In the age of tech savvy millennials and cross-channel media consumption, getting content shared has become vital to brands. Viral video is one such opportunity for brands to amplify their message.

Recently, I watched Warc's webinar with Ian Forrester, the Insight Director at Unruly, a video ad tech company which, amongst other things, collates and curates its own Viral Video Chart to give insights into what people tend to watch and share, and why they do so.

You can watch the webinar recording at the Warc Webinars archive. In the meantime though, here are the five key takeaways from Ian's presentation and before that, a brief background to measuring the "virality" of your content.

Measuring "shareability"

Shareability can be measured using three, interconnected metrics:

  • Views: namely how many sets of eyeballs have seen the video (but note that views can be bought.
  • Shares: the number of times a video is shared (which can be a better indicator of strength, because this sort of endorsement can't be bought).
  • Share rate: how many of those who viewed a video went on to share it (the industry benchmark is 3.5%, but it varies.

5 key takeaways:

1. Find your brand's voice

Why people share is dictated by both psychological as well as social motivations - so you need to work out which responses best fit your brand and the ones you want to entice.

Psychological responses fall into three categories - emotional, cognitive (rational) or primal. Eliciting high intensity responses will more likely drive sharing than moderate intensity ones. However, finding the best fit responses with your brand is important here. Videos which attract emotional or automatic/"System 1" responses like warmth, amazement, hilarity or inspiration tend to perform well. Those that drive cognitive/rational/"System 2" responses like surprise or knowledge are next on the scale. Finally, there are those which incite primal, instinctive "Fight or Flight" reactions such as fear or anger.

Social motivations have a similarly broad range, so you need to ask the right questions. Are you trying to elicit a shared passion for people to connect over or a motivation of social utility or good? Are you trying to resonate with opinion seekers or those with a strong sense of self-expression? Or perhaps your brand is targeted at those who see sharing something first as a symbol of kudos.

2. Step away from the norm

Disrupting category conventions can produce dramatic effects, as evidenced by the multiple award-winning "Dumb Ways to Die" campaign from Metro Trains in Australia which attracted 4.9m shares, 102.2m views and a 4.8% share rate.

Why was it shared so widely? Partly because it turned on its head the stereotyped public service ad campaign and the typical psychological response to those - shock. Instead, the humorous music video aimed to elicit emotions of happiness, hilarity and warmth, all whilst fulfilling motivations of social utility and social good. In addition to the original ad, a range of materials were provided to facilitate user generated content, with over 200 cover versions and parodies generating a further 20 million views.

3. Be proud of your brand

Whatever the content, your brand must be integral to the storyline and must be easily recognisable within it. Blendtech's "Will it blend?" attracted 39.1m shares, 1.8m views and a share rate of 2.1%. The content involves Blendtech blenders blending a variety of non-obvious objects you wouldn't usually expect to be put through a blender - for example, mobile phones and drinks cans. The campaign was humorous and irreverent but at the core, it showcased the power and strength of the product.

4. Use smart distribution

Good quality content is impotent without a forceful kick start, so brands must consider the efficacy of the open Web as well as the more heralded strength of YouTube. Some 24.3% of views come from videos on YouTube or an embedded YouTube player, whereas 75.7% of views come from the rest of the web. So don't focus too narrowly on YouTube.

The first three days tend to be key in driving the shareability of content, when it's new and there's kudos in sharing it. Brands are therefore advised to front-load their campaigns to take advantage of these first three days. In 2014, 42% of shares occurred in the first three days and 65% occurred by the end of launch week.

5. Keep the conversation going

Despite the importance of week one, brands are advised to support the hero content with "maintenance pieces" such as product demos, which provide longevity to a message and an alternative source of content. Hero content should also be reinforced with paid distribution to drive views in between expected launch peaks.

Watch the Warc Webinar: What makes consumers share content across different territories?