Are Viral Videos Worth It?

Oscar Wilde once said, “Everything popular is wrong.” What is popular, Wilde maintains, is not an accurate barometer of good, or high, art. It would be easy to agree if it weren’t for the viral video.

Clocking in at an average of 1 minute, the viral video is a fast and relativity cheap way for businesses to brand themselves. The ideal viral video has a minuscule budget and it is entertaining enough to not only generate views, but create conversation, debate, and, as Google would put it, buzz.

The only hitch of course is finding an idea relevant enough to demand the internet users’ attention.

With over 2 billion videos on Youtube alone it isn’t exactly an easy feat to make a video to go viral. Should companies even bother?

The Hurdles of Making a Viral Video

Crafting a perfect viral video isn’t a science. Companies can take notes from viral successes sponsored by firms like Smiroff and Sony, but they can’t find the formula of success.

Companies can employ tech-savvy start-ups to market their videos using SEO tricks, blog promotions, and extensive forum postings. It’s not illegal, but it’s a practice lost in the internet moral gray area.  In the end, heavily promoted videos can attract tons of views. It’s a wise investment for firms who are selling a high volume, widely distributed product. It’s not a silver bullet strategy and not all companies can rely on it.

What’s the True Value of Viral Videos?

Even if you do create a video that goes viral, what exactly happens? Maybe nothing.

After the comments and views die down there is a chance that nothing will happen. Just ask this comedian. He produced a viral video and after the initial “fanfare” he was left where he started. He didn’t get more work, his blog traffic leveled out, and he didn’t make a fortune in ad revenue.

The same thing can happen to a larger brand. More views doesn’t translate into more sales or more traffic. Internet flash mobs are fickle. It might be better if brands and entrepreneurial people focused on attracting the attention of people within your niche, people who can help them, and not every person with internet access.

The Utopian Future of ‘Viral’ Videos

Hopefully, online video ads will become less broad in their scope and focus on advertising a product or service to a specific group of people, to a specific blog audience, or to a specific location. Online video ads need to become less like prime-time commercials and more like local ads on public access. They need to be tailored and charming rather than manufactured and plugged. There’s no point trying to please everyone all the time.

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bill_streeter/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

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