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It’s time we found a cure for the viral video

Thinking about making a video? Jon Silk, director of Bite, advises you rethink your strategy

At some point in every brainstorm (or idea shower – like a brainstorm but quicker) one person will suggest making a viral video. It doesn’t matter what you’re brainstorming about. New product? Let’s make a viral video. Staff retention? Viral video. Office move? Viral video. Ten per cent cut in stationery budget? Viral video. And then the meetings moves onto: “I know… Let’s put it on YouTube.”

There is normally at least one person in the room that will dissent, using these well-worn objections:

“You can’t make a viral video. You can only make a video that is good enough to go viral by itself.” Or “A video of sufficient quality to get our point across will be more expensive to make than you realise.”

That one is normally followed closely by: “No, we can’t do it cheap like that Google advert. It’s even more expensive to make videos that look homemade.” And then: “Even if it does go viral, it might go viral for the wrong reasons.”

So why do so many marketing teams still head straight down the video route when they’re faced with a challenge to get a message across?

The facts themselves are compelling. ComScore says we watched around 50 billion videos a month last year. One in 10 of those was watched on a mobile device. Consumers are 27 times more likely to click through video ads than standard banners. And so on.

Also, you enjoy watching funny kitten videos on the internet, right? All of this does seem to add up to a compelling channel for your marketing efforts. So what’s the problem?

Let’s look back at the stats. 50 billion videos mean you’ve got a huge amount of content to rise above if you want people to see yours. That means high production budgets to get the quality right, and serious ad spend to get the placement you want.

Also, your video needs to be suitable for watching on a phone or tablet. I don’t mean the format – that bit’s easy, I mean the video itself. Is the content suitable? Mobile video needs to be extremely informative (to aid the viewer while they carry out a task) or extremely funny (to distract while doing something boring, like sitting on a bus).

And is it an ad, with a very clear call to action, appearing in exactly the right place and at precisely the time your desired eyeballs are looking? Those work well. Uploading a video to YouTube and hoping for the best does not.

Next time you’re in a brainstorm and someone suggests making a video, here’s what I suggest: Just say no. If the idea is good enough and evolves into an amazing content marketing opportunity, video will happen naturally.

If you’re starting with ‘making a video’ as an idea and working backwards from that, you’re in danger of creating content pollution and on the wrong track.

Unless you have a kitten, of course. In that case, go ahead.