Video Essentials

Want to Create a Viral Hit? It’s Harder than it Sounds.

“Earned media” can refer to the free publicity a brand gets when its online video goes viral. But that free publicity isn’t really free, and it’s not always attainable.

“There is tremendous value in brands getting involved in creating Web exclusive content,” said Molly Sugarman, director of digital media innovation for Horizon Media. “The issue there that brands have to realize – they see things like the roller babies, they see things like Old Spice, and they’re like ‘We can do that, too.’ And that’s not always the case.”

Sugarman was speaking in a table discussion as part of the Beet.TV Video Leadership series. See the video to the right for an excerpt from that discussion (used with permission of Beet.TV) or view the entire 75-minute program.

Creating a viral hit isn’t just a matter of producing a clever clip and releasing it online. It costs money to get viewers’ attention.

“We know, and it’s something that marketers don’t talk about too much, which is that many of the top viral videos that are on the Ad Age viral chart, those are paid for. You can pay for social action online,” said Sugarman.

Successful ads often start out by being carefully placed online. While their spread has been made to look organic, it’s not.

“You have to pay to promote your video in all the right places where the consumers can discover. So that’s the paid component of that,” added Seraj Bharwani, chief analytics officer for Visible Measures. “There is a lot of art and science associated with that.”

Take it from the pros: if you have a video you’re hoping will go viral, get some buzz going for it on your own. Ask partner sites to host a version and spread the word on their social networks. Placement, say the pros, is as important as the video itself.

For a fuller treatment, watch the entire 75 minute program.


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  1. It’s definitely a lot harder than it sounds. For one, it’s about innovation, highly original and strike a chord on some level. Ideally, making people laugh…..

    Posted by John B. | August 6, 2011, 8:25 pm
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