How Good a Bet are Viral Videos?

Viral videos have become a staple of social media. Seemingly every week, a new video (or a few) spread like wildfire across social, and whether they’re funny, touching, or just offer a big “wow,” everyone is watching, sharing, and talking about them.

Many of these viral clips take off organically and are not the product of brands, rather just of good timing or a creative mind. Still, it’s easy to see why brands are drawn to the idea of creating viral videos: huge views, wide sharing, and being the center of conversation are ideal results for social video.

But do brands really need viral hits? And are they worthwhile goals to pursue? The short answer is “probably not,” but let’s look a little closer.

Going viral is very unlikely

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There’s no surefire method to go viral. You can focus on integrating certain elements common to those rare, branded viral videos –  like memes or gags, and high quality production –  but there’s no formula for a hit. Instead of pouring your efforts into making a video clip with mass appeal and hoping it takes off, use that energy to craft a clip that appeals to who you want to reach.

Viral videos tend to have high production values and be focused around a gimmick (like a funny gag or some really wowing footage) as opposed to around specific elements or products of a brand.

The time and resources poured into a (hopefully) viral video can be better spent on much more focused videos.

Sure, a viral hit can bring huge ROI, but it’s unpredictable. Zeroing in on the audience you want is guaranteed to work to your benefit. And developing your brand’s voice over time gives you the opportunity to try different approaches, and learn what kinds of content your target audience responds to most positively.

You can still be funny, heart-warming, shocking, or whatever emotional cues your idea hinges on, but use that idea in the context of a piece that is aimed at your target audience, not the whole world.


Viral videos are not the best way to engage your target audience

Massive numbers of views and wide sharing certainly raises the profile of your brand, and all kinds of people watch viral videos, likely including your target audience. But nature of a viral video is often incongruent with kind of content that connects with your ideal audience the way you want.

Your videos should be relevant to your audience, and exemplary of your brand. Whether geared towards being informative, entertaining, or a bit of both, your social videos are meant to give target viewers a reason to come back and further engage with your content and products. A video with the broad appeal to go viral is likely going to make an impression with its gimmick, not with the relevancy you want to give your target audience.

Those target viewers are who you want to provoke conversation among and create connection with, to turn them into followers and dedicated members of your audience. The most important metric for a successful video is engagement, and the most valuable engagement comes from the people you want to be reaching.

There’s no doubt that a viral hit with huge views will also see more engagement – in likes, shares, and comments. But strong response from a smaller, targeted pool of viewers who are more likely to become customers is more valuable to your brand in the long run than the mass, flash-in-the-pan exposure of a viral video.

Getting lucky enough to have a viral hit could never be bad for a brand, but it’s important to remember that luck really is a huge part of viral success.

Instead of pouring your resources into trying to craft a video built from the ground up to go viral, you’ll be much better suited to focus on the audience you want to reach. Think about their interests, the voice you want to present them with, and be creative with your messaging. You might get lucky and go viral, but even if you don’t, you’ll be winning over the target audience and building a following for your brand.

Want to learn more about ensuring your video is engaging enough for your target audience? Focus on making an emotional impact. Here are 3 ways to do just that.

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