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Busting the myths of Viral Videos

Viral videos.. you must have heard about them, read about them and watched them.. so what is a viral video? Let me tell you a story.

Last year I received a call from a company. They had a furniture brand and they wanted to make a video. One of my business associates passed on this reference and they called us. So we went to meet these people in Mumbai. They were into furniture business. So, we sat in their cabin and cards were exchanged. After the initial intro sessions, they put their requirement straight away, “We want to make a viral video”

“Okay.. that’s what we do.. we have our production house from past 15 years,” my friend cum associate told them enthusiastically. It was like a perfect meeting. They wanted a video and we were making a video. Well, normally those who are in this business of filmmaking or advertising, know perfectly that these two things are not enough to get a business. There are many stages from a requirement to the final order and one of them is that their budget and your offer should match. But that for some other time. So, these people wanted a viral video and we were a video production house. My associate was brimming with energy and I was sitting as if I had nothing to do with their requirement.

“See this is a viral video we have come across. How beautiful it is. It has captured wonderful emotions and we have an emotional product, furniture.. we are sure you’ll write a better story. So, tell us the estimate to make a viral video.”

Now, for the third time, they had said a viral video and that was it.

“We don’t make any viral videos,” I said plainly. It was my friend’s turn to be stunned.

“What are you saying, Amol?”

“We don’t make viral videos.. in fact nobody makes them.. there’s nothing as such.. like making a viral video…”

“But.. we have a quotation.. and we..”

“yeah.. we can also give you an estimate to make a video.. but not a viral video..”

Needless to tell you.. the meeting was ended there. I got an earful by my associate for turning down the possibility of that assignment and that too after travelling all the way to Mumbai. I was still firm on my statement then and I am still holding on to the fact that nobody can make a viral video..



Hey guys, don’t get puzzled.. because if you are an advertising agency or a digital agency or a video production house, you must have come across many of such clients who must have demanded of a viral video. Some of you might have made videos for them.. or if you are a business owner and want to make a video, you might have asked for a viral video from your vendor…


I am sure most of the video you’ve made or got made as a viral video.. couldn’t have gathered enough views in social media…


And that’s the reason I say that there’s nothing as a viral video..


A video is made and uploaded on to the social media. It may or may not get viral.

So what is a viral video..

Let me share you some example..

How many of you have seen these videos or short films or ads?

Almost all, aren’t you?

Well these are viral video.. the videos that went viral.

Again.. you can’t make a viral video.

You can make a video – with all the possible resources and creativity. But it’s not in your hands to make them viral. Even though you put hundreds and thousands of money on boosting those videos, they are not considered as a viral video until and unless they are shared spontaneously.


So, why is it called a viral video? Well, that’s unfortunate! Neither the makers nor the clients know the facts that viral videos can’t be made. You can’t just make it. It has to go viral on its merits.


Not so long ago.. the famous sweetmaker from Pune Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. They made a series of beautiful short films in the festive season last year. The videos were so engaging and emotionally powerful that they were shared crazily. Since then every brand from Pune wanted to make such videos and I tell you, almost all of them fall flat on their faces. Because they were promised to make a viral video and none of them went viral.


So, you would ask me, Amol, if there’s no such thing as a viral video, how do videos go viral?


That’s the million dollar question! How do videos go viral?


Viral is like a contagious fever.. it catches the one in contact with the positive one. We’ve been experiencing the dangers of vitality with a disease. Exactly in the same fashion when a video is watched by many people at the same time, it’s a video gone viral. Now, like a disease, a video is also transferred from one person to another for it to become a hit.


It’s like a movie.. no matter how much publicity you do, a bad movie always bombs and a good one picks up.. well most of the times.. we call it mouth publicity.. a word is spread through many mouths to many ears so that those many people go and check out that movie. In the same fashion when I like a video, I forward it to you and you do the same if you like it. When we forward it in a group, more than one people get access to that video.. now if we share the link of a video to many people, your main video, for example on YouTube or on Facebook, gets those many views.. eventually your video is gone viral…


There are two major parameters for a video to go viral.. listen to me very carefully. You need to know this secret no matter who you are – a marketer, a business owner or a filmmaker.

For your video to go viral, you need to attain two qualifications – A. Less Skippability & B. More Shareability.


Less Skippability & More Shareability.


Tell me what are the measures to count the vitality of a video in the days of social media? It’s easy to count it these days – views, likes, shares, comments. More the views more the successful video.


So, for a video to go viral you have to have it less Skippabile and more shareable.


What’s the general procedure to watch a video?


You receive a video on you phone – in a link or in a downloadable format. So, you receive it on your phone, in a WhatsApp message or in a group or in your feeds on your Facebook or Instagram or you go to YouTube and search for something and this video pops up. Again there’s a different science for your video to show up on top of the page in the search results and that too is related to these two things – less skippable and more shareable.


So, you have your phone in your hand like this and you come across a video. It takes 3 to 5 seconds for you to decide whether you are going to watch it or not. Yes, my friends 3 seconds.. that’s the tiny duration decides the fate of your video. So, what do you do if you don’t like a video? You simply scroll up to check another video. Your chances of going viral are gone with that one scroll… so, your video has to be engaging enough right from the beginning for it to become less skippable. Your video should hold the audience for more than 10 seconds for them to watch it further.


Now, you finish watching the video and you like it. What would you do? When I like a video I share it to my wife, my father, my friends, my college friends group, school friends group… so in short I give access to at least 500 people to that video. Each one of us have hundreds of friends. If we like a video, we instantly share it to them. If only 10% of them watch it and share it forward, imagine the audience your video is going to get. That’s a video gone viral. And that’s the Shareability of your video.

So, less skippability and more Shareability - That’s the key!



Now, how are you going to achieve this so that your video goes viral?

Video should have been a planned activity and not an accidental phenomena. If you want to use it for your marketing, try to make it like a movie. Take efforts on every department. Make it so powerful that people won’t miss out and it would go viral.

So, first thing’s first. Let’s begin with a few secrets.


Create a hook

I told you that it takes 3 seconds for anyone to decide the watchability of your video. Now, it’s your responsibility to prevent it from happening. Create a hook in the beginning.. the visual has to be so powerful that the viewer would love to watch it further. Make it grand, may not visually, but emotionally. Imagine a smiling baby as the first frame of a video and you skip it. I know you won’t dare to.. you would watch it further. Or a beautiful scenic location or a some teasing visual. Plan something that would make the audience sit through the video.


Tell a story

Story never goes out of fashion. Check out all the Hollywood movies with heavy graphics and machines talking to each other. The Avenger series, Transformers, Fast & Furious or any movie… all of them tell you a story.. a beautiful tale filled with emotions. An engaging script to hold you on the edge of the seat. That’s what is needed in a video.. a beautiful story.. believe me, everyone likes stories. So, think of a story before you start your video.


Stick to the core

Never drift away from your subject. No matter how interestingly you tell a story and how engaging the script is, never go away from the purpose of your video. Your story should be built around the objective of your video. Rather your story also should have the sole objective, sell your video.


Humour works

When was the last time you liked a sad video? Until and unless you are going through some phases in life, you won’t like sad videos. People like to smile more often. The world is full of sorrows and problems. Your videos should help them smile, give them some hope. That’s where humour comes into play. Try to intersperse light humour, no slapstick or weird faces. Situational comedies that everyone can enjoy. No need to use bad or obscene language to make people laugh. See why Kapil sharma is so popular. He doesn’t use any bad word. Yet he makes you ROFL.

Message driven content

People share a video that has a message. Not every time you need to be serious about your message. But social messages work wonders. Every one of us wants to help others. Unfortunately not all of us could help. People like when they see someone getting help on a video or they at least get inspired to share such videos so that someone could help they way they’re wanting to. A subtle message like help the needy or good deeds never fail you or be honest or love elders or salute our soldiers.. everyone loves such messages.


Don’t try to sell

Even if you are making a video to sell something , don’t try to sell from the first minute. People are already bombarded with advertisements on television and on YouTube. They are expecting entertainment from your video. I remember people watched Chitale’s videos as entertainment and shared as advertisements. The purpose was served. Chitale’s videos were instant hits and people still wait for their videos. They didn’t try to sell, yet their brand value increased in multi folds. At the same time, others who tried to follow Chitale couldn’t do well, because they tried to sell their products through their videos. Audience is smart enough to sense. They’ll skip through.

Keep them engaged, no matter in what way, no matter how. They have to be engaged so that they’ll make your video viral. Story, humour, message, actors, filmmaking, music, do everything you want to.. but make such a video that goes viral on its merits.


I hope I have given you enough to churn for the week. I suggest you to watch more videos that have gone viral for your study.

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