A growing number of video production houses and ad agencies claim to specialize in viral videos. By definition a “viral video” is a web-based video that is so popular that people will want to share it with their friends or colleagues (through social media sites, through email, through IM, through blogs and through media sharing websites). That is a very big promise.

One of the best examples of a successful corporate viral video was created by Blendtec, a Utah-based blender manafuacturer. The company created a wildly popular video promotional series called “Will it blend?” which showcased Blendtec founder, Tom Dickson dumping everything imaginable into a blender to answer the question “Will it blend?” The videos contain an engaging mix of shock, humour and campiness that have generated millions of views. “Will it blend?” has become an Internet meme and the series has generated millions of dollars in increased sales for the company. {The company has even made money from merchandising the ‘Will it blend?’ name and shared advertising revenues generated from Will it Blend? videos on video sharing site Revver.}

So yes, it is possible to generate awareness, buzz and even revenue with viral video but success at the level of ‘Will it Blend?’ is the exception. The challenge is that you have to strike a very delicate balance of entertaining without looking like you are selling. If your video looks like a commercial or a blatant promotion, it won’t be shared. If you create something that is hugely entertaining but does nothing to advance your brand, what’s the point?

It’s also getting much more difficult to break through the chatter. YouTube gets a cajillion new videos uploaded every minute. Yours better be really good.

If you’re thinking of creating a viral video here are five questions you should ask prospective viral video production house:

1. How many viral videos have you done, and for who?
2. How will this video promote my brand? (Most viral video producers squeeze the brand into the video)
3. How will you measure success? If the answer is ‘views’, is there a way to qualify who is viewing it?
4. Do you employ any video seeding strategies, title and thumbnail optimization or other guerrilla techniques that help accelerate video sharing?
5. Are there any guarantees? What if it only gets viewed by 100,000, 10,000, 1,000 or 3 people?