One of my favorite things about being a professional marketer, is that someone pays me to indulge in my own weird curiosities.

Since we’re responsible for understanding the intricate workings of our prospect’s mind – sometimes it pays to wind your way down the “you might also like” content tunnel…

Digging into the stuff that’s designed to “stop the scroll” and keep ’em clicking for more.

When you use the Interwebz for a living – Rabbit Holes are inevitable.
So why not make them part of the gig, ammiright?

This especially pays off when writing for “native” content. (That’s the copy disguised as helpful content and “infotainment”)

If you’ve been kicking around in my world for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard me talking about advertorials — those helpful pieces of pre-sale copy that warm up cold audiences, and get people in the right mindset to buy.

But it ‘aint all Buzzfeed articles and infographics (although those are still effective and fun to create).

Lately I’ve been playing with a new format of pre-sale content — using the same PRINCIPLES that make advertorials work so well, and applying those to Youtube videos designed to go viral.

Same strategies and tactics. Different medium.

Of course, there are specific ‘best practices’ that you should follow for Youtube – but those shift and change along with any other trend.

For example, if you look at the “new release” shelf at any bookstore or airport newsstand — you’ll notice all the book covers look pretty much the same.

Right now – big bold text, abstract “in your face” designs, and crazy colors are in. Sometimes they’re so intense that you can barely read the title of the book, much less get a clue about what’s inside.

But at the turn of the 21st century (which my brain STILL thinks was 10 years ago) – book covers were designed to paint a very clear picture of the story.

Of who wrote it and what you’d find inside.

Smart publishers look at the current best sellers – and emulate the style.

The same applies to Youtube Titles, Hooks, Thumbnails – and everything in between.

Plus, there’s all kinds of platforms like TubeBuddy that help you analyze the competition, and reverse-engineer viral content so you can reproduce it yourself.

But really – all those best practices and browser extensions — They’re just tools in your toolbox.

If you don’t know the principles behind WHY those videos go viral…

Well, it’s like trying to use a wrench as a paintbrush.

I dig into the “why” behind many of these tactics in my Advertorial 101 Course – but here’s 4 principles that apply specifically to viral videos and YouTube:

1. We live in a world where attention is slippery. Dopamine hits are the hook that keeps ’em on your line.

Check out this video from one of my entrepreneurial girl crushes.

What do you notice about how the footage is edited?

  • Fast cuts.
  • Frequent scene changes.
  • B-roll with lots going on.
  • Sound effects that “ping” your brain.
  • Graphics that pop up and disappear quickly to highlight what she’s saying.

Close your eyes for a sec and you might miss something. (FOMO)

And everything about this editing style is designed to trigger the same dopamine hits that keep you scrolling on The ‘Gram, or putting one more coin into the casino slot machine.

2. Embrace the clickbait.

Yes, those clickbait-ey titles are dumb.
Yes you know it’s an icky marketing strategy.
But you click on it anyway.

Titles and thumbnails that either pique your curiosity, or make you say “Hell yah I want that”…

Or even better, interrupt your thought patterns and get your brain to go “WTF?!”

Those are the ones that get the click.

Basic copywriting headline principles apply here:
– “one weird trick…”
– “the millionaire secret…”
– “You’ll never believe…”
– “The 5 minute hack…”- etc.

But when designing “viral” content – give yourself permission to go even bigger.

Also – don’t be afraid to let your Thumbnail and Title play off each other and create some conflict.

3. The listicle is still king.

There’s a reason people are more likely to watch a video about “5 weird tips to losing fat fast” vs. “How to lose fat this year”

Giving a specific set of steps or items makes it digestible – easier to consume.

You’re telling them what to expect. Letting them know how long they need to stick around to get the “meat”

Putting things in lists also makes it easier to retain information.

This makes it more likely that people will stick around for the whole thing and consume your entire video.

In contrast – a “how to” video sounds like work. I gotta learn something new, and that requires energy and a specific mindset.

Not always… but MOST times… when people watch Youtube content, they’re not actually SUPPOSED to be there.

They’re SUPPOSED to be working or ticking something important off their to-do list.

But they’re using the “watch this next” rabbit holes to escape real life – even for just a moment.

So give the people what they want – easily-digestible content that doesn’t make them THINK.

Not all your videos have to be listicles (variety is important) – but don’t sleep on ’em either.

4. Stop selling. (No really)

Viral videos aren’t meant to sell your stuff.

They’re meant to capture the RIGHT person’s attention… and then let them know you have stuff to sell, and where to get it.

Subtle change. Big difference.

This is the most common mistake I see marketers make when creating native content – in all types of formats.

Direct response copywriters are especially bad at this – they’re hardwired to “always be selling.”

But that ‘aint how it works in this playground.

With this type of content, you need to be in a GIVING mindset first – providing value and entertainment as the priority.

Think of it as 90% agenda-free content… and only 10% sales pitch.

Basically – most viewers will allow you to mention your offer once or twice (subtly). They’ll even allow you to announce it’s a blatant ad IF you make it interesting and entertaining enough.

But if you try to hit them over the head with it, or don’t honor that 90/10 agreement… they’ll ditch you for the next dopamine hit.

Check out this ad for Australian Lamb.

The story. The timely and relevant hook about “The Generation Gap.” Use of humor. Universally accepted stereotypes. It’s brilliantly executed and a great example of an ad that people seek out to watch and share.

Of course, there’s lots more to learn. But if you master those 4 principles – and you’ll be ahead of most marketers slinging content on YouTube.


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