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Review: The Viral Video Manifesto by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe

viralThis review was first posted on thespec.com Nov. 22.

The Viral Video Manifesto: Why Everything You Know Is Wrong and How to do What Really Works

By Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe

McGraw Hill

$24.95

I’m an old dog trying to learn a new trick.

For 20 years, I’ve worked in public relations and made a career out of putting words together.

Back in September, my colleague and I decided to try our hand at telling stories by video. We picked up a camera, hit record and started posting weekly episodes to YouTube.

Our videos — which are like the Rick Mercer Report minus the humour and rants — showcase our co-workers and the people we serve.

Unlike a traditional employee newsletter, we know exactly how many people are watching. Each unscripted episode is averaging 600 unique viewers and we’re getting good feedback from our target audience.

If we wanted our videos to go viral and be watched by millions, we’d follow the rules set out by authors Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe.

Chances are, you’ve watched their videos. They created their first back in 2006 by dropping 500 Mentos into 100 bottles of Coke. The Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments video has been watched more than 100 million times.

“Viral video is the 21st century sideshow,” say Voltz and Grobe, who both worked in theatrical circus. “It’s immediate and unpolished, and it embraces the bold, daring and unabashedly strange.”

So if you want to create a video watched by millions, adhere to these four rules:

• Be true. Create a direct, personal connection with your audience. Use real people, one camera and no edits. “Viral video is about a raw, unfiltered experience, so don’t dress it up.”

• Don’t waste our time. Immediately get down to business, show nothing but “money shots” and don’t overstay your welcome. “So whether your video will be five seconds long, five minutes long or longer, be ruthless. Make sure there isn’t a second more than is absolutely necessary.”

• Be unforgettable. Show us something we haven’t seen before. Stand out from the crowd. Capture a unique moment. “Show us something new and exciting — that’s the strongest tactic for going viral.”

• And ultimately, it’s all about humanity. “You want to find a place where the audience can see themselves, their emotions or their experiences reflected on the screen. That human element will make your video more contagious.”

Viral videos can be great for business, according to Voltz and Grobe whose viral videos generated sales spikes for both Diet Coke and Mentos.

“You can use online video to build a strong, honest, authentic relationship with your consumers.”

You can also connect with a whole lot of potential customers on the cheap.

YouTube draws a billion unique viewers every month who watch upwards of 6 billion hours of video.

And unlike print advertising and television commercials, it won’t cost you a dime to post to YouTube.

But competition for attention is fierce, with 100 hours of video posted every minute to YouTube.

For every video that gets millions of views, there are others that never find an audience.

These are the videos that confuse product shots with money shots, use actors instead of real people and have scripts instead of spontaneous moments.

Voltz and Grobe recommend your business be the source of the content that makes us smile. “Take credit for being the cool people who made this cool video happen.”

Add a title card at the end of the video that identifies your business as the sponsor.

“Think of a video as a gift you are giving to your audience. You want your gift to make us smile, so that when we think of you, we smile all over again.

“If you give us something awesome with no strings attached, we will love you for it.”

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