Viral video sites are a relative newcomer to the Internet money making infrastructure and I have not seen them getting much attention of yet with the marketing crowd. However I think they deserve a look because they have the potential to get your brand in front of a very large audience.
It is hard to scroll down through your Facebook timeline without seeing several posts that originate from viral content sites. However these sites do not pay for advertising in order to get those multiple placements on your timeline (at least not directly). They depend on social shares to get the job done for them and it seems to be working.
The ideas related to viral video sites expressed in this article are my own. I mention that because I am going to make some conjectures about how the sites operate and why they do it. I haven’t talked to the owners of any viral video sites however so I can’t guarantee the accuracy of my assumptions but I do believe they are valid in concept and instructive which is the purpose of the article.
The power of viral video (and images) has been more than obvious for some time. The creators of content that goes viral have often seen many opportunities come out of that success. How to be one of the lucky few who can capitalize on the power of viral content has been a hard nut to crack though. Not everyone is lucky enough to be the one who a. creates viral worthy content and b. gets enough exposure for it to “catch fire” and really go viral.
I think that what viral video sites have done is find a way to bypass all of that by learning to capitalize on the success of others. They use either a website or blog to host content from the web which is already viral. Videos are one of the mainstays but images are gaining in popularity among them. Some text based content, mostly humor or shock value based such as what is produced by The Onion, is also used (see image to the right).
This is the exact sort of content that people are likely to share on social networks. I would imagine that you could get the ball rolling by utilizing facebook or twitter featured post ads. You could target those ads to Facebook users who share a lot of content so that you know they will probably help you out in spreading your posts and increasing the traffic to your site.
On your hypothetical viral video site you then have advertising which pays you every time someone comes to your site. This tactic is as old as the hills. Bloggers have been doing it for years. It is all about making money with as little as possible in terms of time and money. Other people create content for you and you just copy and paste to your own site and run ads to generate money. Easy peasy, right?
Unfortunately search engine upgrades have made it harder and harder to make money this way. Google has repeatedly adjusted their search algorithm to weed out duplicate content and spammy sites. In addition Google looks for high quality, original content and these sites have no original content so this too hurt them in search results. Blogs that used to provide a nice living for their owners this way have long ago seen their position on search engine results drop like a stone.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have allowed this type of site to make a comeback. Sharing of third party content (not original or necessarily of high quality) is a staple of social networking and these sites have inserted themselves as a sort of middleman in the process of content discovery. There is really nothing wrong with that and social network users are after all showing their approval by sharing such content from viral video sites…a lot (see image to left).
In this image you can get an idea of how well this method of making money on the web is working for viral video sites. In this screenshot you see the “Related” box that sometimes appears under shared content posts. In this one there are three similar pieces of content provided. One is from the well known video and photo sharing site Flicker which has 738 shares. Another is from the king of web video, YouTube, which has 875,624 shares. The last one is from a little known site called Sad And Useless Humor Blog which has an astounding 669,041 shares making it a direct competitor with YouTube in this case.
Viral Video Sites Can Benefit Your Content
How viral video sites choose their content seems to be pretty straightforward. It has to be already successful. You might think that eliminates you from having your content promoted through these sites. That however is not the case.
The way that viral video sites make money is through having ads on their sites. Most of the ones I looked at while researching this article use Google Adwords ads. This means that they can be targeted via Adwords as placements for your ads. These placements can include text, display or click to play video ads. If you are a bit creative in creating your ad in terms of the image or text you use it should blend right into the existing content on the site.
In the image below I have a screenshot of one such site that includes an existing ad on the site. I added some notes to call out specific features of interest being used by the site.
- Each post on the site is a video that has seen viral success on the web. There is a static image shown when the post is shared so that those who are interested in watching the video have to do it on the site and thereby be exposed to the ads that are present on the watch page.
- Each post/page features a carefully crafted, enticing title designed to arouse curiosity in viewers when the post is shared. These are very likely not the original titles of the videos.
- Each title also contains a Call To Action urging the viewer of the shared post to take a specific action when seeing the shared article.
- Each post also includes easy sharing tools to help viewers further promote the third party content that is embedded on the site.
Finally you see the ad on the page. It is right there is the middle of all the viral video posts. If you play your cards right when designing your ads it could very easily blend right in and become just another (assumed) viral video.
In the image above the page has a text ad. The ad is from a Spa Manufacturer that is local to where I live. It is being shown to me on this page because their ad person is using the “remarketing” feature of Google Adwords.
This means that I previously visited the site/clicked on an ad from the company and so now Adwords will keep showing me ads related to the company for a set period of time. In the case of this company they must have that set to a very long time because I have been seeing their ads for at least a month now.
In this case the company could have made much better use of this placement by using an image ad or better yet a video ad. I know the company has image ads out there and enough videos on the site to create a video ad. This is simply not very good targeting/planning by their ad agency or person.
If they had done some thinking they would use a video ad with an enticing title, maybe something like “How many bathing beauties can fit in a spa? Find out here”. That would fit in perfectly with the site (and many like it) and draw a lot more traffic than the bland, obvious text ad that is being shown.
That is how you can utilize these viral video sites to best promote your brand. By creating clever ads designed to blend in with the sites and the way they promote content you can associate your brand with viral videos and get some of the social network traffic flow enjoyed by these sites. Just remember, your success will depend on the quality of the ad agency you hire to help you.