Go Viral : It’s not just about luck

As to January 1st 2014, the total number of Facebook users worldwide is 1.4 billion, the total pieces of content shared on Facebook each month is 70 billion, the total amount of YouTube page views per month is 92 billion, the total amount hours spent on YouTube per month, and the huge statistics of today’s social networking and video sharing goes on and on. Welcome to the age of social network.

In this age, if you want to get something to be seen, it is impossible to avoid the Internet. No matter if you are making a movie, a TV show, a commercial or anything else. It is all about how to spread it to the world.
That’s why “viral video” is such a huge thing right now. Like virus, they spread fast and far. It is the cheapest and most effective way to reach the world.

There are many definitions about “viral video”. However, there are several key words that appear in all of these definitions, such as popular, fast (rapid), spread (circulate). From these key words, it is not difficult to find the core elements about viral videos: they all get a huge amount of views in a very short amount of time, and they generate a huge social impact.

Content matters a lot
There are always debates about what can make a video go viral. Some say that it has a lot to do with luck. However, only luck cannot make a video go viral, the content of the video matters.
I specifically look into ten articles (listed at the end of this post) about the content of viral videos. Despite the differences, there are several elements that almost every article would contain.
(In no particular order)
When you type in “how to” on Youtube, you can how easily these “how to” videos can get more than one million views. The reason why these videos can get so many views, is that they offer the exact information people are looking for, like “how to make your shoes waterproof”, “how to make a pancake”, or even “how to delete Flappy Bird”!

What is the big element of this video? Funny! People’s life can be quite boring, if you can make me laugh, I can make you popular!

No matter coming from what culture background, people can be defenseless to certain adorable/cute factors, such as cute kids, or cute animals.
There are lots of ways of surprising. And it is really difficult to identify the right “surprising”. The bottom line is, at least you can get a “Wow!” or “what the f**k?!” from the people who are watching your video.

What makes this video so successful is that, it generates a huge debate about whether or not the people’s reactions in the video are real. If your video can evoke people’s curiosity and start to talk about it, you are winning!

I cannot say this video would work on everyone, but it brings me to tears and remind me the kindness of human nature. People tend to be emotional. When people feel the same emotion as what the video conveys, they will be willing to share. It’s the same reason why some people like to share sad love songs to their friends.

Putting some form of ‘Call to Action’ will encourage people to share the video with their friends and turn it viral. Instead of making people feel mandatory, this video is a subtle “call to action” that make the audience think that they have the freedom to choose to share or not, which makes people more comfortable and more willing to share it.
8.Identifiable (relatable)
By sharing things on their social media, people are also showing some part of themselves to the world. If the content you are sharing has certain good quality, people will also see you as a person who has a good taste. That says, we need to create videos that our target audience can be related to. This will lead to the sharing and spreading of our video to the audience we intended to draw.
There are successful videos which can make people feel related to worldwide. The content of these videos includes but not limited to things like humor and pop culture. That means, the larger the online population our video can relate, the higher the chance people will like it.

How to make a viral video
According to my online research and last semester’s viral video making experience, I summarize some key elements of how to make a viral video as follow:
1.Know the target audience
Need to have a clear idea of who they are and what they want.
2.Create script/storyboard
This is coming from my real life class practices: this step will help the later execution a lot!
3.Equipment and talent
Expensive equipment is not necessary. Fully use the online resources (on looking for useful information and talent). Finding the right talent is very important.
4.Short and grasping title, related tagline, and intriguing introduction
I need to draw people attention to click on this video first.
5.Get my video out there and make it easy to share
Put the video link on all the possible related social media, forums and websites, Share the video with everyone I know. Special focus on opinion leaders.
6.Gather feedback
The number of views, the number of sharing, read comments……these can all help improving my next video.

There is no guarantee that certain things will make a video go viral, but there are always certain things that can be done to increase the chance.


7 thoughts on “Go Viral : It’s not just about luck

  1. This is a great recap Zeqi. You have 2 of my favorite viral videos listed here, Dollar Shave and Carrie–both well-executed and intentional. True the unintentional ones (like with babies and cats) may not take as much work at all, but still they complete the catalogue of peculiar things we humans want to click and watch. Viral videos. Such a strange digital phenomena. But you think hundreds of years ago if they had the Internet they would have had viral videos too–we observe how gossip and storytelling works since the beginning of homo sapiens history.


  2. Love the way you organize the blog. The information is very comprehensive. I like all videos you posted here 🙂
    Strongly agree with you that ‘content’ is the key component to create successful viral clip. Because without meaningful content, audiences wouldn’t share it with their peers.


  3. I enjoyed watching these videos so much I want to thank you for posting them up. Viral videos have so much power and they create so many reactions from the audience. My favorite video was the “Actionable” video where the father read aloud the note his daughter wrote on Facebook. It was my first time watching that video and it made me have more respect for parents who are so disciplined. He wasn’t out of line in any of his actions and I am glad that she put a couple bullets through the laptop that he bought his daughter. If a child has that many bad things to say about his or her parents when they are a spoiled brat, then by all means make an example out of that child by posting the video on his or her Facebook page.


  4. You are absolutely correct. Brands have to have an online presence to thrive in today’s digital age. People access the internet from home, work, out with friends and more. We literally use the internet for everything in 2014.


  5. I loved reading this post because you actually included a section of how to “go viral”. I used to think it was just about being lucky – like your title states! It’s interesting to see how brands are diving into video content to create a viral buzz. I work in advertising and the new thing all clients are interested in is YouTube, Vine and video content. It makes me wonder if there will be another platform that develops that will do video content bigger and better than what’s already out there!


  6. I love the idea of being able to go viral. The idea that almost everyone you follow on Facebook has seen the same video. It also provides the space to open up dialogue with people you have never met. You also get a chance to maybe talk to the culture pushers and product makers.


  7. This is such a strange digital phenomena. But you think hundreds of years ago if they had the Internet they would have had viral videos too–we observe how gossip and storytelling works since the beginning of homo sapiens history. Great Job


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