The Old Spice man, Dollar Shave Club, Van Damme doing those epic splits. These are all viral videos that as soon as we hear the description, we immediately recognize the brand behind them.
A viral video is a great way to boost your brand and this is something that my guest, Ed Herman, recognized. In his interview on The Rankings Podcast, Ed told us all about his viral videos and how he’s reached millions of potential clients.
Ed’s videos “3 Lawyers Eating Sandwiches” and “Ed Versus” regularly pull in millions of views. And he says the secret to his videos’ success is all to do with giving audiences what they want.
Most of my videos have gotten over a million each on Facebook…You got to give people something they want to watch… Most of what they're doing on the internet is for pleasure. We're all looking for things that either we laugh at or educate us… So if we're doing something like Ed V. Naps, which was one of the biggest hits we've had, that's a perfect example of one where you are learning something and you're also laughing… I didn't invent it. I'm just playing to that formula and doing my own version of it.
So one of Ed’s secrets to a great viral video is giving people something they want, amusement and knowledge. But if you want to create your own viral video, what are the other elements you need to consider?
Make It Emotional
This is something we mentioned in our article on the importance of emotion in video marketing. The idea is that effective stories and videos stick with us because they resonate with us on an emotional level. This can be a challenge with viral videos because, generally, they’re short, giving you less time to make that connection.
And making your video emotional doesn’t just mean making it funny. You could lean into bewilderment (see “JCVD doing the splits or Will It Blend?”), sadness (the kitten being resuscitated by a fireman (GoPro)) or any emotion. Just make sure the emotion is clear and strikes a chord with your audience.
If you need more motivation for making your video emotional, Harvard Business Review even released findings that showed that “the greater the intensity of feeling the content evokes, the more likely people are to share it.” So making it resonate doesn’t just make your content memorable, it makes it shareable too.
Stand Out From The Crowd
If every law firm had the same logo and color scheme, it’d be impossible for yours to stand out. So don’t make your viral video look just like anyone else’s either. Part of what makes a viral video so memorable is its uniqueness. And that novelty is another factor that makes them so shareable.
If you close your eyes and think of a standard law firm commercial, you’ll probably imagine some silenced slow-mo shots of suited attorneys talking to clients, big desks and bookshelves, or even a figure in a hard hat falling off a ladder. They’re common tropes among law firm commercials and you could probably think of several ads that use them.
So find something unique about you, your firm, or your message that you want your audience to see. It could be something to do with your niche, or a motto, maybe even a nickname (think of The Hammer). Expand on that X-factor and use that as a starting point to base your viral video on. You could even abstract that idea and lean into metaphor. There’s really no limit to how creative you can be with it, just make sure it’s unique, memorable, and inspires conversation.
Keep It Short
The hallmark of nearly every viral video is the length. With the exception of Ed Herman’s videos, they’re short and snackable forms of content. You’d be hard-pressed to find one over two minutes in length. And that succinct format is part of the reason why they spread around so quickly. They don’t bombard you with so much information that the key message gets lost. And the length makes them extremely memorable.
But with this short format comes a challenge – communicating what you want to communicate. And that’s why it’s crucial to keep your message and intention crystal clear. It can’t be as broad as "boosting awareness of your brand", you need to home in on something precise.
For example “we are trucking injury experts” (the Hammer commercials) “make your man smell great” (Old Spice). They all have remarkably clear messages they’re trying to communicate and audiences recognize that. Viewers aren’t left confused and wondering whether they’ve just seen an ad for perfume or a luxury yacht (as with any of the thousands of fragrance commercials).
And just because it’s short, it doesn’t mean you should skimp on the production value. In fact, use the shorter length as an excuse to funnel more into production. Otherwise, you’ll be left with something that looks lazily executed, which definitely does not make for a viral video.
Make It Shareable
This is probably the most important element of your viral video. Being viral means that the content practically shares itself, with viewers passing it on from one person to the next. So don’t make it hard for your audience to do so.
Make the video easily searchable with some great SEO so people can find it. Post the video on multiple platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram (see our article on social media for lawyers for more) so it’s readily accessible on any platform. And optimize the content for each platform, such as setting a different crop ratio for Facebook and Instagram so the video fits better.
Also consider adding captions to drastically increase your reach. It’s not only for the hard of hearing, in fact, 85% of viewers on Facebook watch videos without sound. And pay particular attention to your thumbnails as this is what your audience will see before watching your video. So make it eye-catching and impossible for your audience to ignore.
Let Your Audience Take Action
As with any online ad, you need to make the next steps for your audience apparent. Let your viral video play out before you start advertising your links though – you don’t want your viral masterpiece dismissed as “just another ad” by bombarding your audience with a call to action too early on.
Let them enjoy the content first and make that all-important emotional connection. Then, once it’s over, display your links. It’s crucial to let your audience enjoy your viral video, which might make it tempting to shy away from adding too much in terms of next steps or contact links, but if you’ve made an impression, they’re going to want to find out more. So don’t make it hard for them.
As with anything, research is key, so to see what makes a great viral video for a law firm, why not check out Ed Herman’s Ed V. The Dark Knight or some of his other videos for inspiration.