So you’ve got a website and need traffic

There are lots of ways to generate traffic to your website, but today we’ll just discuss one method:  using YouTube and viral videos.

What exactly is a viral video or viral marketing?

Well, just like a flu virus, it’s something that gets passed around.  Obviously with the flu, it’s not such a great thing.  But when it’s your marketing message, you want that getting passed around as much as possible.

The idea with viral marketing is to make something that really grabs people’s attention and entertains them in some way, to the point that they feel the need to share it with their friends.

So then you’ve got lots of people passing around your marketing message for you, reaching far more people than you might have been through your own marketing efforts alone.  Once it starts spreading, it’s all free publicity.

There are various types of viral marketing formats.  It could be an e-mail that keeps getting circulated, or an e-book, etc.  But let’s focus on videos.

Videos on the Internet have really exploded in recent years.  Many people spend more time watching videos online than they do watching television.  Sites like YouTube are extremely popular and many people spend hours each day watching videos and passing along their favorites to their friends.  Popular videos can receive millions of views in a fairly short time period.  Clearly, there is potential there for lots of exposure.

What makes a video viral?

In a nutshell, it has to be entertaining and unique.

As to what is entertaining, that varies from person to person, and the type of things one person would pass on to their friends, the next person might not.

Videos that get passed around might be funny, odd, shocking, provocative, sad, thought-provoking, surprising, and so on.  But it also has to be at least somewhat unique and has to stand out as something that’s worth remembering and sharing.

The best way to get an idea of what types of videos are viral is to stop and think about what your friends have sent you.  Have your friends told you you need to check out such-and-such video on YouTube, or have they sent you an e-mail with a link, or posted a video on Facebook?

That’s the kind of stuff to pay attention to.  Then stop and think about why people are passing it around.

Another place to look for ideas is commercials from “The Big Game”.  Yeah, you know the biggest football game of the year that everyone watches.  I’m not using the actual name of it because it’s trademarked and they don’t allow anyone to actually mention the name.  That’s why stores and places usually just refer to it as “the big game”.  Kind of weird, I know.  And I’m not sure who all that applies to so I’m just being on the safe side.

Half of the people just watch the game for the commercials.  Which ones stand out in your mind?  The things that make those memorable and make you talk about them with your friends are the things you need to include in your video if you want it to be viral.

For me personally, the videos I usually hear about, as well as the ones I usually pass along to friends, are funny videos.

Sometimes the videos were not even intended to be funny.  Sometimes the person shooting the video was serious, but something about the video is funny to other people.  Sometimes it’s funny because it’s just really odd or unusual.  Sometimes it can even be annoying.

Examples of Viral Videos

Below are a couple examples of videos that have been passed around a lot.  These are ones friends have told me about and that I’ve told others about.  Oddly enough, these are both for furniture stores, and they are both commercials.

A lot of the viral videos being passed around are not actual commercials, but are just entertaining in some way. If they are intentionally made to be viral, somewhere the person’s website or business name is mentioned, maybe at the end of the video.  But these are actual commercials.

My assumption is that the first video was not necessarily created with the intention of being passed around on the Internet, but the second one was.

Flea Market Montgomery

This video is both funny and annoying.  You find yourself with the song stuck in your head the next day.  “It’s just like, it’s just like… a mini mall”.

As of this writing, this particular video has had over five and a half million views!  Talk about exposure!  And it’s really more than that because other people have put the video in their own accounts and have lots of views as well.

I really don’t know what that’s done for this business.  I’ve heard they have done really well but I really don’t know.  I do know that the guy in the video has been on national TV as a result of that commercial.

I do know I’m not going to drive to Alabama just to go to that store.  But what if they had a website?  Who knows, if they listed their website in the commercial I might have gone there just out of curiosity.  And if their website was well done and their prices were good, I might have even clicked around to see what they had.

I really don’t know if they had any idea that video would be viral when they were shooting the commercial.  One way or another, it definitely has the whole poor-quality local commercial feel to it.

Red House Furniture

This video was intended to look like an amateur local commercial.  And it does have the real employees in the commercial.  But it was made terrible on purpose.  The guys that made the video are doing something similar for some other small local businesses.

Again, I don’t know for sure what impact this has had on the business, but I’ve heard they have done really well.  As of this writing they’ve had well over 2 million views.

They were smart and included their website address in the video.  They don’t actually sell any of their products on their website, but they do sell t-shirts that are related to the video.  That’s a great idea.  Many of the people watching the video and passing it around are going to be teenagers, who would be interested in buying a t-shirt that they find funny.

How To Do It

As you can see, a properly executed video can get millions of views.  That can mean quite a few people will be seeing your name, brand, or website.  But how do you convert those views into dollars?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to mention your website in the video.  It should be clearly visible on the screen, spelled out so there’s no doubt about the spelling.  Along with just listing the website address, you need to give people a reason to go there.  Just knowing what your website address is doesn’t mean they’ll go there.  You might get a few curious people, but if you give them a solid reason to visit your site, you’ll get a lot more.

It could be that you have more videos like this one there, or maybe something they can get for free, or maybe you don’t tell them specifically what they’ll find but make them curious about what they’ll find there.

You’ll want to put a link to your website anywhere else you can, such as in the info section about the video and about you.

However, having your website address in the video itself is really the most important step because if it really does become viral, other people will often copy the video into their own account or playlist, and then people won’t see any links you put in your account, but only the video and whatever is in the account of that person.  Also, some people will post it to their blogs and things like that, so unless your website address is on the screen in the video itself, you’ll be missing out on a lot of exposure and you won’t get the full benefit from your video being passed around.

Now, I think you can probably see the benefits of having a viral video that people pass around for you and spread your marketing message to all their friends.  However, you need to be aware of a few things if you’re going to give it a try.

First of all, it’s hard to predict what will be viral.  Sometimes things you’d never expect to be viral get passed around like crazy.  Then things you would think would get passed around aren’t.  I wouldn’t recommend investing a lot of money into something purely on the hopes that it will become viral.  Not unless you really have a solid plan and you’ve run it by a lot of other people first.

Keep in mind that just because you think something will be funny doesn’t mean everyone else will.

Also, don’t go overboard with the sales message.  Unless the entire thing is meant to be a commercial, such as in the examples above, then the marketing part of the message should be pretty short in comparison with the video.  Maybe it would just be a few seconds at the very end of the video where you mention your website.

If you study some of the videos that have been passed around the most, you’ll find that many are not high-quality, professionally recorded videos.  Many have a very amateur nature to them.  So you don’t necessarily need to invest a lot of money into recording your viral video.

You might be able to just get a simple camera that can record video, such as a Flip camera, which makes it easy to not only record the video, but also upload it to YouTube.

You might need to do a little editing of the video.  If it’s really simple edits, you might be able to do this using software that’s already on your computer.  For instance, Windows comes with Windows Movie Maker, which has some pretty nice basic features for editing video.  Some of the features might seem kind of cheesy, but who knows, maybe that’s just what will help make your video viral.

Have you enjoyed this article?  You can leave comments below.  Also, I’ve included some additional resources in case you’d like to read more on this topic.

Additional reading on this topic:

TubeTraffic:  Discover the Little Known Secrets of Getting Free Traffic From YouTube

Viral Video Research