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SXSW Report: Don’t Aim for Viral Video Success

For companies that want their online promotional videos to go viral, a packed second-day South by Southwest Interactive panel had a message: forget about it. Calling viral a dirty word, the panel, led by Jeremy Sanchez, CEO and founder of Global Strategies, and Robert John Davis, executive director for advanced video practice of Ogilvy, instead pointed bands to more useful online video strategies.

The pair presented what they called a five-step antiviral program, designed to take brands from video creation to analytics.

Step 1: Have a Plan

Tie your videos to real-world trigger events, such as the Super Bowl. If you need help thinking of trigger events, look to Google trends to see when appropriate key words get searched. If people naturally search for a certain topic at a certain time of year, that's a trigger.

Also, plan what your viewers should do after watching your video. This is called post-play interaction. Don't just put a URL at the end of a video, but encourage a desirable action.

Step 2: Creative in Context

SXSW Viral VideoMarketing videos need a job to do, such as bridging content and delivering promotional messages. When videos serve a purpose, the viewer is more likely to be engaged.

Step 3: Optimize First

Before launching videos, think about top key words and more descriptive phrases to use as meta tags. Look for terms that people are searching on, but that aren't yet used by competitors.

Brands need to think hard about a YouTube channel name before starting one, because they'll be stuck with their choice for a long time. Don't name a channel after a campaign that will be over in 18 months. Also, skip creating a fancy opening for company videos. They annoy the viewers, especially repeat viewers who have to see the opening multiple times.

Step 4: Distribute & Promote

Online video success can be spurred by marketers, and not everything that looks like a viral hit really went viral. To illustrate their point, Sanchez and Davis showed a Liquid Plumr ad that recently took off. While the analytics made it look like a viral hit, they showed that it only started to grow after an online media ad buy.

Step 5: Measure What Matters

When thinking about video analytics, marketers often think about views, shares, complete views, and social media referrals. While these are worthwhile measurements, they're only the beginning, the pair urged. Pay attention to business-oriented metrics such as post-play interactions, leads generated, products sold, and brand lift. Tracking some of these may require working with an outside agency that studies real-world purchases.

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