Creating Viral Video Content – A Research Study

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Many companies want to reap the profits of viral video marketing. Unfortunately very few companies do the research to understand exactly what consumers are looking for in videos online. As a result, companies often invest in videos without receiving much of a profit in return. With some basic understanding though, this situation can be remedied.

85% of internet users in the United States view videos online according to a study conducted by Forrester Research. The study also discovered that relatively little of that viewing or sharing is of promotional content. 75% of the video content shared online is of User-Generated Content (UGC). Most of the remaining content is related to traditional media, i.e. music videos and film trailers. Less than 40% of internet users share commercial content from television. Even fewer share videos made specifically for marketing on the internet – these are shared less often than any other video type, which works directly against marketers who are trying to create viral videos from scratch. 42% of marketers online are already making videos – but only 15% report any actual success.

What are some tips to marketers to create videos that are more likely to go viral?

  • Use humor to its fullest extent. Almost 50% of viral videos feature humor and 70% of internet users who share content with others say they do so because the videos they share are amusing.
  • Don’t make your video long. Internet audiences have notoriously short attention spans. It’s best to clock your video in under two minutes in duration – the average video in Forrester Research’s study was 1:42 minutes in length. Over a third of the videos were less than a minute.
  • You don’t need celebrities. Celebrities cost you more but don’t necessarily pay off. Only about a third of really successful viral videos featured a celebrity.
  • Sexy content isn’t necessarily best. Only 16% of successful viral videos in the study featured sexy content.
  • Don’t try to mimic UGC. You might think that if you imitate the style of UGC videos are made in you’ll fare better but you’d be wrong. Users can recognize the difference. Don’t pretend to have a low budget when you really have a high one. 85% of successful viral videos by brands featured full production values.
  • TV ads can go viral online. Even if your ad has already been played on television, it can still go viral on the internet. TV ads account for over half of viral marketing videos online.

Don’t be afraid of repetition. Since you’ve already budgeted your television ads, you may as well maximize their performance and profit by posting them online. It won’t cost you any more, and your TV ads may fare better than original online content. Consider hosting UCG competitions as well; since UCG videos do well, you may actually get more exposure through a fan-created video. This also has the added benefit of involving your audience through co-creation, which in itself is an excellent marketing strategy. Another thing you must never forget is to include your brand in your video! This may seem like a given, but you’d be surprised how many companies forget to actually incorporate their brand or product into their otherwise successful viral videos (55% of videos lacked a clear reference to a brand or product!).

Lastly, be prepared to make a number of attempts before reaching success. Viral video marketing is hard; it is an uphill battle and you will almost certainly fail a number of times before you do finally make it. You shouldn’t give up though! Viral videos can be an amazing platform for word of mouth marketing and well worth the effort.

Spencer Belko

Spencer Belko

After working on at Ogilvy & Mather, where he focused on more traditional marketing and advertising, Spencer began to direct all of his professional attention... Read Full Bio
Spencer Belko

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting post, Spencer. Good job!

    • Spencer Belkofer


      Thanks so much! It’s my first post here, so I was a little nervous about how it would be received!

    • Facebook Apps

      Informative Post for us..Keep posting more

  • Zippy Cart

    Probably one of the earliest accidental viral memes was the Alka-Seltzer “That’s a spicy meatball!” commercial. Years later people were still spouting that line and plenty of them didn’t know or remember that it was from that commercial. Going funny and going weird often get people to pass around your video and keeps it in people’s minds.

  • Cool New Gadgets

    Ha, it’s so funny though that most video geeks loves to see funny things.. we’ll maybe they want to entertain themselves together with their friends and relatives.. hmm, gotta make one soon.

  • Moosa Hemani

    I am in a process of making a video… for a website and i put almost all things in consideration but the 1 thing which is differ from my plan is the length of the video i believe 2.5 to 3 mins of video will catch the attention of the users and user research is a bit different but else then this all other things are the most important things that one should consider before starting up with the video.

    • Spencer Belkofer

      I would think that length should be fine! Good luck!

  • dissertation uk

    very intereting and informative. i think i will try to talk with my boss about it.. maybe we will use some of this information in our company.. thanks a lot