How to make your video go viral!

We all watched some videos that had gone viral with +100,000 views on YouTube and thought to: “How did this stupid thing get so many views?” Chances are it didn’t happen naturally, but rather that there is a real viral marketing strategy behind it.

When we talk about “viral videos,” we are referring to videos that have traveled all around the internet and been posted on YouTube, Reddit, Google Video, Facebook, Digg, blogs, etc. – videos with millions and millions of views.

Kevin Allorca explains in this Ted Talk, how videos go viral on Youtube:

Here are some techniques that are considered the most efficient to reach this goal:

  1. Content is Key

For a video to go truly viral and get millions of people to watch and share it, yes, content is key. Here are some best practices to keep in mind while making a viral video:

  • Make it short: 15-30 seconds is ideal; break down long stories into bite-sized clips
  • Design for remixing: create a video that is simple enough to be remixed over and over again by others.
  • Don’t make an outright ad: if a video feels like an ad, viewers won’t share it unless it’s really amazing.
  • Make it shocking: give a viewer no choice but to explore further.
  • Use engaging headlines: make the viewer say, “WOW, did that actually happen?”
  1. How to land on the “Most Viewed” page

The core concept of video marketing on YouTube is to bind the power of the site’s traffic. Approximately 80 million videos are watched each day on YouTube, and a significant number of those views come from people clicking the “Videos” tab at the top. The goal is to get a video on that Videos page, which lists the Daily Most Viewed videos.

If you succeed, the video will no longer be a single needle among the 10,000 new videos per day. It will be one of the twenty videos on the Most Viewed page, which means that you grabbed 1/20th of the clicks on that page! And the higher up on the page our video is, the more views you are going to get.

So how to get the first 50,000 views needed to get the video onto the Most Viewed list?

Blogs: Some companies reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos.

Forums: starting new threads and embed the video. Sometimes, this means kick starting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users.

Facebook: Share, share, share. Build a sizeable presence on Facebook, so sharing a video with our entire friends list can have a real impact. Other ideas include creating an event that announces the video launch and inviting friends, writing a note and tagging friends, or posting the video on Facebook Video with a link back to the original YouTube video.

Email lists: Send the video to an email list. Depending on the size of the list (and the recipients’ willingness to receive links to YouTube videos), this can be a very effective strategy.

Friends: Make sure everyone you know watches the video and try to get them to email it out to their friends, or at least share it on Facebook.

Each video has a shelf life of 48 hours before it’s moved from the Daily Most Viewed list to the Weekly Most Viewed list, so it’s important that this happens quickly. As I mentioned before, when done right, this is a tremendously successful strategy.

  1. Title Optimization

Once a video is on the Most Viewed page, what can be done to maximize views?

It seems obvious, but people see hundreds of videos on YouTube, and the title and thumbnail are an easy way for video publishers to convince someone to click on a video. Titles can be changed a limitless number of times, so it’s better to have a catchy/misleading title at first, before switching a few days later to something more relevant to the brand.

  1. Thumbnail Optimization

If a video is sitting on the Most Viewed page with nineteen other videos, a captivating video thumbnail is the best strategy to increase the number of clicks the video gets.

YouTube provides three choices for a video’s thumbnail, one of which is grabbed from the exact middle of the video. While editing the video, we need to make sure that the frame at the very middle is interesting. Two rules of thumb: the thumbnail should be clear (suggesting high video quality) and ideally it should have a face or at least a person in it.

Also, to be particularly creative, we should optimize all three thumbnails then change the thumbnail every few hours. This is definitely an underused strategy, but it’s an interesting way to keep a video fresh once it’s on the Most Viewed list.

  1. Commenting: Engage your viewers

Every power user on YouTube has a number of different accounts. So should we. A great way to maximize the number of people who watch the video is to create some sort of polemic in the comments section below the video.

  1. Metrics/Tracking

Here are some analytic tools to measure the success of a video.

To keep track of the video, we will tweak the links put up on YouTube (whether in a YouTube channel or in a video description) by adding “?video=1” to the end of each URL. This makes it much easier to track links using Google Analytics or another metrics tool.

TubeMogul and VidMetrix also track views/comments/ratings on each individual video and draw out nice graphs that can be shared with the team. Additionally, these tools follow the viral spread of a video outside of YouTube and throughout other social media sites and blogs.


5 thoughts on “How to make your video go viral!

  1. Well we sure know a thing or two about how hard this is. Trying to pull off a viral video on purpose is really hard contrary to popular belief. Content, exposure, how relevant it is, is it funny or envokes some sort of emotional response are all valid points on the checklist. I think however, that some of the most successful ones are unintentional and are funny or really outrageous. Oh yes, and the ones with adorable little children go a long way as well!!! Great points Asmaa, but its so hard to do when you’re doing it on purpose.


  2. Your post reminds me that the viral video exercise we made in last semester. I also enjoyed the speech. You have highlighted all the essential elements of producing a viral video. Nevertheless, even we are familiar with all the key points, it is still hard to implement them.


  3. You are totally right, it is hard to make it happen even when you have all the right tips. It is also very time consuming. That’s the reason why some digital media professionals started making it their core business! Some Digital Media agencies are solely specialized in making their clients videos go viral! 🙂


  4. This is a great article on a consistently relevant topic in digital media today. As we all know a little bit of luck and timing are essential to making a video go viral as well.


  5. I just want to share your post to the team I worked with. It is very informative and contains lots of useful tips. To create a viral clip is one of the hardest briefs I’ve ever had. And in these days that consumers avoid being a tool to promote the brand, it is very tough task to make them share.
    However, I agree that the content is the key for any kind of video to go viral. It should be simple, fun, interesting enough that consumers are willing to share it forward.


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