How To Make A Viral Social Media Video

Ewan Roxburgh
June 24, 2020
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“Make it go viral”

They’re the words marketers dread to here. Finding success with a video on social media will mean different things to every business. Achieving your objectives should be the priority, but making a viral social media video is always an attractive proposition. But let it be known: there is no secret to making a viral social media video.

Plenty of people will try to convince you they’ve got the secret. Of course, people have endeavoured to go viral and succeeded but there’s no hidden trick. If anything, it’s perhaps having the right bit of content at the right time, with a little bit of luck on your side. That being said, there’s plenty you can do to give it your best shot.

Viral videos on YouTube.

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

Making the ‘right’ social media video

Of course, it all starts with the content. If you want your video to exist on socials, be sure to let your production company in on your plans as there’s plenty to consider through the production process.   

Perhaps the most important thing is to ensure your video is shareable. There ought to be a compelling reason to watch the video, and for others to want others to see it. That’s key. 

Ask yourself, why would someone watch it? More importantly, why would someone share it? Make something people would want to share with their friends and family. Think of reasons why Metro Train’s Dumb Ways to Die went viral. It’s cute yet creepy, colourful but dark, quirky and brilliant. 

Often viral social media video is timely. Maybe it’s funny, empowering, thought-provoking. Sometimes, even just being plain weird is enough! More often than not there’s a payoff. Deliver something of value to the audience, be it informative, entertaining or emotive. Emotive might work particularly well given all that’s going on in the world right now. It’ll all just depend on what’s right for your brand. 

Obviously that requires a robust understanding of your audience and what interests them most. It’s important to consider the difference between each social platform too. For example, Facebook attracts perhaps the most diverse audience, with a user base that skews older, whilst Instagram might attract a younger crowd and Tik Tok, younger still.

Other great examples include Red Bull’s incredible video stunts, OK Go’s music video collaboration with Chevrolet and Dollar Shave clubs straight to the point introductions.

Get their attention and keep it

Get to the point! Don’t prolong the introduction or dilly daddle in the middle. Get your brand in within the first few seconds, then keep the pace going and don’t make the audience wait too long for the payoff. If you’ve got a call-to-action or a promotion, include it midway before attention drops off. 

How people consume video advertising according to Facebook.

Source: Facebook Business

Length is always up for debate. It depends on the content, but a good rule of thumb is to keep it around the 3-minute mark as a maximum (bearing in mind Facebook encourage a minimum length of 3 minutes per their new ‘quality content’ strategy). Anything much longer than 3 minutes all too easily overstays its welcome.

Ads are a different story. Keep them a super sharp 15 seconds at a maximum. They might be a cut down version of your main video, with just the highlights, the brand, the call-to-action and/or the offer.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this in action, is a Hollywood blockbuster trailer, like this one for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017). It’s become a trend to boil down the whole trailer into an action-packed 5 seconds that includes the movie title almost immediately. I’d be surprised if you click off the video before you at least see the title.

Support your video with little things like eye-catching copy, a caption and thumbnail are important. Play into people’s curiosity. Pose an interesting question that can only be answered by watching your video. People talk a lot about clickbait. Clickbait’s only ever a problem if it’s disingenuous. If you do pose a question be sure to answer it. Get people wondering, but avoid cliches like “you won’t believe what happens next!”

Again, it’s dependent on what fits your brand. It has to make sense coming from you. Be genuine and authentic. From the content to the caption, it has to be delivered with a tone of voice right for your audience and true to your brand.

To square, or not to square?

That is indeed the question. Ask your resident film aficionado and they’ll probably tell you “no”, but I’m here to tell you “YES”.

A square video with a length to height ratio of 1:1 (referred to as an ‘aspect ratio’) takes up more screen space than a standard 16:9 video. More screen space means it’s more likely to make an impression as someone scrolls through a feed

However, you should be careful! Taking a video and making square cropping a video to make it square, you might lose important bits of the shot or crop text. Speak to an experienced editor to get it right. If we’re making the video for you, let us know what you’d prefer and we can help you out.

Whilst you’re at it, consider making one in a vertical, 9:16 ratio too. That’ll look top-notch on Instagram or Facebook Stories, IGTV, Snapchat or Tik Tok, whatever you’d fancy. If you want to run ads on any of these platforms too, that’s essential. But whatever you choose to do, keep it consistent going forward to keep all your content looking neat and tidy.

The three aspect ratios you will need for social media video.

Post it directly onto the platform!

It can be tempting to just upload your video to YouTube and share the link around, but you’re always better to upload it natively onto each platform. Yes, that requires a bit of work, but the in-built video player typically is a better experience for the viewer and is treated more favourably by the algorithms, especially by Facebook, which could increase the potential of it to go viral and get a higher view count.

You might get away with YouTube links on LinkedIn and Twitter, as it will still play in place, but you lose the benefit of autoplay. 

Be sure to jump on relevant tags/hashtags if appropriate, or coin your own if you’re seeking to include it as part of a campaign, spark a trend or want to keep it branded. If you’re confident in getting some engagement, shares or user-generated content in reply, that’s a great way to go. 

Post video on Instagram.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

A note on Instagram

A video posted directly onto an Instagram Feed has a 60-second limit. That’s a little restrictive. Some people split the video into 60-second chunks and post it in a gallery but it’s super annoying to have to scroll right to the next part of the video after every minute. It’s also a little painful selecting a single frame as your thumbnail, particularly if you’re trying to get a fancy looking layout going on your Profile. Thankfully, IGTV is here to help.

IGTV can accommodate videos 60 seconds to 10 minutes long and can have custom thumbnails if you want to make it look snazzy. You can also opt not to have a preview on your profile. Ideally, you’ll have a vertical version of your video (with a 9:16 ratio) but you can also use the regular 16:9; the viewer can rotate their phone in that case and view the normal widescreen version.

Spotify Australia does a fantastic job of leveraging a variety of video content on Instagram and keeping it all consistent with their branding. On their Feed, they keep content square and cleverly embed the chosen thumbnail somewhere in the video. Their IGTV is reserved for longer-form interviews with artists and live music performances. They ensure the video is edited to suit each location.

An example of a vertical video on Instagram from Spotify Australia.

What about sound?

Sound is an important consideration. Yes, it’s half of your video, but how often do you watch a video without sound? I’d guess a lot! It’s been reported that 85% of the time we watch videos without sound.

If your video is reliant on sound (e.g. narration, dialogue, etc) be sure to attach an SRT subtitles file. Your video team should be able to provide you with one. That means if your audience is in a noisy environment or don’t have access to a pair of headphones, they’re sorted.

And how about video formats, framerates, resolutions, aspect ration, all that stuff?

I’ll spare you the boring details. Every social platform has slightly different specifications when it comes to video. The wonderful people at SproutSocial keep a Google Doc updated with the latest specifications if you want, but there’s a simple three things that ought to cover you.

  1. Is it an MP4 file (i.e. does it end with .mp4)?
  2. Is the framerate 30 frames per second (fps) or less?

Chances are your video team will have provided you with a usable file but if you’re unsure, just check with whoever exported the video for you.

All a bit much?

Getting the video just right can be a challenge. If you want a make a viral social media video, there’s an advantage of working with video production professionals like those you’ll find at Creativa. If we can help you put together a video for socials, let us know.

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Creativa provides complete video production and animation services for clients direct or for agencies nationwide, specialising in creating content that engages Aussie audiences. Working with local crews dotted around the country to capture live-action video footage, we manage all the coordination for you. Whatever type of video you need, we’ve got you covered.