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Trying to go viral

Phil’s post yesterday got me thinking.  At Museums and the Web a couple of weeks ago (check out Charlie’s post), Rob and I presented our paper about online video.  At the end of our talk, I was asked if the IMA ever created viral video content.  My response was immediate and along the lines of this:  I’m not sure a museum could create a successful viral video.  It would have to come from someone outside the museum and break lots of rules. But then Phil wrote about viral videos and I started thinking.

The IMA is not immune to the viral video idea.  Our first ever YouTube video was conceived as a marketing, viral video in support of an exhibition.  That was almost three years ago.

To date, this video has 4, 621 views.  Not our most viewed video by any means.  It never quite took off virally, but does serve as our lone example of a viral video attempt.

Can a museum/corporation/individual purposely set out to make a viral video?  I always felt that a ‘viral video’ often exhibited a certain set of traits – unplanned, shock and awe, and the unexpected to name a few.  And I’m not sure I include sketch comedy in this grouping – videos from Flight of the Conchords, Old Gregg or anything with Michael Cera are not viral – they’re comedy.  Right?

So what about Aleksey Vayne’s video resume (below), Susan Boyle or an SNL short?  Possibly.  Some are unplanned (the outcomes anyway), some involve live TV and others are planned as something viral, where rules do not apply.

Phil reviewed some other viral videos yesterday, but it still seems to me that a true viral video usually involves an individual that happened to catch an unthinkable, unexpected, imperfect moment on camera.  But I might be wrong.  Can an organization self-produce, develop internally, and create a real viral video?

I did want to mention ArtBabble (of course I would) and a video we produced in time for the launch.  I’m definitely not calling it viral, but it is most definitely a marketing video.  We feature this on our front page and our views are currently around 11,603.  We also have it on YouTube where we have 83.  So enjoy our ArtBabble marketing video and please let us know how we would produce an IMA viral video.  Phil might just do it.  (OR – if you just want to share some of your favorite videos in the comments, that would be fine too.)

Filed under: Marketing, New Media

6 Responses to “Trying to go viral”

  • avatar

    It was always my understanding that a viral video has nothing to do with the content or creator, but the quickness to which its popularity rises thanks to online communication. Most of the early viral videos were random acts of “look at this” or “what just happened” combined with the novelty of watching a video online whenever you want and the ability to send it on to others. As so whether you can set out to make a viral video, sure can. Many have done it. Using the sketch comedy example, being funded with good writers can be an advantage – but their primary purpose is to be funny in a broadcast setting for revenue – the whole viral thing is an ancillary benefit based on their business model. Creating something primarily for the sake of being viral is a different animal and quite hard to do and/or prove it was done solely for the sake of being viral.

  • avatar
    Erica Pastore Says:

    I’d pretty much agree with Barrett that viral is as much about the speed of popularity as it is about catching the unplanned moment on camera. Definitely, I think it started out as the latter, but The Landlord video with Will Ferril and “pearl” immediately comes to mind as a planned video that became totally ubiquitous on the internet. On the other hand, that video was pretty unstructured and not part of an organization per se, so how a museum could make a viral video might be a challenge. I’d love to see it happen though!

  • avatar
    Anonymous Says:

    Why would a museum need a viral video though? Why not just buy a billboard?

  • avatar
    Matt Says:

    “Why would a museum need a viral video though? Why not just buy a billboard?”

    I think what it comes down to is cost & penetration. You could shoot a video w/ a $100 flip cam, upload to youtube and potentially have the world see your video. There is no ceiling on the viral web, unlike w/ billboards where your audience is more or less set. Just my 2 cents…

  • avatar
    Daniel Says:

    Thanks for all the comments and dialogue. It still leaves me wondering – could we intentionally set out to create a successful viral video?

  • avatar
    Clarence Says:

    I’m a little late but I thought I’d comment anyway. Daniel, “intentionally setting out to create a successful viral video” implies taking full control… but the nature of the internet, at least for now, is such that we give up a lot of control as soon as we put the content out there.

    So no, you cannot make anything viral. You can make something conducive to viral success but viral is an outcome, not an input.

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