Viral video marketing, Bob Villa Wannabes and Sassy Gay Friends

In August 2009, I bought and moved into my first home. It was an exciting time but also a time where I realized that, although I had helped others with home improvement projects, there were a lot of things I didn’t have a clue about (make that, a lot of things). So, even though there are other people in the house, I decided that wanted to learn how to do things on my own. This meant immediately paying a visit to YouTube.
My first search was for how to use dry wall anchors. This brought up a video by Bob Schmidt of Home Remodel Workshop. The video was simple, informative, and provided step-by-step instructors from a guy that I jokingly call the “Bob Villa Wannabe.” And, it worked. I learned very quickly how to do what I wanted to do. But not only that, “Bob Villa Wannabe” is also winning because these videos serve as a viral marketing tool to build his reputation. The video below has over 43,000 views, he has over 9,000 subscribers on his channel, and the comments about the videos he makes are overwhelmingly positive and appreciate. If he lived near me, all of this would make him a top candidate for any major remodeling work I needed done (although he’d probably make me drop the nickname).
Then, just a week or so ago, I was going somewhere with a group of friends and one of them was talking about some relationship problems they were having. Another one of my friends turned toward them and said, “you need a Sassy Gay Friend.” “A what?” I said. Later, when we were back safe in arm’s reach of the iPad, they showed me the below video, and I immediately forwarded it to a friend who was playing in Romeo and Juliet that weekend. The video from The Second City Network, has over 2 million hits, was featured on Perez Hilton’s website, and is obviously becoming a part of language amongst my friends. Warning: there is some adult language in the below clip.
So what do a Bob Villa Wannabe and a Sassy Gay Friend have in common? They both have created viral marketing videos that work, but for entirely different reasons. Bob Schmidt’s videos work because they are:
  • Full of valuable content. His videos offer useful information to his clients.
  • Simple. The videos are short, to the point, and mostly, just Bob. The videos have no quality production aspects which make them simple and genuine.
  • Friendly. Schmidt has a very friendly and down-to-earth demeanor.
  • Responsive. He regularly comments on questions and comments people leave on his channel.
  • Free of selling. He doesn’t try to sell anything on his channel or in his videos. This will lead people to trust him and lead to more people watching him, because there is no ulterior motive.
In contrast, the Sassy Gay Friend videos are popular because they are:
  • Funny. People enjoy a good laugh and are willing to pass humor along to others. In addition, his videos have a lot of intellectual humor, which makes them unique and appealing to a more astute audience.
  • Unexpected. Viewers are never quite sure what’s going to come out of his mouth next.
  • Boundary-pushing. I would take a shot and guess that most people are at least slightly uncomfortable with some parts of each video.
Clearly, from the above examples, there isn’t one formula that makes a video go viral. “Bob Villa Wannabe” Bob Schmidt and Sassy Gay Friend have two entirely different approaches. However, they do have two key elements to creating a viral video. They both speak to their target audience in a way that appeals to them and they provide something of value; either useful information or just a good laugh. These two elements provide a foundation for a viral marketing video. After that, the rest is finding out what will work best for a target audience, seeking out examples of what other videos have appealed to that audience, and taking the time to create something truly of value.

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