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We’ve all seen those awesome “viral” videos that seem to spring up overnight and create a massive online sensation. So how do travel marketers create the next big #ViralVideo? And, on a broader level, is video an important tool for travel marketing?


Let’s deal with the viral topic first

Of the >100 hours of video uploaded onto Youtube every minute, very few videos burst into the viral video hall of fame. Here are some of my favorites from recent years:

  • Gangnam style (1,8bn views so far!) – the elephant in the room – the biggest online video ever – by far. Just thought I would drop that in there because of its complete dominance.
  • Kony 2012 (98m views) – great use of emotive content to launch an appeal
  • Battle at Kruger (72m views) – unscripted African drama as it unfolds, the 12th most viewed video on Youtube, earned its maker a rumored $12m in advertising!
  • Mountain Biker gets taken out by Buck (15m viewers) – fluky incident, camera in the right place at the right time
  • The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (62m views) – hilarious take on a favorite African character. In fact last year I met an Australian couple in Botswana who wanted to see a honey badger because of this video – they told me that the video has given the badger iconic status in their circles!
  • Move (1,8m views) – excellent innovative travel video
  • Harlem shake and flash mobs – viral video themes that have spawned multiple versions of the same theme

Notice that some of these videos are scripted and some are about being in the right place at the right time. Looking at the variety of content in these examples its obvious that there are no strict rules about what will go viral.

Viral videos are unpredictable, with widely ranging content, length and style. And most are not created viral – the viral bit happens later, often via a happy collision of many factors. The truth is, there is no proven formula for producing viral videos. The video will often lie dormant for many months and even years before a unique set of events triggers social sharing. So what are the triggers and why do people share the video?

Why some videos go viral: 6 Reasons


“The basic elements of highly successful online videos are really just fundamental principles of human interaction”

Every travel marketer should read The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell – and apply those lessons to all social campaigns, including videos.

Is video important for travel marketing?

Recent entries into the online video space include short form social video apps for the mobile space Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Vine (owned by Twitter). In time these short form video apps and their successors will prove to be huge tools for travel marketing because of the social sharing potential.

Of course videos going viral can be bad news for your brand – as a few lodges have found out recently when their badly behaved rangers become internet sensations for the wrong reasons.

Parting thought

My prediction is that travel marketers who seize the short form social video opportunity by investing time and energy, get creative and involve staff and guests will do very well out of it. Those that don’t – well they won’t.

My next post:

5 Dumbest comments by travel marketers

All posts in this series

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Simon Espley

I am a proud African, of the digital tribe, and honoured to be CEO of Africa Geographic. My travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, real people with interesting stories and elusive birds. I live in Hoedspruit, next to the Kruger National Park, with my wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells. When not travelling or working I am usually on my mountain bike somewhere out there. I qualified as a chartered account, but found my calling sharing Africa's incredibleness with you. My motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter.