Why Virality Shouldn’t Be Your Online Video Aim If You’re a Small Business

To understand why virality shouldn’t be your main aim if you’re a small business owner making your own online videos or having online videos made for you, it helps to understand what makes an online video go viral in the first place.

It’s actually not all that complicated to understand.  Take a moment to think about the videos you know of that have gone viral.  My favourites are Charlie Bit My Finger, Double Rainbow, and the Pharrell Williams Happy videos.  These are videos that went viral all on their own, without the bought views that large companies and the music business use to force their videos into an unnatural viral state.  

Okay, so what makes videos go viral?  Videos that utilize and/or evoke the following in the viewer tend to go viral:  

Surprise.  

Humour.  

Oddness.

Novelty.

Spectacle. 

Anger.

Outrage.

Enthusiasm.

Awe.

Joy.

Celebration.

Human power.

Usefulness.  

There are two books I know of that explain virality well; one is Contagious and the other is The Viral Video Manifesto.  If you want to learn more about viral videos these are good places to start.  

Okay, so you want your video to go viral.  You don’t know why.  It just seems like it would be a good idea, and it could drive sales.  So you sit down and try to come up with a bunch of video ideas that include the above bits and pieces in your video.  You make the video.  And maybe you do go viral and a million people watch your video.  Or maybe you don’t.  Most likely you don't because although virality is very easy to understand it isn't so easy to reproduce.  Making a viral video is not something that most people are ever going to pull off.  It takes a certain skill set that is not entirely common.  

And even if you do go viral, will this viral video of yours actually be serving the greatest needs of your current and potential long-term clients and customers? 

For big business, going viral is a way to stay at the top of public mind.  If you’re Wal-mart, you want your videos to go viral so that people will think of you later that day when they are deciding where to go to buy new summer grill accessories (or whatever).  

But if you’re a small business, your goal isn’t to remind people that you exist, it’s to serve your current and potential clients by communicating with them on a deeper level than what is possible with text and photo, on a level that allows for greater connection, and a better understanding of the value that you provide, the problems you solve, and the benefits you will give them.  

You want to be memorable.  You want to resolve any qualms a customer might have.  You want to tell a story that wins them over. 

You aren’t trying to remind one million people that you exist.  You are trying to communicate effectively, with integrity, and in a manner that is enjoyable to watch, so that you can build trust, open up lines of communication, put a human face on your business, and achieve any number of other small business goals.  

So when you’re thinking about making your online small biz video, it’s fine to include some of the elements of virality, but don’t make that your focus.  Make your clients' current and long-term needs the focus of your video and you will be serving both them and your business much more effectively than if you simply focus on making something that a million people will want to share on Facebook.    

-Colette Nichol, Vancouver