YouTube today: what is needed for viral content and why are we declaring one thing, but watching the other

Although 14 years have passed since the birth of YouTube, most brands in the country are still trying to get acquainted with this platform, and even our celebrities, that gather the largest audiences, here reach only a few hundred thousand subscribers.

Yet, Crafty Panda stands out in this landscape, repeating the success of its predecessor Bored Panda. Within a year of the idea being born, with every video getting millions of views (record – 160 million) and reaching a global audience, it is probably the most successful channel created in Lithuania, which content is viewed by more than half a billion viewers a month. Therefore, this time, stepping away from the usual PR kitchen, I have talked with the channel manager Rokas Jurkevičius not only about how a seemingly simple idea became a business but also tried to figure out, what it takes a video to be successful.

Discovering a niche

The story of Crafty Panda began in a simple but confident way: from a bold goal, a noticed trend and a desire to create own content. “We have been already creating successful video content on Bored Panda website more regularly, but soon realised that even though the content that is not made by us attracts the audience, it requires a lot of work and can be immediately redesigned and republished by others. It did not take us long to figure out that if we also want to diversify our activities, it is essential to create our own content. Though at first, we thought loyal followers of Bored Panda will come and follow the YouTube channel, we soon came to an understanding that the rules are different here,” notes Rokas.
Although they had experience and the global content market was no stranger, according to Rokas, it was not easy to enter the new platform. By then, such DYI channels like 5-Minute Crafts, Blossom or BuzzFeed Nifty have already taken root: “Naturally, after setting high goals, you start to fight in different playgrounds, with competitors that have enormous budgets and have been operating for years. Nevertheless, the growing popularity of DYI allowed us to start, the flow from outside – to grow, and the mastered creative principles may soon allow surpassing those that seemed out of reach six months ago.”
Video content is easier to use – visual language is more versatile, it can evoke more emotions even without any text and reach a larger audience. Therefore, as Rokas states, it is not necessary to discover something new in order to create successful content. On the contrary, when it comes to the relevance of the content, the criteria remain the same: clarifying the relevant (no to be confused with the exceptionally original) topic and message, choosing the right moment and trying not to be perfect, but best.
“Of course, skills and competencies are important, but not less important is the analysis of what is already on the market – not only the best ones but also the worst. In other words, understanding not only why some have succeeded but also why others have failed. All videos that are already published – DYI, travels, health tips, cognitive and inspirational videos – they all have some of their own strengths but do not possess the full spectrum of them. This understanding and clear principles can already lead us to create better quality and value,” says Rokas.

Universal goes viral

Probably already a classic of the genre – the task to create viral but inexpensive content that reflects all brand needs and unique values. However, the channel manager notices that those videos that play with versatilities, unify commonalities, and are connected with rudimentary human life transcending cultural context is what goes viral.
“The main aspects, what attracts attention and accordingly determines the results can be highlighted. Understandably, the screaming video aspects may seem even primitive if viewed critically, however, practice shows that people like to watch other people, expressive mimics and gestures, the attention is attracted and retained by contrasts, fast frame rate, appropriate scaling, and basic emotions. Despite some exceptions, you will disappear in today’s fuss of information, if you are not bright enough,” notices Rokas.
According to him, in practice, there is no discord between the highlighted reality and the need for organicity and certainty in this matter: people are attracted by good quality and professional, but still a controlled reality that is best expressed by the difference between YouTube videos and television.

We are showing one thing, but watching the other

It is no secret that a majority of the reasons behind the popularity of YouTube viral content seems hard to understand. Moreover, the question arises, how many of those 12 or 100 million who watched DYI videos on home decorating ideas actually did or used any of them?
“YouTube differs from other platforms in the intent of the people who come here: they are expecting to purposefully spend their time or are looking for some specific information, but at the same time, a majority of videos are viewed without the intention to do something with what is viewed. Why is that – it is a philosophical question. I believe, that we are involuntarily attracted by positive content that shows a problem and a solution to it. Besides, everyone loves to watch how others work – it is sort of hypnotizing. When watching tutorials or DYI, one feels fewer reproaches of conscience that half an hour was spent watching something that tomorrow will not be remembered. After all, watching such videos makes you feel that you have really learned something,” says Rokas.
He also notices another not-so-pleasant truth – even on YouTube which is more private, what we declare to be watching and what we actually watch is different. Accumulated data shows that artistic or deeper-content videos tend to receive more likes or shares and therefore appear to be successful. Unfortunately, in the YouTube world, where success and financial return are measured by viewing time, the viewability of such videos is several times lower than, for example, DYI. As a result, a sophisticated video that has received 10 million views, in reality, can bring less or even no benefit, compared to a video watched or liked by fewer, featuring clumsy kittens or 20 ways how to originally tie shoelaces.

Some practical insights

Unique brand content is valuable and pays off on YouTube if the service or product is relevant to most people.
YouTube has its own rules – what would work on Facebook or Instagram, would probably not work on this platform at all, and the replication of such classic forms like television will only eat up the budget. After all, the viewer who comes here is usually trying to escape television.
YouTube is not only watched by twelve-year-olds – current millennials already grew up watching YouTube. Even if they are less interested in blatant vloggers filming their daily lives, most of them are using this platform firstly as a search tool. In other words, unlike in a news portal, Facebook or Instagram, where traffic can be seen without active choice, here people often come deliberately to find information about a specific product or service. Therefore, the goal of a brand should be appearing where a searching user could find it, and it is a different matter, whether it is original or supported content, a banner or an integrated product.
Most brands in the country still use YouTube as their storage – a place, where they will always be able to watch their own commercials or amateur summer fest footage. In such a case it is naïve to expect organic dispersion or involvement, or maybe it is even better to expect otherwise.
Even though it is a classic of the genre, however, when creating videos, often too much attention is paid to the details that not only no one will notice, but they will also reduce the readability of the video. A video is usually created on wide screens, but we tend to watch them on our phones. And not even in full screen, so that the selected and played video content has to constantly fight against the fuss of information. Hence, what is interesting to a creator will not necessarily be interesting to a viewer.
Even if you have no news to share, it is essential to respond to the environment, follow trends. It is not fundamental for them to appear in the content, but more attention will be paid to the forms that are currently prevailing, such as the old-school style that is returning to fashion or trendy colours.

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