Are Tips About Creating Viral Videos Useful?

viral-video-300x294Everyone wants something positive they’ve made to go viral, but whether it catches on is completely up to two factors: the effort you put into your content and luck. Mostly luck, because tons of viral videos and images took very little effort in terms of marketing and production to achieve their ultra-popular status. On the other hand, you could’ve put hundreds of hours into creating content you’re proud of and get very few views. And that’s where the problems with best practice articles come into play, especially the ones that give you a list of tips on how to make viral content. They’re intentionally vague. If a magic formula for virality exists, everyone would be doing it. Let’s explore the 6 “tips” from Social Media Today with a critical lens.

1. Make a Compelling Niche Video – All you need to do is offer something quality and original and niche…that’s it! That’s all you have to do! That’s like saying “All you need to do is take these tubes of paint and make a Picasso!” Let’s face the facts here: quality, original, and niche content takes time and resources; it’s not something you can half-ass or bang out in an afternoon. You need to worry about timing, environment, topic, execution, and reposting. And like I mentioned earlier, you can do everything right and still not achieve viral status.

2. Use Thorough Video Descriptions – Why wouldn’t you? This isn’t a tip! This is something you should be doing right from the start to take advantage of keywords for SEO!

3. Add Tags that Identify Your Video’s Keywords – This “tip” is unnecessarily separate from “tip” number 2.

4. Promote Your Video Through Social Networks – Again, this is nothing new. Standard practices are not tips.

5. Engage in Conversations on Youtube – Now this is a sound piece of advice. Many marketers forget to answer questions or make comments on their Youtube content. Taking this step can show you go above and beyond to engage with people who enjoy your content, and if there’s anything the people of Internet enjoy most, it’s that their opinions are heard.

I know this must all sound so cynical, but there are only so many best practice articles you read before they start becoming repetitive. Social media marketers are always looking for new ways to innovate their craft because the industry is in constant flux. Rules and tips that work today might not be relevant in 6 month’s time, trends change every single hour, and the global narrative of the Internet has no constant (except for the love of cats). Many of us look to sites like Forbes, Social Media Today, and Mashable to keep up to date with the latest tips and strategies. You guys and gals are the experts! Show us you mean business, because you’re held to a higher standard when it comes to your information!

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What is “Quality Content”?

It’s the buzzword that’s on every social media marketer’s vocabulary: Quality Content. But what exactly does it mean? There’s no magic formula that will make every post you make instantly popular, because “quality” is a completely subjective term that’s dependent on your target audience. That’s right, you don’t decide whether or not the things you post are considered “quality content”, that status is given by the people who access that content and deem it “quality” enough to share with their friends. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not adhering to your personal concept of quality content; you are always creating it for your readers and consumers. This means you have to be wary of your use of language, images, and post frequency. Vary and adjust your vocabulary to match your audience and post where they post most often.

So how do you define quality content? Do you gauge its worth by Likes or Shares? Or do you delve deeper and look at how long someone stayed at your article, whether or not they scrolled all the way down, etc? All of these are valid markers of quality content, but whether or not the marker applies with change from post to post.

When You TELL Your Story, You SELL Your Story

Every once in a while it’s nice to see a credible source confirming your ideas on marketing and social media, namely how you should approach supposed “best practices” that seem to rehash the same strategies over and over again. It makes you wonder if there has been any progress in the industry, or if the writers of these articles are just summarizing other people in a huge circle of paraphrasing that leads nowhere. In any case, I’ve always pushed for companies to use social networks in a very basic way: as a social network rather than just a marketing tool. This means your company or business needs to have a personality. It needs to have a story. Check out this TED Talk with Simon Sinek, says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The most important circle, the center of everything, is WHY you do something, and that’s where your story comes in. The “why” does not mean “to make a profit”, but rather a personal statement on what you’re trying to achieve independent of whether or not people want to buy your product. What does your company’s mission mean to you, CEO? What special significance does the product have for you, Social Marketer? Look at number two on this Forbes article titled “Increase Customer Acquisition by 400% With Storytelling“: Be a trusted person not trying to sell something. This incredibly important method of utilizing social networks for marketing purposes requires you to be a person whose personality emulates that of an expert fan of your company. You need to be as enthusiastic about your product as your most loyal customer, providing information in palatable, easy-to-understand terms, as well as an inside look at the company’s inner workings. The person you hire to fill this roll needs to be an inside source for your audience, a spy that can give them exclusive information in a seemingly secretive way, but also on a highly visible stage: social media sites. Be human. Sound human. Something as simple as a reminder any questions can be handled through private messaging or even a form on your site will create an open and welcome environment for your target audience. Once you find a healthy balance between human activities and company marketing, you’re going to reach people in a more meaningful way.

Are Businesses the Bane of Social Networks?

The support of big corporations means big money for any site, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but does business involvement ruin the social experience for everyone? I think so. If you introduce money and profit into social networking, then the entire package becomes a business. The social network needs revenue to pay for ever-expanding server and maintenance costs, and businesses want to advertise to as many people as possible; what better way to do so that with social media? It’s where people focus their attention, not only during downtime, but also during work, on lunch breaks, and any time a free moment presents itself. We are a connected generation, and for that reason alone we are being sold to the highest bidder, often from right under our noses. Most people don’t even realize it?

So what about you is being sold? Information, of course. Every time you visit a site, click a link, click into and out of a social network, or read an article, data about you is being collected using tracking cookies. Your behavior, your likes and dislikes, the activities and interactions between you and your family – all of this is being monitored, quantified, and studied in order for corporations to advertise to you more effectively. Why are clickbait articles so rampant? Because people on social networks are clicking on them. Each site featuring these clickbait articles and lists knows exactly where you came from, who shared the referral link, how long you spent on their site, and how often you click on similar articles. They then pay Facebook advertising money to shove more of the same articles into your newsfeed. Don’t you ever wonder why ads seem to only feature things you’ve looked at or are interested in? It’s because you’re being watched.

When a social network cares more about the money it makes and less about the communities it fosters and the connections its users make with each other, it starts to show over time. Facebook’s Pages now longer have the organic (unpaid) reach it used to, because, according the Facebook admins, they want reduce SPAM. The people most affected by this: small companies, start-ups, and people who want to get a leg up in a vast community that used to be a treasure trove of potential followers. You can access the people you want to follow your Page…you just have to pay to make it happen. So no, Facebook, it’s not about reducing SPAM. You’re a multi-billion dollar company. You can find a way to fix this problem without hamstringing everyone who can’t afford to pay.

Did You Even Read It?

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Who’s to blame for the latest trend of posting links with sensationalist headlines? It’s hard to tell, but we all know one thing: it’s working. Well, working in that people share the content, but failing in that most people don’t even access the content for more than just the headline or the first paragraph. In fact, I’m amazed at its effectiveness. Viral content from over 10 years ago have come back with shiny new headlines and rekindled a long dead netpidemic (let’s see if I can make this term trend!). This is the latest craze, the best material we can find, and the perfect method of gathering data on the unsuspecting public through social media channels. They know where you’re coming from, and often these articles of extreme exaggeration have social logins that not only broadcasts what social sites you use, but also with whom you’re sharing the content. Other bits of data include how long you’ve stayed on the page, whether or not you’ve scrolled all the way down (that’s why some pages load partway until you scroll), and even where your mouse lingers and for how long (Clicktale). And that’s just the tip o the iceberg! If you really want to know how many ways a site is tracking your actions, install the Ghostery app. I mean just look at this. ghosteryThere are TWENTY different tracking tools and social buttons! Most sites have a hard time coming up with 4!

So what’s wrong with it? Some will say it’s harmless fun, but in my opinion, it perpetuates the spread of inaccurate data, compromises you and your friends’ right to privacy, and clutters up our social media feeds. So what can we do as users? What can the owners of these sites do as content producers? For the latter, try producing quality content without resorting to sensationalist headlines! It’s hard work, yes, but you shouldn’t have to lure people into sharing your content without actually reading your content! Why bother with any articles at all? You’d do just as well to simply have the headline and a pretty image to with it. As users we can stop sharing Clickbait content. Or at the very least we can read the articles and THEN decide whether or not it’s worth sharing! Content producers create these sensationalist headlines because people are sharing them, and people are sharing them because they’re too lazy to read. If no one takes the first step, then we’re never going to get anywhere, the content’s going to get worse, and your private information becomes that much more of a commodity. You have been warned. Now stop it!