Video Essentials

SXSW Report: Viral Videos Can Be Engineered; Here’s How

As savvy advertisers know, viral videos often don’t happen by themselves. Many times, videos need a little push to take off. At a South by Southwest panel entitled “Mythbusting: Engineering a Viral Video,” Bettina Hein, author of Video Marketing for Dummies, explained what to do and what not to do when aiming for viral success.

While not everyone realizes it, viral views can be bought. That’s often a big component to brand video viral success. Hein pointed to a Heineken beer video with over a million views, noting that 84 percent of its views were paid.

SXSWViral“This happens more than you think,” Hein said.

The heart of a viral video is good content. No amount of engineering can push a terrible video. While some virals see a huge traffic spike and then die, Hein sees more value in informative videos that grow in views over time.

Seeding is one popular way to drive views, where brands pay to have their videos seeded on influential sites. But Hein cautioned that not all seeding is on the up-and-up. “Seeding can be seedy,” she said. Look at where the seeding is being done. If the views are in regions that the brand doesn’t serve, those views are wasted.

Hein also strongly cautioned against hiring companies that deliver automated robot views. Brands can pay $800 for one million robot views, but don’t do it, she said. YouTube will catch on and revoke the views. Incentivized views, where people are paid to view ads, are more legitimate but probably aren’t worth the money.

Better ways to increase views are to look at the metadata for successful videos in your area and copy tags, and to imitate YouTube practices from successful companies. Paying for views is legitimate, but do it correctly. Choose carefully where those targeted views appear.

Not surprisingly, luck also plays a role. Sometimes videos go viral just because they’re around at the right time. Start creating great video content and give yourself the chance to be lucky.


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  1. This article or the presentation don’t make sense. First she says viral videos can be bought/engineered which actually annuls the very definition of a viral video, and then in the end, it’s about luck after all. Not to mention, she names the BAD methods of buying views, but never actually says what the good method is.

    Posted by Mike Darnell | March 10, 2013, 4:34 pm
    • Having been at this panel I feel like the author of this synopsis had a very poor understanding of what was said. For example, when she talked about how views could be bought, she was discussing how to tell if a video was truly viral or had it’s successful views through other means.

      Posted by Cindy Chapter | March 24, 2013, 9:52 pm
  2. It’s kind of disappointing that so much of the focus seems to be on getting videos to “go viral” rather than getting videos to be a successful part of an ROI campaign. Granted, enterprises in B2C entertainment are built on large quantities of viewership, but there are so many different business models that deserve special attention.

    Posted by Grant Crowell | March 11, 2013, 5:37 pm
  3. I agree what a bad presentation, and she is an expert, rather learn by my own mistakes. The reality is no one really knows as you can be funny, outrageous and proactive with no success. My advise is make it outrageous and short then you might get lucky

    Posted by Jan Anton | May 23, 2013, 11:14 pm
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