There are many different ways to advertise and market your company. Word of mouth is the free way, and it’s been around since man developed verbal communication. Technology has grown to the point that we’re now able to combine high definition audio and video that millions of people can access at the click of a button. This evolution of communication, especially that of audio and video, has brought the world a fascinating new tool: the viral video.

So what exactly is a viral video?

Great question. Here’s the answer: A viral video is a video whose popularity grows by people spreading it on the Internet through social media and video sharing platforms. Videos that are the true heavyweights of viral video make their way into mainstream consciousness. They appear on other media like television, radio, print, merchandizing, trade shows, et al.

This lightning in a bottle has the ability to transform a company living in relative anonymity into a trendy, household name seemingly overnight.

We experience emotions fundamental to being human in similar ways reacting to these videos, and companies who play a part in that process may be remembered with those emotions. That association may be a simple search of the Internet with your company’s name for the popular video. It could even be a purchase.

Depending on how mainstream these videos become, it may be a lot of purchases.

Make those people click so often that it becomes news.

That’s marketing gold.

Every company wants that viral video that comes with so much free publicity it’ll keep you up at night looking at it all, especially companies that have smaller advertising budgets. The name of your company could be in a video on par with Super Bowl viewership without the jaw-dropping cost.

There’s no exact formula for viral videos, and that’s what makes them so elusive and desired. Companies do specialize in them, though there is certainly no guarantee that these videos will strike a chord with the world.

Sometimes what catches on with people may just be something for the good of humanity, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This was unique in that there wasn’t just one video that spread, rather one format of video that spread. It had its own Call and Response.

Each person created his or her own video, used his or her own water and ice, and took his or her own time to act in his or her own videos. The sheer number of individuals participating and spreading this throughout the fabric of daily life was staggering. It was more effective than a 100 million dollar ad campaign ever could have been.
Listen, it’s not all roses. Viral videos can both giveth and taketh away.

How do you get caught on the wrong end of viral videos?

Great question. Here’s the answer: piss people off.

Widespread adoption of smart phones and tablets allow people to record both high definition audio and video at a moment’s notice.

So, this means that employees who deliver terrible customer service, business owners who have the opportunity to turn things around and choose to take a stand, and anyone else otherwise disrespecting customers should feel aptly warned of the repercussions.

Case in point, the cringeworthy audio recording a customer took when a Comcast employee refused to accept the customer canceling service. The recording made national news. A seemingly random customer who decided he had enough brutal customer service and personal frustration decided to share his experience, and it really hit home for a lot of people.

Viral videos can catch fire, and that fire may be friend or foe.

So be careful.

Be good to your customers.

Be the people and the organizations that they want to tell their friends and family members about. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.

They may even make a video about it.