Lessons from Lady Gaga on Viral Video Success

On August 3, 2010, wrote:

Do you know that Lady Gaga has the most viewed YouTube video of all time? Yup – her “Bad Romance” music video is right on top of the list, beating hugely successful viral clips like “Charlie Bit My Finger” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby”. One can only dream of getting half as much as – or even a quarter of – the 212 million views that she has so far notched. And why not? Companies, brands, retailers, aspiring artists, ad agencies, and Internet marketers know very well how viral marketing – and YouTube – can spell instant success and bring new opportunities to their business.

So let’s take a look at what Lady Gaga is doing right. Her barely three-months-old video, “Telephone”, already has close to 50 million views, so it might be a good idea to break that down a little bit and see for ourselves how we can make our own online video content more viral.

Use the power of name or brand recognition

Lady Gaga and Beyonce: two of the biggest names in the music business right now. Your own brand name may not have a Billboard hit, but if you’re confident enough of your own loyal following and of the patronage of your customers, why not put it out there? Include it in your video descriptions, tags, and title. Then support it by placing your company logo on your channel. If people recognize and trust your brand, they’d be less hesitant of sharing your content to their friends and connections.

Do something that’s never been done before

Like cigarette shades. Cigarette what? See, you have to repeat it. Lady Gaga’s choice of eyewear in this video was so outrageous that people just couldn’t stop talking about it. We’re sure that there’s at least one blog post out there talking exclusively about such carcinogenic fashion. It certainly was a highlight. So next time you’re at the drawing board thinking of ideas for a viral video, take the time to find out what you can do that’s never been done before. Hey, the world is watching. It’s your chance to do something unforgettable and vault yourself into prominence.

Don’t advertise

People get turned off with marketing buzzwords and sales pitches; they just sound too trite on video. If you want to use YouTube as a platform for branding, it might be a better idea to go with subtle product placements. Like Virgin Mobile did for the “Telephone” video. Okay, it’s debatable whether the placement is really subtle or not, but you get the point. There are no explicit mentions, no urgent delivery of messages or promos, no corporate meddling – just added relevance in a video that’s appropriately titled for the phone service company. Want to be brilliant on YouTube? Don’t sell hard, or you will lose your viewers fast.

Tell a story

The Internet has made our world even more information-starved and attention-deficient. Really, we’ve all got only a few minutes. If you want your online video campaign to be a hit, use the short time that you’ve got to tell a story, and to tell it well and compellingly. Add unexpected twists. (Like Tyrese Gibson being poisoned or something.) Go for shock value. Provoke laughs or tears or anger, if necessary. Make viewers go, “What the heck just happened there? Let me see that again.”

Be informative

Near the end of the “Telephone” video, viewers learn something rather useful, and that’s how to make a sandwich the Lady Gaga way. It would help if, in the same manner, you’re able to offer something educational in your video, something new, something viewers would take in as useful information. It doesn’t have to be your usual “How to Do This” or “Tips on How to Do That”. It can be anything related to your brand or product, as long as it echoes loud and clear even long after the viewers have stopped watching your video clip. Like the recent Nike Write Your Future commercial for the World Cup, the message of which was loud and clear. Nike shoes are awesome, all-world athletes use ‘em, get yourself a pair and you can have instant fame, money, and your own silver statue.

Share

The rewards of kindness multiplied are most evident in the world of social media. So be the first to share. After all, the work doesn’t stop at publishing your video on YouTube; get it out there on your own social networks: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Posterous, your company blog. Look at Beyonce: her heart is full after letting Lady Gaga grab a bite of her own sandwich.

Dance

Let loose. Have fun. Don’t be too serious. Don’t get caught up with trying to get a million views. Let go of your inhibitions and let your personality shine. Viewers can tell if the people behind a video had the time of their lives doing it. They’d also be able to tell whether the enthusiasm onscreen is real or fake. The production of your YouTube campaign doesn’t have to be done Hollywood-style, with a five-figure budget. If there’s anything you really have to be conscious of doing, it’s having fun, for a joyful video is worth sharing.


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4 responses to “Lessons from Lady Gaga on Viral Video Success”

  1. Great post. However Gaga is not the most viewed video of all time.. Shakira is…

    http://viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com/?interval=all_time

  2. Chris Campbell says:

    Andreas, It looks like you are correct based on your data. We wrote this post before the World Cup and it appears in the last few months, Shakira surpassed Lady Gaga. In case people are curious the facts from this article are from Mashable, which stated 3 months ago that Lady Gaga was number 1. Thanks for letting us know.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Great post! Love the lessons you put forth. I especially like the Don’t Advertise post as I think this is really the crux of social media. It’s advertising that isn’t advertising and it’s fantastic.

  4. Alex says:

    Great list, I just posted something similar, though more from a website development strategy, but it is no coincidence that so many people are looking at her for lessons:

    http://www.discoverkeen.com/idea/Website-Development-Strategy-Reminders-from-an-Unlikely-Source.php

    I suppose it makes sense – learn from those who have succeeded.

    Anyway, would love to hear what y’all think…

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