How to Create a Viral Video for Social Media Marketing

Do you want your video content to go viral? Most marketers undoubtedly want the audience growth and attention that comes from having content go viral, but they also know that there’s no one formula to attracting viral success.

Knowing some of the common elements of viral videos can help you create more discoverable and engaging content. That’s why we’ve put together some expert tips directly from Sprout Social’s video team to keep in mind.

To learn more about creating a viral video, let’s dive in.

What is a viral video?

Let’s start with the basics. What do we mean when we say viral video?

It’s called going viral when a piece of content really takes off on social media and reaches a large audience very quickly by receiving an unusual amount of shares and exposure. Whether it’s a tweet, a Facebook post or a video, many different types of content can go viral.

Videos can go viral on a variety of different platforms, from Facebook to YouTube to TikTok and more. But what goes into creating a viral video? And how can you ensure the largest audience possible sees your video content?

Read on to get our five top tips from the Sprout Social video team themselves.

Expert tips on creating viral video content

Sprout Social’s video team is well versed in creating video content that regularly reaches large audiences, so we wanted to share some of their expert tips that you can utilize during your own video production and optimization.

1. Start with a brief

Your first step of any potential viral video is to plan everything out thoroughly and create a brief and a storyboard. The purpose of filling out a detailed creative strategy brief is to shed light on your actual goals, key messages, tone, length, distribution channel and more.

Every good brief helps to align messaging and the video’s overall purpose from the content team all the way to the video production team. This way all of your brand’s content will be cohesive and have the same overall vision, strengthening your brand.

2. Know your audience

If you don’t know anything about the people you’re targeting, your video will fall flat every time. To really create a piece of content that goes viral among your target audience and beyond, you need to know what’s going to resonate with them and actually make them want to share your video.

One great idea to ensure your team fully understands your target audience is to create an empathy map. This will give you insight into what will grab your audience’s attention so that your content fits perfectly into what they’re looking for online

3. Pinpoint your goals

So you want to create a viral video. But what for? Knowing you want something to go viral isn’t enough for a solid social media marketing strategy. You also need to know why you want your video to go viral.

Are you simply looking for brand awareness? Are you hoping to grow your online following? Or are you hoping to generate conversions through this viral video?

Each purpose will require your team to create vastly different videos for audience members at different stages of the funnel, so you need to have an idea of what your goals are well before you begin production.

4. Start strong

Every good viral video grabs attention immediately. The best way to do this is by using the word “you” within the first five seconds of your video. This is because there’s research that shows if your video uses language like “you” or “your” in the first few seconds, you get a higher retention rate.

Other ways to start your video for maximum results include:

  • Create a plot twist or be unpredictable
  • Make your content #relatable
  • Engage your viewers’ emotions
  • Incorporate attention-grabbing audio/music clips
  • Forget about being promotional

5. Tell a story

Our social media video production team’s last tip on how to make a video go viral is all about captivating your audience through storytelling.

You want to be able to tell a compelling story in a short amount of time–viral videos shouldn’t be long videos–by choosing a universal context for your creative concept. For example, the context of “Monday blues” is universal and doesn’t need a lot of time to explain.

Play to tropes that your audience will know well so that you can jump right into your video without much backstory. This is a great way to create a relatable video that your audience can really resonate with and want to share with friends and family. It’s also a great starting point to upend expectations and be attention-grabbing.

Guidelines for increasing video discoverability

Now that we’ve covered our team’s five expert tips for creating viral videos, let’s talk about a few ways to increase video discoverability in general, from optimizing your title and description to using hashtags and creating a promotional plan.

1. Create short, concise videos

Even if your video does have a gripping introduction that pulls a viewer in, you also have to make sure to keep their attention and not try to hold onto it for too long or they’ll keep scrolling.

Online, viral videos are not meant to be lengthy. This is why platforms like TikTok have a 60-second limit for the length of their videos. It’s fully possible to create an attention-grabbing piece of video content that shares your full story within 30-60 seconds. Otherwise you could lose your viewer and they certainly won’t feel compelled to share your video with anyone.

2. Add captions

Adding captions to your videos not only increases video accessibility, but they also improve the user experience by allowing people to watch your videos even without having to turn the sound on.

Given the fact that people often scroll through social media during times where they can’t actually have sound on, adding captions will help to reach a larger audience of viewers who may watch and share your video, regardless of where they are, who they’re with and what they’re doing.

3. Write powerful copy

Whether it’s your video title and description on YouTube or your caption on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., writing powerful and optimized copy is key.

Your copy not only helps explain what your video is about, it also needs to pique curiosity and help your video appear higher in search results. While this doesn’t mean all caps, clickbait video titles that you often see on YouTube and in Facebook captions, it does mean you need to spend some time writing quality copy that will increase views.

Especially when it comes to YouTube, video optimization is incredibly important to help maximize the potential reach your video could see from search.

4. Use hashtags

Hashtags are a popular and effective strategy for increasing reach across many different social media platforms, and video platforms like YouTube and TikTok are no exception.

Using popular hashtags in your TikTok caption or YouTube video description can help an even wider audience find your video as they search for similar content. Be sure to only include hashtags that are relevant to your video, not just randomly chosen hashtags that are trending and popular on the platform.

5. Promote your video

You’re not likely to get a viral video without doing some promotion of your own. Don’t simply publish your content and then wait with bated breath for it to be picked up.

Instead, you need to put together a full promotion strategy with plans to share your video cross platform as well as how to better market and publicize the platform(s) you’ve initially published the video on.

Use platforms that your audience will be on to maximize chances that they come across your video and share it with their own networks. Your own promotional strategy is step number one in increasing the audience that your intended viral video reaches.

Start creating your own viral video today

To massively increase your reach, start creating your own viral video content using these expert tips and guidelines. Incorporating viral videos into your overall video marketing strategy can be a great way to increase reach, brand awareness and conversions.


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