My lovely reader(s) and friend(s) (one and the same?) have been asking me questions related to my near obsession with virality and effective visual communications. Here are some, with my attempts to answer them.
Question number 1: is there a magic way to ensure that a video goes viral? No, there is not. You can try to follow some basic rules that might increase the chances, but ‘virality’ is never guaranteed. I am pretty sure that if you look at the top 20 most viral videos of all times, only few were made with the calculated intention of becoming ‘viral’; they just did. There is however a way to make sure your video is good and effective which brings us to..
Question number 2: does having a lot of money increase the probability of success? Not really. It helps in the production and hence increases the chance that the video will be well-executed. But success is another thing.
Question number 3: is it all about emotions? Do I need to make people laugh or cry? Emotions play a big part in the success of a video. You are much more likely to share something that has hit you in some way. Whether you couldn’t stop laughing, or started crying like a baby.
Let me be very clear. There are videos made with no specific objective in mind. For example, you filmed something funny or sad by chance; you wanted to try something out; you have cute kids or pets and love filming them, and so on. These are the majority of videos that go viral. But when there is a specific objective, emotions will only work if the video has, how shall I put it, A POINT. I know it sounds almost tautological but believe me, it is not.
What I mean is that if you decide to produce a video, have some money, and someone willing to help you do it, the first question you need to ask yourself is: “What do I want to communicate with this video? Why am I doing it?”. If the answer is not convincing – for you first and foremost – then, you can have plenty money and emotions, but your video will not be effective. Let me put it this way: a video can be nicely produced but if it’s unclear why it has been produced than it’s a waste of money and time for the viewer, never mind the producer. And, you know me, I always have a little example:
On YouTube, below this video it says: How many rights have you spotted in this video? Excuse me? Is this a way to get people to watch it again and increase the views? Way too complicated. There are no emotions, it’s true, but it is quite well done. Who doesn’t like a nice domino – although I have seen better ones – and the Brooke Shields look-alike, but sorry..what is the point? To explain to EU citizens they have rights, or to spend the remaining communications budget before the end of the year?
Question number 4: can a video be fun and effective without being superficial? This is the typical question of non-communications experts, now working in the communications department of a company or an institution, but engineers or some such by training. For these people, the problem with videos, but also with communications more broadly, is that it does not allow you to say enough, which means that you inevitably end up being superficial. While understandable, the question is flawed. A video needs to be clear. But simple and superficial are not the same. You cannot say everything you want, but you will be able to say what matters.
And here is my favourite – I swear I have been asked. Question number 5: how important are the images for a good video? If this question makes total sense to you, then you better stick to MS Word as your communications tool. How important? They are key. The images should speak for themselves and that is also why the video above does not work very well. The main reason why video can be so powerful is the amazing force of images and text, often with music, all working together. Images and Music = a slideshow. Music and text = a song. Text = a book.
As we are approaching Christmas, I owe it to you to mention also an uncomfortable, personal question. (Don’t get your hopes up, nothing too exciting).
Question number 6: ‘your blog is nearly two years old; you have watched countless videos and criticised just as many. But how many have you produced? Shouldn’t you put your money where your mouth is?’ I have to confess that sometimes I do fear I might have lost the touch…
But does one lose touch for these things? I guess, that is maybe true for all that is practical, especially with technology changing so fast. I remember when the older producers and reporters were talking to me about shooting on film and not on video….I found it all quite tedious, but the relentless change of technology is slightly disconcerting. And hence I do understand now why they felt the need to point it out. So yes, technology changes and you need to adapt if you don’t want to stay behind.
Insight and judgement on the other hand, no, you can ever lose. And on top of that, I believe most of have a gut feeling that makes us share and like what works, and ignore what doesn’t. Of course all this is a personal thing. But so too is the huge bundle of human emotions that will make something powerful, beautiful, visual, funny or shocking. But still, perhaps I should put myself to the test….another one to add to the list of New Year resolutions?