Why Your Video Probably Won’t Go Viral

video production

Image courtesy of Movieing Memories on Flickr

Video is a powerful medium for storytelling. As companies compete for attention many are turning to video production to try to build brand equity and increase inbound web traffic.  Content developers are increasingly asked to make “viral videos” for their clients, and corporate media departments are struggling to keep up with the workload and the expectations. So here’s the truth.

Your viral video is a daunting, and probably impossible, task.

Videos go viral because of some unique combination of humor, entertainment and education. It’s a mystery why a piece of content is shared repeatedly across social networks, and the competition is becoming more intense than ever.

Here’s why.

According to a recent Pew Research study the percentage of adults who upload a video has doubled. Mobile phones have become part of this video experience, making it easy to record everyday events and post them to a social media site like Facebook or YouTube. The advent of video apps such as Vine and the inclusion of video in photo sharing social networks like Instagram is contributing to the clutter. Think of it this way. Your brand’s “viral video” is now competing with everything. Posts from friends, status updates from your spouse, sports clips, news events, quirky cards – you get the idea. For a video to go “viral” it has to be better than ALL that content. More compelling, more thought provoking, more humorous. See where I’m going?

So what’s a social media marketer to do?

Don’t despair. As part of an overall content marketing strategy, investment in video production is still a good idea.  78% of internet users watch or download online videos. With a little planning, brand videos have a long shelf life.  If optimized well and thought out, they can be the content gift that keeps on giving  – repeatedly drawing a new audience from search.

What’s the most popular video content being consumed?


Comedy, educational videos and “how to” videos.

Comedy is tough. Get it right and you’re off and running. The truth is most of the time comedy falls flat. Then, you’ve hurt your brand in your lame attempt to entertain. Instead, edutain. Use your resources on educational and “how to.” That type of useful content will keep visitors coming, since the utility remains strong long after publication.

So instead of worrying about how to make the next trendy viral video, make videos that help your customers learn something. Show them how to use your product or solve a problem.  Be useful.

Useful and helpful will ALWAYS be trendy.


Social Media Branding and Photo Size Roundup

Maintaining consistent branding across your social media and web marketing presences is important to your overall brand strategy. Here’s the first in a series of articles on each social media platform and how to make the best use of the tools there to maintain a solid, consistent brand. Let’s begin with a roundup of photo sizes, rules and updates you’ll need to keep your accounts looking sharp and up-to-date.

Facebook Timeline Cover and Profile Photos

Facebook Profile Picture Size

For Facebook brand page profile pictures upload a square image of your brand’s logo or use another square image that represents your brand. The display size for the profile picture on a Facebook Timeline brand page is 160 x 160 pixels. Uploaded images must be at least 180 x 180 pixels and will be cropped to fit.   On your Page’s cover photo the profile picture displays 23 pixels from the left side and 210 pixels from the top. Read Facebook’s full detailed post on cover photos here for more details.

Facebook Timeline Cover Photo Size

Facebook Timeline cover photos are 851 wide by 315 pixels tall. Images smaller than this will be stretched to fit, which could affect the quality. Use a high quality image in this space to welcome your fans, but make sure you follow the rules and regulations for Timeline cover photos. Cover photos can not contain references to discounts, contact information or calls to action such as “get it now” or “become a fan.”

To add a cover photo to your Facebook Timeline, hover over the cover photo area and click “choose cover.” From there you can upload a photo from your computer or choose a photo from your Facebook photo albums. Either way, choose an image that represents your brand and your personality.

Facebook gives you the details on cover photo sizes here.

Here’s how both the cover photo and the Timeline photo are placed on the page:

Facebook Timeline photo placement

From Facebook.com/help

Google + Profile Settings

Google Plus profile pictures should be 250 pixels x 250 pixels. Google will ask you to crop images larger than that to fit upon upload. Cover images should be 940 x 180 pixels or you can use the thumbnail images as an option, which are each 112 x 112 pixels. Unlike Facebook, Google (currently) doesn’t have the same restrictions for branding and CTAs in cover photos so brand away!

YouTube Brand Channel

Unless you have an official  brand channel, your YouTube profile photo is the same as your Google profile. The current wisdom for a YouTube background image is 970 pixels wide; however, YouTube offers a lot more options through it’s official brand channels. Brand channels have a 970 pixels wide x 150-pixel-high banner which supports an image map so you can add links to your image. There is a 640-pixel-wide video player in the main content area and a 310-pixel-wide sidebar for displaying stats about your channel and links to your other social media accounts. On YouTube brand channels your image avatar should be 1600px by 1600px and should be a JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG. For a complete guide to setting up an official YouTube branded channel visit their how-to page here. 

Twitter Profile Branding

Twitter background images should be no more than 90 pixels maximum on the left and must be in PNG, GIF, or JPG format, smaller than 800k. For your Twitter header image, use an image 1252×626 pixels (with a maximum file size of 5MB). Upload this image in the “design” section of your profile.

LinkedIn Branding

If you’ve made a company page for your business on LinkedIn, there are more options for branding available. Minimum size for the header image is 646 x 220 pixels but LinkedIn will allow you to crop a larger image once you’ve uploaded it. Logo images should be 100 x 60 pixels. If you’re adding banner images under the products and services pages, those images should be 640 x 220. LinkedIn allows company pages up to three banner images. Use this space to highlight your most important products. 

I’ll continue this series with in-depth instructions for each platform, but for now let this serve as a cheat sheet of sorts. Do you have any suggestions for branding your pages? Leave them here in the comments or on my Facebook page.

Using You Tube for Marketing

Although according to lore YouTube was created as a dating site, it has evolved into much more. Here’s a fun fact. According to Mashable.com, YouTube was created when one founder, Jawed Karim, unsuccessfully searched for footage of Janet Jackson’s now famous “wardrobe malfunction, and when he and his two friends Chad Hurley and Steven Chen realized they could not share videos through email because of attachment limitations. The three realized the missing link for sharing and sending videos, and YouTube was born.

YouTubeYou Tube isn’t just a video platform, it is also a social network. Because of YouTube’s easy to use format, messages are spread quickly and efficiently across a variety of mediums including Facebook and Twitter, embedded in websites, and via email. You can easily add a YouTube video to your website or your Facebook account, and the end user does not need any special viewer like Windows Media Player or Quick Time to view it.

400 tweets per minute contain a YouTube video, and YouTube’s search bar is the number two search bar on the Internet, second only to Google. Collectively we spend 2.9 billion hours on YouTube in one month. So, if you’re using social media for marketing, YouTube has the potential to be an important part of your overall strategy.

So what’s a marketer to do if you want to make use of the medium, but don’t have a media department or the first idea of how to make videos? You might not have access to Steven Spielberg, or even Ken Burns, but you can still use YouTube to highlight and reinforce your message and to create dialoge around your content. Here’s how.

Customize Your Channel

YouTube allows customization of your channel to compliment your branding, as well as to highlight the content you want center stage. You can set which video displays first and how your playlists and content are displayed. By signing up for YouTube, you automatically have a channel – that’s how YouTube works. Customize your channel to and add a description of its contents. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll have access to a menu that looks like this:

YouYube Settings

This is where you can set up your theme and colors, the modules you want displayed (other channels, comments, subscribers), and decide what playlists, layout and which video you’d like to appear in the “featured” spot. You can even set that video to auto play when users arrive at your channel.

A note about comments. Decide in advance how you want to handle comments, and base this decision on your overall social media strategy. How much engagement do you want? If you are serious about the “social” in social media, the answer will be ” as much as I can get,” but if your strategy is broadcast only, you might decide against using comments. If you allow comments think about who will be assigned to moderate them, and what features you’d like. There are several options:

  • Everyone can automatically comment
  • Friends can comment, others need approval
  • Only friends can comment
  • Everyone needs approval

My advice is to either allow all comments or allow comments with approval. Even though there is a friend option, people don’t use friends like they do on Facebook. If your channel becomes popular and you have “everyone needs approval” checked, you risk cutting off the sharing you’re trying to encourage (because their comment won’t post immediately), and you also risk clogging up your email box with requests for comment approvals. Since comments are emailed to the address associated with the account, you should see the comments as they come in. Be prepared to respond to them quickly if needed.

Curate Content

You can use YouTube to curate content from other channels without uploading a single original video. Use keyword searches to search by category, duration, upload date, features and more, and choose a few videos to add to your channel to get started. Create a favorite list or a playlist, then use the playlist settings to arrange the videos and choose which lists you want displayed. The beauty of these playlists is that the list itself can be embedded into your blog or your website so that when a video is added it is automatically updated on your website. To get the embed code, open your playlist and choose edit My Playlist, then click on the share tab. The embed code is displayed there and can be dropped into your existing website or blog.

Original Content

Maybe you don’t have a professional media department, but don’t let that stop you from creating good content. With a simple flip camera, or even a mobile phone with video capabilities, you can create basic videos. When deciding what kind of original content to create, consider these ideas.

Repurpose content you already have. You can use movie making software to create video content out of still photos and slides from a presentation, which you can turn into video. Add some music and perhaps a voiceover, and you have fresh new content for your channel.

Interview clients or experts on a variety of relevant topics. Decide in advance the questions you plan to ask, allow your expert to see those questions and research the answers, then video the interview. Official channels do not have a length requirement, but if you’re using a regular channel remember to keep the video length to under 15 minutes.

Create How-to videos on a variety of topics. Check out howcast.com, which is a company that helps make how to videos, for more ideas on this type of content. Remember you aren’t going for an Oscar, just relevancy and authenticity with your videos. The key is regular posting, allowing your audience to see the real you, and consistent communication with your citizens. Don’t worry about getting every detail exactly right on a homemade video – just worry about being authentic.

Get Found

Search engines can see that you have a video, but they can’t determine the content. To make sure people are finding your channel you must tag your videos and your channel, properly describe your channel, and pay close attention to video titles. If you allow embedding people will be able to spread your message for you without you having to do anything! Cross connect your YouTube channel to your other social media accounts and to your website to encourage sharing, and remind people to subscribe to your channel so they won’t miss important updates.

There you have it. This is really just the beginning of using YouTube for marketing! Do some research to see how other agencies are using the platform to engage, and use those ideas as a jumping off point for your channel. Get creative and have fun.

And…. action!

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