A Terribly Great Exemplification of Viral

Just in time for the holidays, we are seeing proof that many factors are needed to create a “Viral” video – and when they hit, they are good.  As if viral videos were as easy to achieve as a full and healthy breakfast, the request for them is often and frequent.  Before YouTube and other video sites became huge, there was a demand for viral online features, but now videos should be so simple, shouldn’t they?  Most would say good viral just needs to be strong content, but that’s not really the case.  It is a mixture of content, placement, timing and promotion.  The hot video from Jimmy Kimmel’s show exemplifies the complexities perfectly. Providing a phenomenal tool for parents to ensure their kids will like each and every present they receive for real, he ran this segment on his show and then followed it up with a posting on YouTube – which has already garnered more than 4 million views in just two days.

You’ve probably already seen this video and while you probably laughed a lot and thought for a second about what you would give your child, relative or friend to ensure they absolutely love your actual gift.  But you also might figure that this might not be a big deal from a viral perspective because Jimmy Kimmel Live has such a built-in audience. That’s where it becomes a good study what ingredients are needed in order for a video to become viral.

Jimmy Kimmel Live has its own YouTube channel where they post a heap of videos as a marketing platform for the show.  They have tune-in information and also use the available space to list who the guests will be on upcoming shows. Of the many videos that they have posted exclusively, nineteen have garnered more than a million views.  When checking out a sampling of those, most of them rely on star power with Justin Bieber, Brittney Spears and a Barak Obama Auto-tune exemplifying the type of star power.  Anything else really just relies on the quality of the content. So, you could deduce that you just need star-power to push your video from nice to viral.  But that’s not the case when you look at all the star power that garnered less than 200,000 views.  I know that those numbers are not anything to disregard, but in the non-scientific study here, a million is the barometer of success. It’s also the figure to prove a point that just because of a national television platform, it doesn’t mean that just any video is assured of truly becoming viral due to launching on such a platform.  Many more videos on the channel are lucky to just get a few hundred views.

The timeliness of the video could not be any better.  This isn’t just because of the upcoming holidays just being a couple of weeks away – it taps into the general mood as we prepare for those holidays in the midst of a crappy economy.  The content narrative plays right into the atmosphere of concern and injects some laughter into it.  Again, not being scientific here, but I don’t know if the piece would have even been done if everything was rosy and there wasn’t a bit of worry that kids might not appreciate the presents we can actually afford to buy them.

A smart mechanic of this is the crowd-sourcing element.  Kimmel asked the viewers to create the videos and post them to YouTube. The show was then able to piece them together to create this video.  It was a model they had executed successfully just after this past Halloween. The video asked parents to record their kids responses to finding out their Halloween candy had been eaten.  It was posted on November 2nd and has had 24 million views since. To crowd-source in such a way that asks people to create their own content and post it so that it may be incorporated into a larger piece has been successful in a number of instances.  The byproduct is more buzz around the type of video with the only negative being the reduced ability to find the final video you were hoping to build from all the smaller ones.  In Kimmel’s case, this execution was much more controlled than others in the past – like the Longest Moonwalk that came out a year or so ago.

The piece has been picked up by outlets near and far with most lauding how funny it is.  They also point to the more risqué or controversial elements – all of which lead to more views and much more virality.

In the end, they did this piece because its good content for their show.  They know from past experiences that good content will also help extend the brand online, but treat that as a byproduct.  They did not set out to do something viral, just entertaining.  The viral can happen, but to think you can set out to create a viral piece is foolish.  It simplifies the proposition if you just set out to create something good rather than viral.  Being good is part of the solution – providing the platform and buzz is the rest.  Even with a good platform, it won’t do anything if it is not entertaining or engaging.

So, if you’ve learned nothing else, don’t put out crap because it will make kids cry and that’s not funny – or, actually, sometimes it is.  In the least, it will make people appreciate when something is great.

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