“Let’s make it go viral”, said the marketing executive, looking at the coffee stain on his tie. He (it’s most likely a he) had already forgotten whether everyone was talking about -a bundle of videos, an article, a VR short…-, he knew it had to go viral.
After all, why not? Viral is the thing everyone’s striving for. It’s the way to catch millennials, and they’re the key target. What’s behind it the word, anyways?
Why go viral?
Going viral is easier said than done, as is everything in filmmaking. It’s what happens when your content is becoming a hit on YouTube or Facebook. Remember Chewbacca Mom? She was awesome, but she’s the exception, not the rule. Going viral means that the content you’ve created is hitting home with a wide range of people, when it has so much buzz that it’s deserving of its own BuzzFeed article.
If you’re creating content to promote something else (as a part of a transmedia project for instance), you want it to go viral and not be a gimmick. It has to be something standing on its own two feet that’s organically a part of your story universe (but more on that later). It’ll then drive people to your core story.
If you’re creating content in and of itself for the web (shorts that you’re uploading on a regular basis online could be an example, or health tips videos, makeup tutorials, etc…) you want it to be a hit in order to drive traffic to your profile, see those view numbers go up, and see the ad revenue increase. (Yay!)
Let’s do a little case study. Jamie Bolding has been making cooking videos for three years and they’ve been so successful that he wound up quitting his job. Early in the process, his ad revenue jumped from 6p to £600 a day. How does he do this?
Primarily: what he does is relatable. Not everyone loves to eat as an art form, but everybody needs to eat, at least. When he began his videos by saying “Hi Mum”, everyone who’d been sent off to university and got worried calls from their mother knew where that came from.
That’s one of the primary rules of storytelling: make your characters engaging and relatable. All the bibles of screenwriting will tell you this (Truby, McKee and everyone in between). That’s why you need strong, identifiable characters. You may not have much time to do an epic character development, but you can give them a quirk and/or a relatable situation to solve.
If you’re making short content aiming to be viral in order to promote a transmedia project, then it’s likely that your main source of revenue will be your core story and the viral short on the side, or the VR experience on the side will only be bonus.
Build an audience
This is a key factor in the success of your endeavour. You need to work to find an audience. Build networks on social media. Make sure that there is coherence between whatever you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, your newsletter and your website. If you’re out of breath by just reading that sentence, that was the point: it’s extremely rare that viral content turns viral on its own merits. You need to strategise a presence online and make it unmissable. We can’t all be Chewbacca Mom.