News media often talks about "viral videos" having multiple millions of views. That seemingly has set the bar for what is defined as a viral video. But I couldn’t disagree more.
Why do we care? Unlike random videos, businesses are interested in videos for a purpose, and that purpose is conversion; conversion to a sale, conversion that causes an action (to sign up for a newsletter), or even conversion to increased brand recognition. The idea that a business could put a short simple video on YouTube, and then check back later to see it has millions of views would obviously be high on the VP of Marketing’s Christmas list. But it’s not as easy as deciding, “let’s make us one of them there viral videos.”
I recently went to a lunch seminar on video for marketing where the subject of viral videos was breached. The speaker asked if anyone in the audience had a viral video. He further defined a viral video should have over a million views. FREEZE SUCKA!
If we look at the definition of a virus, and how it spreads, it becomes the basis as to why I disagree with said speaker. What happens when you get a cold? Someone near you with a cold sneezes. You unknowingly inhale on of his exhaled virus particles which attach itself to a sinus cell in your nose. The virus particle attacks the healthy cell and begins to reproduce more virus particles that release from the cell and attach themselves to other nearby healthy cells. This process repeats and multiplies until infected cells spread through your nose (giving you a runny nose), down your throat (causing a sore throat), and into your bloodstream (attacks muscle cells causing muscle aches). Your immune system eventually responds to suppress the virus, but before it does, you sneeze and spread virus particles to other people around you. They then infect other people around them, spreading and multiplying.
How does this relate to video? As a video is watched and then subsequently shared to that person’s network because of its educational or entertainment value, it’s gone viral. While small, the viral process has definitely begun.
“But Al, that’s not a lot of views. That video isn’t viral,” says someone reading this. I couldn’t disagree more. Here’s an example of a Jazz musician named Jacob Collier that has a bunch of video that have gone viral within the Jazz community. At the time of this writing, the video has 500k views.
As a jazz musician myself, I watched this video in awe of this 18 year old kid’s talent. I sure as heck shared it on Facebook and Twitter. Subsequently, I saw a number of my friends reshare the post on their Facebook wall. VIRAL! DONE. The conversion was name recognition and as soon as this kid puts out an album or performs in my city, I’M THERE! But, I also noticed that the people who reshared my post were my musician friends. For other non-musicians, there might be too much going on in the video for them to truly appreciate what this kid has done on a musical level (but that’s a whole different conversation for another day and another blog).
If we liken this back to the cold virus,...the Jazz community in this case would be like people on an island. The virus infected many people, but all within the confines of the small secluded island. But as far as Jacob Collier was concerned, the viral nature of the spreading of his video was an incredible success.
In the case of my company, Widen, I’d say the community of people interested in Digital Asset Management software (DAM) is significantly smaller than the Jazz community, so successful viral view numbers could be smaller than what young Mr. Collier achieved.
Here is one of Widen’s videos that lightly explains what DAM is to a new prospect.
Making a B2C viral video is difficult. Making a B2B viral video is even more difficult.
While our video only has 4k views, they came about in a viral fashion being shared a number of times within the DAM community. It helped bring and convert some new customers for us. It was “viral” for us and we are pleased with its performance.
The number of views does not make a video viral. The easiest way to explain this is to look at 2 different hypothetical videos each with 50k views. If ESPN posts a video on their website and 50,000 of their regular website visitors watch but never share it, it’s not viral. If I were to post a video on YouTube of little ole me playing my music and 50,000 people watched it based on a sequence of people sharing it with their network, and then those people resharing it ...THAT is viral. Hopefully they’ll buy my music, and a DAM.