I have only recently fully grasped the expression “You have to spend money to make money”. And I have only recently discovered that successful marketing and viral videos are almost perfectly analogous.

Very few videos “go viral”, in the true sense of the word, unassisted. Regardless of how compelling, engaging, and/or utterly mind-blowing a video is, very few gain viral traction purely organically. In the same way that very few products become trends without some serious, dedicated, and potentially costly marketing.

Videos that go viral organically virtually all touch on some innate, universal emotion or human condition – good or bad – that compels peer-to-peer sharing. That’s not to say that there aren’t thousands of other equally engaging videos with the same viral potential floating around the virtual ether waiting to get snatched up. It’s just that at some point, it’s a crapshoot as to which one video is going to snatch up the finite collective attention span that exists at any given moment.

How does a video get to the “next level”? In order to break through the clutter, it sometimes takes one repost, one person with a bigger platform who exposes your video to others with equally big platforms with a different reach. And once the the snowball effect starts, it continues, it grows, with the tentacles of reach crossing borders, languages, continents.

So how do you get to these next levels? First and foremost, it takes quality. Sure, Ellen can promote you. But if it’s not quality (or quality bad, as in “The Room”), it will never take off – even with Ellen’s help. Not only will it never take off, but it will only tarnish the brand and goodwill of anyone who endorsed it. But if you reach Ellen at the organic level, you know you have hit the Holy Grail – as did Fingerlings just last year. (Sidenote: I made some of my own Fingerling videos here and here, but Ellen has yet to call! lol).

Above and beyond quality, it takes reach. If content is King, distribution is God. But how do you get the reach? Friends, connections, collaborations, and yes, payment. There is no shame in paying for exposure. Social media platforms are nothing more than real estate. Some people rent out their real estate, and other don’t. Just like there is no shame is renting prime real estate to have the best store location, there is no shame in renting prime exposure real estate on someone else’s platform and then hoping for organic growth once the larger market has been reached. If you want more on this, just listen to some Gary VeeVaynerchuk. It’s the best free advice you’ll get all week.

As far as videos are concerned, you can cross-post and hope people see. You can send private messages and hope people share. You can pay for placement. You can use a video licensing agency (who will employ all of these techniques for a portion of the proceeds of sales). But it is infinitely hard and exceedingly rare to be able to accomplish “virality” on a purely organic level.

“Virality” and gravity are also analogous in that the larger the body gets, the larger is its attractive force. The bigger it gets, the more it pulls in those in its orbit. And the bigger its gets, the bigger its orbit gets. Write that down…

That said, sometimes even the best and most compelling video, with the best exposure and the best reach, still won’t pick up. There are exceptions on both ends of the spectrum. However, our actions should rarely be guided by the exceptions.

All of this applies mutatis mutandis to product marketing, and you have to be ready to spend money in order to make money.

Peace out, and be sure to check out my 2017 YouTube Retrospective – and Ellen, if you’re reading this, do share 😉