How Do You Get a Billion Hits on YouTube?

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My story this week in FORBES:…

When was the last time you had a hit on YouTube? You are the CMO and you have the opportunity to generate big viewership numbers on YouTube at a time when paid media budgets are being slashed.

YouTube recently revealed their all time best videos of the world and showcased them at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The videos – if the advertising is to be believed – comprise the ultimate YouTube playlist: a selection of the most unique, innovative, groundbreaking video work being created and distributed online during the past two years.

I enjoyed this event and the small screen creativity on display. But as a marketer of brands in the new age where number of YouTube hits represents a pretty convincing gauge of campaign success, one question was blatantly left unanswered.

How do you get the greatest number of hits on YouTube for a video?

I thought a closer look was in order. What tricks can brandmakers use when crafting their next viral video? What is an acceptable yardstick for hits? Is it 10,000 or 100,000 hits? Is 1 million or 100 million hits the goal? Well why not 1 billion? With technology making tremendous headway in places in everywhere from Indiana to India, a billion hits should be doable.

Your mother told you that popularity wasn’t a contest. But if you’re a marketer, it most certainly is. To the winners, the bragging rights as well as the spoils. There is tremendous value placed on number of hits ie unpaid spreading of messaging ie free advertising. Free is a wonderful price in this economy. If you are a CMO this is a contest worth entering. And a contest worth entering is a contest worth getting a leg up on.

So here are the advantages and some gamesmanship. Here is how to command more respect for your work. Sink or swim…success lies in the numbers. And the numbers on YouTube don’t lie. The reason? Because popularity, whether you agree with it or not, is today’s most potent analytic tool. Sure there are infinitely more complex ones devised by social media physicists, but there’s really nothing quite like the headline “Guinness World Record holder of most YouTube hits” which the Evian Roller Babies achieved. Are babies on Rollerblades drinking Evian off-brand? Heck, a few hundred million people don’t think so. Or their friends. Or their friend’s friends. They like them Roller Babies very much, thank you.

Why did the Evian Roller Babies get so many hits on YouTube? I asked the man behind the campaign who I reached in Paris, Rémi Babinet – Chairman BETC Euro RSCG and HAVAS Global Chief Creative Officer.

“It’s very important for a big agency to propose quality creative that can equally spark off a popular response. The Evian Rollerbabies campaign succeeded in proving that creativity can at the same time be very qualitative and very universal. In a climate of crisis and general gloom this advert shows that it can play the role of a positive spur in a depressed climate.”

So what have we learned so far that can help get us to 1 billion hits?

1.     Ideas take hold and become viral when they involve humor.

2.     A hot looking man on a horse pulls a lot of viewers. Old Spice proved this out.

3.     Think ‘Meme’ – huh? A ‘meme’ is something that gets shared. Wikipedia describes “Meme” (pronounced /ˈmiːm/, rhyming with “cream”) as a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena (ie YouTube). Wikipedia goes on to say: “The term “Internet meme” refers to a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based email, blogs, forums, Imageboards, social networking sites and instant messaging.”Now there are certain memes that bubble to the surface. Lego has hundreds of millions of hits thanks to Memes.

4.     Shocking videos get loads of hits.

5.     Other tips…Make sure the title of your video catches the eye. Tag it with lots of appealing keywords.

6.     Babies, babies and babies. Yes babies get hundreds of millions of hits. My favorite and my wife and kids all time favorite is the Swedish ‘ping’ Laughing baby YouTube film. Ok, ok it’s not a brand, but it’s entertainment and that’s helpful in crafting the billion hit-pulling YoutTube film. If you search baby laughing on YouTube you’d be blown away with the numbers. The video mentioned above pulled close to a billion if you count all the ‘Memes.’ ‘Charlie bit my finger’ got 249 million hits. Another posted film entitled simply ‘baby laugh’ pulled 24 million views. The Etrade baby chalked up 1.4 million and even one poorly shot film, entitled ‘serious baby pulling a funny frown’ got a respectable 622,993 hits.

What is it with Babies? Why is it that babies are pulling such massively incredible numbers in the digital space? I asked Ilana Bryant who is the head of strategy at our agency for her thoughts:

‘Babies have universal appeal as humans are biologically wired to emotionally connect with visuals of babies. Psychological studies show that images of babies engender positive emotions and empathy in most people and across cultural and demographic divides.  In fact, in one research study people were twice as likely to return a lost wallet if it had a picture of a baby in it, than if it had pictures of animals, families or spouses. This makes the use of babies a powerful and hugely popular meme in the digital space – relatively mundane videos of laughing babies can get hundreds of millions of views on YouTube.”

So there you have it. Popularity has a face— and it’s a baby’s.


Image by: jonsson

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