Twenty-four seconds of pure disbelief was all it took for the YouTube video "Evan Longoria's Crazy Bare Hand Catch" to go way viral—and for VMG Cinematic to cement a reputation for helping companies turn their YouTube marketing videos into hits.
The Gillette-sponsored clip of the Tampa Bay Rays third baseman catching a looping foul ball just before it would have clobbered the reporter interviewing him snagged five million views within six weeks of its debut last year. It was a home run for Gillette, which had earlier named Longoria one of its rising sports stars in the 2011 Gillette Young Guns promotion. The razor maker's previous YouTube videos had each drawn fewer than 20,000 views, but this one now has topped seven million and left more than a few people wondering whether the catch was real. VMG's service helping Gillette and other clients attract big audiences on YouTube has helped propel VMG to two-year sales growth of 243%, ranking it No. 34 on this year's HOT 50.
The Toronto-based company produces YouTube videos for clients that include Bell, HP, FedEx and Tim Hortons. (Another company produced the "Evan Longoria" video.) VMG also offers a video marketing service guaranteeing at least 500,000 views in four weeks. If a video fails to reach that—which has yet to happen—VMG will charge a much lower rate tied to the number of views.
But don't let VMG's success—or its bold guarantee—fool you. Being a YouTube star ain't easy: with about 12 years' worth of content uploaded to the site every day, it takes more than luck to make your production rise above the din.
YouTube blockbusters are unique and "shareable," says VMG CEO Mark Campbell. "They have to show more than cats playing with wool." He says that your best bet for producing a highly shareable video is in one of the following categories:
A timely parody:
Put a twist on a high-profile news story or music video.
A showcase of rare skills:
Wow viewers with acrobatics, card tricks and other amazing feats, such as a Mini Cooper achieving what Guinness World Records certified as the tightest parallel park ever.
Volkswagen reinforced its brand's emphasis on safety with "Please don't make up and drive," a video in which a well-known blogger's makeup tutorial is cut short when she appears to slam into a car in front of her.
Shiny, happy people:
It seems we just can't get enough of our fun-loving selves. Cookie maker Fantastic Delites recorded people in a mall doing silly dances on one foot or pressing a button repeatedly—one woman pressed it an astonishing 5,000 times—in return for a free carton of cookies.
Still, producing a compelling video isn't enough. You also have to attract an audience. Campbell recommends the following tactics to help push your video viral:
Craft your thumbnail with care:
Choose a still image that conveys high production quality, and give the video a name rich in the keywords that potential viewers are most likely to search for online.
Push the PR:
Share your video with writers and editors on external blogs or consumer product-review sites, highlighting why it would interest their readers.
Spread it around:
Post your video in as many places as possible, such as on your home page, Twitter feed and Facebook page. YouTube's viewership counter includes audiences from all of these.