The Art of Making a Viral Video

By Sajid Farooq
|  Wednesday, Jun 15, 2011  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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The Art of Making a Viral Video

A screenshot from one of Thinkmodo's more famous viral videos.

For Michael Krivicka viral videos are an art form. Talking about the techniques used to draw thousands, or in his case millions, to watch a YouTube clip are a faux pas for the co-founder of Thinkmodo.

“Unfortunately I can’t reveal our secrets,” he said. “It’s like asking a magician to reveal his secrets.”
 
And Krivicka is someone with valuable secrets. After all, it’s not a sustainable business model for a company to rely on tricks. He also has been known to convince a celebrity or two to follow him on Twitter.
 
Instead Krivicka and his business partner rely on unique SEO strategies and building video campaigns around “talkers” to deliver viral marketing hits for their clients.
 
The longtime video editor and hobby blogger only launched his marketing company earlier this year but Thinkmodo already has one of the most memorable viral hits in recent memory etched in its portfolio.
 
Krivicka is the man behind the Times Square iPhone hack video that left over 3.2 million people debating  whether one man really could control the video screens in New York’s Times Square with just his iPhone and a homemade attachment.
 
 
The answer turned out to be no but for the creators of the movie “Limitless” it turned out the video was just the marketing gold they were looking for.
 
After just a few days of debate, Thinkmodo lifted the curtain and revealed that the elaborate video was part of a marketing campaign for the movie starring Bradley Cooper.
 
The video was just one of several the company has put out this year to solidify itself a long list of clients.
 
The portfolio includes a mythical shaving helmet and a fake news report that removes the veil – literally – on a fake new fade called "nude gaming."
 

 

 

 
In the case of the nude gaming video, Thinkmodo was tasked with making a gaming accessory look sexy.
 
“The mission of this viral campaign was to create press and media for XtendPlay by Xwerx, a cool new gaming accessory for serious gamers who play for long hours and experience fatigue and cramping in their hands,” Krivicka said.
 
Thinkmodo initially turned down the client before finally getting their hands on its product and realizing that there was a way to make a gaming accessory look cool.
 
What better way to show off just how comfortable the gaming accessory is, while making it look sexy at the same time, than by having a bunch of young people using the product in the nude – with cleverly placed black bars – using the device to play?
 
“Why the ‘nude gaming party’ concept? Because it’s edgy and fun and hits a nerve with our target audience: gamers,” Krivicka said. “Gamers are into edgy and fun stuff and they want to be entertained.”
 
It also helped that some of the world's best gamers, like Raymond Cox, use the product and the client was a startup and had no reputation to ruin.
 
Xwerx is an example of the type of client Thinkmodo is looking for:  young, fearless and willing to take a risk on a cool product they can get behind.
 
And like any venture, there is always a risk. Krivicka said Thinkmodo can’t guarantee clients specific numbers or even fully explain how the viral video process works. There would be no magic in that.
 
“We never say (a video) will get something,” he said. “We do guarantee major media exposure. We know this will happen because it is a conversation starter.”
 
The strategy relies on first building a huge viral buzz on topics people can easily remember and that when search, nothing else will come. For example catch phrases such as “iPhone Times Square hack” or “nude gaming” are easy to remember phrases that aren’t likely to turn up results other than a Thinkmodo video.
 
“The thing is everyone can follow up on a trend but not everyone can create their own trend,” Krivicka said. “And that’s what we did with ‘nude gaming.’ We said f**K it, let’s make our own trend.”
 
Then Krivicka attaches a brand behind the video. In the case of the nude gaming video, the product is subtly embedded in the story. For the iPhone hack story, there was a reveal that came just days after the initial video was released.
 
And in that case, Krivicka was able to promise major media exposure because when the video was being filmed in Times Square, there was a New York Times reporter on hand documenting every move and who was part of the entire gag, including the reveal.
 
But before Thinkmodo can have a reveal, the company has to make sure people are actually clicking on the video to create the hype that warrants a reveal.
 
This is where social media and sites such as YouTube and Vimeo come in.
 
“(YouTube) is sort of the heart of social media,” Krivicka said. “You can embed it on Facebook and it has comments and that’s where a lot of our work works.”
 
The Google-owned video-sharing site has become the modern day town center, where people go to gather and share ideas.
 
For companies like Thinkmodo, it has created a new arena to display their art.

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