One question we get asked a lot is “how can I make my videos go viral?” Well, there is no short answer or magic bullet for viral success on social media. There are lots of factors that can be controlled – like original audience size, distribution channels, content quality – but videos that go viral are more than the sum of these parts. If something is going to take off, there has to be a little bit of magic involved. The right people have to see it at the right time, and share it on the right platforms with the right commentary.
While there’s no scientific way to guarantee viral success, you can use some basic analysis to give your content a leg up. When you think of the most famous, most viral, most enigmatic videos and ads of all time, what do they have in common? One thing should stand out: animals.
We often joke about how cat videos rule the Internet, but there is some pretty solid evidence to back up those anecdotes. Looking at Mashable’s list of 30 greatest viral videos of 2014, more than a third feature animals doing something adorable, amazing, or otherwise memorable. But, since this is a small business marketing blog, we’re not just interested in how well animals do on their own; we want to know how well they can promote our brands, right?
Well, taking a look at Unruly’s Top 20 Most Shared Ads of 2014, you’ll find that 3 out of the 20 most shared ads all year long featured animals. One of which, Budweiser’s ‘Puppy Love’ commercial, grabbed the #4 spot and generated 1,976,253 shares. Not just views (of which it has over 54 million on YouTube), but nearly 2 million shares. While it’s no surprise that a brand with a budget like that of Budweiser was able to get their ad in front of millions of people on the web, it is nonetheless noteworthy that the ad was so effective that it moved hundreds of thousands of people to share it with their networks.
So, what makes animals such an attractive and effective tactic for marketers? If you’re feeling particularly academic today, you can learn a lot on the topic from a 2014 study from Northwestern Oklahoma State University called The Psychology of Using Animals in Advertising. It’s very detailed, but packs a lot of interesting information. If you don’t feel like reading the whole study right now, here’s an interesting excerpt:
Upshaw (1995) reported that consumers develop affection for and emotional ties to brands that include animals in their advertisements. Affective attachments to brands enhance brand commitment and loyalty (Gundlach, Achrol, & Mentzer, 1995). Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) suggested that these affective attachments promote emotional ties to the brand, greater brand commitments, and increased consumer loyalty.
This might not be a huge surprise to you, but it’s nice to see scientific research around something that seems instinctively to be true.
So, what can you take away from all this for your own small business marketing plan? First, take a look at your social analytics and find out what times your content gets the most engagement on social media. Next, think about your resources – do you or your friends or colleagues have playful pets that you can creatively work into a video that is relevant to your brand? Finally, when you have a finished product that feel confident could go viral, consider putting a little money behind it.
While it’s true that you can’t buy virality, you will have a much better chance of having your video ‘hit’ if more you can get more eyeballs on it from the start. Facebook advertising is relatively inexpensive, and you can select a targeted audience such as people who list ‘animals’ as something they’re interested in.
We love animals here at Webs, so when you do have your viral animal video ready to go, come back here and share it in the comments!