Every company would love to create a video that goes viral, drawing hundreds of thousands of eyeballs to a low-cost Youtube commercial.
But few pull off what Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal have done: performing this feat many times over.
Here are the North Carolina comedy duo’s tips for launching a successful Internet video campaign.
1. Take time to build your audience
Many businesses dream about whipping out a breakaway video that goes viral on the Internet. But McLaughlin and Neal say success is a matter of building community.
It took a year for them to get 10,000 subscribers on Youtube; now they are drawing millions of views for a single video. They have done this by building an audience through Facebook, Twitter and Rhettandlinkcommunity.com.
“If you’re thinking about an individual video,” McLaughlin says, “it can be very, very difficult to engineer a viral video if you’re not going to put a bunch of marketing money into getting it out there for people to see it.”
2. Find the tribal leaders
The Internet is a series of communities that form around interests and causes, and it has leaders—whether they are car bloggers or those discussing new technologies. Win over these influencers of opinion, and they will help spread the word about your brand.
3. Interact with your fans
Neal and McLaughlin videos generate more comments than they can possibly respond to, but they still can’t resist jumping in and responding to fans’ comments when they can. This, says Neal, is what makes the Internet so powerful: “There’s so many levels of interaction you can have with people.”
Yet some people who want to start a viral campaign disable comments on the video. McLaughlin says, “They have basically said, ‘I am not going to engage with you…'”
4. Embrace the medium
Rhett & Link’s videos in recent years show notable production skills. But they are also satirizing local commercials—and working on Youtube—both places where amateurism can abound.
“Even if we made an honest mistake in terms of shooting something or something is out of focus,” Neal says, “it’s like, don’t tell anybody we said this, but we can even say we did it on purpose, because that’s the whole genre.”
5. Be subtle about the plug
“You’ve got to come at it from a different angle,” McLaughlin says. “You’ve got to think, How can I entertain and them, then how can I work the brand into that entertainment?”
6. Be flexible
When McLaughlin and Neal showed up to interview Robert Lee of Cullman Liquidation, they had a plan for making the commercial. But he began talking as if they were filming his life story, delving into the times he’d been smacked with a wrench and a fencepost.
“We always have to go in with some idea in our back pocket, so that if nothing happens, we know the commercial we’re going to make,” McLaughlin says. “But more often than not we find something there and that changes everything.”