing. When combined with the “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, the seemingly harmless, off-camera glance from Ben Affleck makes it look as if he’s somehow ashamed of the film, and perfectly summed up many fans’ dissappointment. I’d imagine the video won’t have much popularity outside of the release of the film, but it garnered over 21 million views in the two weeks around the release of Batman v. Superman. 

Pop-Cultue Expectations

Some of the most popular viral videos these days often feature some of pop-culture’s biggest stars. The main reason for this is that knowledge of these stars and their work is so universal that it plays upon our shared cultural knowledge. This is the same way that some of the best comedians in the world can make so many people laugh, they recognize frustrations or bits of information that everyone has or knows and plays with their expectations.

In the case of the Taylor Swift Goat remix above, seemingly everyone who was in the United States around 2014 has heard the song “I Knew You Were Trouble.” It was the most popular song of the year from one of the most popular singers of the time. In other words, it was inescapable. If you somehow made it through 2014 without hearing the song, here’s the original music video (skip to about 2:00 if you want to get right to the song.)

The video plays with the audience’s expectations of the song’s “Oooh, oooh!” chorus by replacing them with a surprisingly on-key goat scream. The result was an immediate “You have to see this!” reaction and in many cases, uncontrollable laughter.

The bottom line here is that the song’s popularity is partially responsible for the popularity of the video, but the other reason is that it expertly plays with our cultural expectations. If you can tap into pop-culture in this way, your video is much more likely to go viral.

Off-The-Wall Creativity

Sometimes a viral video will make you ask yourself “What did I just watch?”

That is certianly the case with the advertisement from Moutain Dew above. It’s strange. So strange, in fact, that it requires additional viewings just to make sure you didn’t miss something that would make it make sense. You may even show it to your friends or family to ask them if they understood it.

Now, this is not your traditional viral video. This advertisement ran during the Super Bowl, the most-viewed sporting event in America, so millions of people all saw it at once.

But, the ad did become viral as soon as it was done airing. Thousands of people turned to social media to discuss #PuppyMonkeyBaby, and it became the first ad from the Super Bowl people shared. It got a huge kickstart (sorry for the pun) from the money spent on the Super Bowl spot, but it became viral because it was just…so… weird.

The lesson you should take away here is that viral videos are conversation starters. Sometimes it takes some truly off-the-wall creativity to start a conversation. This ad accomplished that in spades.

Internet Sharing Habits

Sometimes, a viral video is popular simply because it plays into previously existing sharing habits. For instance, people love animals. People love sharing funny or cute videos of animals. Pets are easy sources of comedy and because so many of us are pet owners, that comedy plays into our expectations and cultural knowledge. The result is a video, like the “Ultimate Dog Tease” above gets almost 180 million views.

Tapping into this, however, is where a lot of small businesses go wrong when trying to make a viral video. Simply putting a cat or dog into your video for no reason will feel like a cheap ploy. Nothing says “I want you to share this video” more than simply throwing something in that people like to share. It has to feel organic and necessary to the message in some way.

Don’t Try Too Hard

I believe that any video, with the right combination of the factors above can go viral. The key, however, is to capture all of these factors in a way that doesn’t seem forced. No video that goes viral was created with the specific intention of “Going Viral.”

When you create your videos for your marketing plan, focus on the message and strategy first. Don’t just try to go viral. You want your videos to help you achieve your goals. After all, your video could be seen by all of the people in the world, but it won’t matter if it doesn’t compel them to buy from you.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443.jpgAlex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Must-Use Lead Conversion Tactics for Video Marketing

On SnapChat the other day, one of the live feeds featured was “Farm Life.” Because I have a friend who is building a business in the ag arena, I thought this would be a great opportunity to get the word out about his video production company. It’s free to upload a photo or video to the stream and gets viewed by countless SnapChat users; approximately 16.5 million people look at SnapChat every day. As we discussed options for creating awareness via SnapChat, there was one question that surfaced to the top, “How can we convert leads using SnapChat video?” 

videoVideo isn’t “the next big thing” in marketing. Video is now! If it’s not in your marketing strategy, it needs to be. One article projects that by 2017, videos will account for 67% of all consumer internet traffic. That’s huge, considering the many other ways consumers can consume information on the internet.

Videos make consuming information easy, which is why they are such a hit with consumers. You can get a ton of information into a shorter amount of time, no one has to read anything and the imagination needed is truly minimal. It’s the laziest way to soak in information. Let’s take advantage of the fact that our consumers want their information in the easiest way possible!

There are tons of good articles about how to make videos appealing. Video marketing is another form of content marketing; similar to writing good content, the better and more valuable your video is the more people will watch it.

So back to the question. What is the best way to convert leads using video on SnapChat, Instagram, Vine, or any platform that allows video? How can we take advantage of the fact that customers want to consume our message via video?

So I did some research and came up with six ways that you can steer prospects into leads by using video, to send them to your website or a landing page, or even your social media sites. (Note: Not all of these tactics will work with every medium.) Ready?

Here they are:

1. Create a custom end card

You’ve watched videos where at the end it says, “If you liked this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel.” Now take that idea and instead, have them like your brand on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, or better yet, send them to a landing page to download a free eBook or checklist – where you directly capture their contact information.

2. Include a verbal call to action

You’re making the video, your customers are watching the video, you have their attention, why not use this time to tell them where they can connect with you further? Video is a great way to gain your audience’s trust for you and your brand, so use this trust to further your relationship and engagements. Chances are, if they find you hilarious, intriguing or valuable, they’ll want to follow you for more hilarious, intriguing or valuable updates.

3. Insert the link in the video description

On most platforms where you’re uploading a video, you’re going to have the option to enter a description. Use this space to tell the story of your video and why they should click your link to further connect with your brand. Just posting the link probably isn’t enough to get prospects to click through, but if you add descriptive copy and your video is valuable, this is as good a spot as any to capture your leads.

4. Use an email gate

Capture names and email addresses directly from your video with an email gate. This is the most direct way to capture leads from video marketing. Rather than leading a customer to a page or form, you actually require their contact information before they can watch the video – or before they can see a certain portion of the video.

5. Place the video directly on a landing page

This lead capture tactic doesn’t use a third party to publish your video but instead relies on the fact that your viewer is already on your landing page. Now, the video is simply used to make the push to fill out the lead capture form. This, paired with the verbal call to action, can be a very effective way to use video for lead capture!

6. Use annotations within your videos

For YouTube users, you may notice that some videos you watch have pop-ups throughout the video. They may make comments about the video, add facts or valuable information, or even provide updates to an old version of the video. Use these annotations to push leads to your social media sites, website or landing page! You can add a link with a caption, directions to check out the link in the description or even a phone number to call. This tactic requires no extra effort by the viewer to see how to connect more, much like the verbal call to action, and can be a very effective way to connect with viewers!

Video marketing isn’t new; you’ve been watching commercials on television for decades. Videos on the web aren’t even new, but they are becoming easier to make and more accessible and shareable than ever before. The possibilities with video are endless and sometimes overwhelming. If you use one or many of the above lead capture and call to action tactics above, you can use video to drive in hot leads and quickly grow your business pipeline!

Do you use video currently? Are there any other lead capture tactics you’d recommend using?

Kala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels and tweeting about marketing, coffee, and cats.

Can Your Video Advertisement Reduce Everyone to Tears?

Remember Tears for Fears? They had it right: everybody wants to rule the world.

tears for fears

When you set out to create a video advertisement, you want its influence to span the globe. The best way to accomplish that feat is to leverage something that is universal: like emotion.

Brands that elevate themselves up from the level of simply providing a service, to the heralded plateau of being a facilitator of emotion are the brands most likely to succeed in the global online community.

In the past, the challenge was establishing a genuine human connection with only a 30-second video spot. But online, viewers have “leisure time” in the emergent channels (social timelines, Whatsapp-style group messaging, etc.) to consume content that is much longer in length.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at an advertisement from Google that utilizes this extra available time effectively in order to shoot straight for the heart of the viewer to bring forth the tears.

Google’s “Dear Sophie” Ad Will Break You

Interestingly enough, ‘Tears for Fears’ is a reference to one of the core principals American psychologist and psychotherapist Arthur Janov, who advocates a ‘tears instead of fears’ approach to dealing with (childhood) trauma.

Google’s ‘Dear Sophie’ video is only dealing with the consumer’s fear of the unknown, but their approach is similar: break you down to build you up. Check it out:

(If you don’t have time to view the advertisement, it basically features a man emailing “into the future” his newborn daughter using Google’s services.)

“Dear Sophie” comes from BBH New York & Google Creative Labs. It has over ten million views, and about two seconds into the video you feel why—in your heart. It will get to you emotionally.

For that reason and others, it has won multiple advertising awards, including the People’s Voice at the 2012 Webby Awards.

The advertisement is about 1:30 in length—three times the length of the traditional 30-second slot—but it sustains the viewer’s attention just fine because in part the viewer is probably just browsing the web looking for something to watch.

The Big Takeaway: You Have Time to Tell a Story So Tell One

Notice how “Dear Sophie” is not really about any one service in particular. In simply telling a story, Google succeeds in advertising all of their services—a lifestyle, even. A lifestyle of love.

It sounds somewhat cheesy, but ten million views isn’t cheesy at all.

To sum everything up: the short story format of a couple minutes is made possible by the extra “leisure time” available online.

Depending on the context, there are no rules. (I once watched an online B2C video advertisement that was over an hour long. I don’t even know how long it actually was because I stopped watching!)

Generally, however, most people agree that anywhere from 2–7 minutes is an appropriate range for the short story format.

In the next blog post, we’re going to continue looking at “leisure time” advertising. Taking full advantage of the time available is one aspect, but taking full advantage of the context itself is another, and perhaps more important.

Mike TylerMike Tyler CEO of War Room ranked #1 in online Digital Advertising and reporting. Are you looking for more Video Advertising tips? Check out the Video Advertising Guru