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Ten rules for creating an infectious viral video

Viral videos can be great fun, great for branding and great for reach without necessarily having access to spectacular budgets.

The brilliant thing about videos is that they have the ability to take you out of your ‘construction’ pigeonhole. The techniques and tactics which make a great video will appeal directly to basic human instincts: curiosity, sympathy, humour, sociability.

Here are our top 10 tips for making a successful viral video:

1) Play the numbers game. Simply put, the more videos you produce, the greater your chances that one of them will go viral. Create a YouTube channel and add content regularly, like the Taylor Wimpey channel.

2) Get funny. Laughter is infectious… everybody likes a giggle and I’d bet that your first reaction when you’ve watched/seen something funny – is to share it (Facebook, Twitter, email etc) with your friends and work colleagues. This is the ‘sharing’ wave you’ll be aiming for. ‘Sneezing baby Panda’ is still at the top of the YouTube most watched list:

3) Showcase techniques such as stop motion, time lapse, action figures, Lego building skills, etc. Experiment with filmmaking techniques to try to show people something they haven’t seen before, particularly if you’re showcasing product that isn’t particularly visual. Take a look at Nokia’s “Gulp” video for some inspiration, and I’m sure you’re all familiar with the skills on this Eddie Izzard video

4) Add value. Teach your audience something interesting they didn’t know, and they’ll want to share it. This popular time lapse video of the Ark Hotel construction project isn’t just impressive, it is punctuated with facts

5) Hijack an existing fan base. Car geeks, movie geeks, sport geeks, pet geeks – tying up the theme of your video with an already existing fan base is an easy win. This viral video incorporates two fan bases – Indiana Jones fans and Lego geeks; just look at the comments STILL being posted four years later.

6) Promote engagement. Why not incorporate an interactive element into your video? Here’s a nice example from Tippex

7) Employ shock tactics. By this I mean ‘wow’ your audience. A nice example would be the fantastic Rockwool ‘Does it burn?’ series of videos, the ‘Does cash burn’ video has received over 99,000 views which is fantastic!

8) Embrace the unexpected. The mention of your product or brand in a video that’s already gaining momentum online can be surprising. Challenge yourself to embrace this, perhaps create a follow-up video with a humorous angle. This classic ‘Cat vs Printer’ was a sensation back in 2010 but remains popular ( If we’d been working with Lexmark, we would definitely have embraced this and created a follow-up campaign.

9) Push the boundaries of what’s comfortable. This is today’s ‘please think outside the box’ call to action! If you’ve got a brand that people associate with one audience or attitude, doing something very unexpected will draw attention in itself. For example, Woolite hired rock musician and horror movie director Rob Zombie to direct an advert for them in 2011

10) Combine all these techniques. What you might consider to be a ‘dull’ or ‘uninteresting’ product can be given new life with by applying a few of these viral video techniques. A recent video by Duck Tape hijacked an enormous fan base, incorporated humour, and an interesting visual technique

Nick Pauley is managing director of Pauley Creative, the digital marketing agency for the construction industry, Nick is also a frequent speaker at Cranfield University School of Management’s Business Growth Programme which he completed in 2007. Nick is also a member of the CIMCIG committee.


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