What Really Makes Videos Go Viral?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

If the internet has taught us anything, it's that any video has the potential to go viral. But what makes videos go viral?

We've all heard the stories:

"LG's Ultra Reality videos receive 2 million views in just two days!"

"Metro Trains' Dumb ways to Die becomes the third most shared ad of all time!"

If the internet has taught us anything, it's that any video has the potential to go viral, from an ad about razor blades, to a baby biting a toddler's finger.

But, how do we achieve success like that? What really makes videos go viral?

1. Originality

One thing that all viral videos have in common is that they are different -- they stand out from the crowd. Let's take the DollarShaveClub.com ad as an example. I'm sure you've seen it before, but just in case you haven't, check it out below:

This video is a perfect example of think-outside-the-box brilliance! Razor blades are a pretty boring product so it would have been very easy for DollarShaveClub.com to make a generic ad simply listing the benefits of their blades over other brands. But, a video like that just wouldn't have gone viral.

Seth Godin said it best: "The world is full of boring stuff -- brown cows -- which is why so few people pay attention. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out."

If you saw a purple cow in a field of brown ones you would tell everyone about it! You'd probably take a photo and upload it to social media too. Viral videos are the purple cows of YouTube -- it all comes back to being original. Originality is one of the key factors of shareability, and shareability is what really makes videos go viral.

Related Article: Seeing is Believing: How to Use Web Videos to Improve Your Bottom Line

2. Timeliness

Time is vital to a lot of viral campaigns because people are already online discussing, and searching for, current topics.

To correspond with International Women's Day last month, Microsoft released a video called 'Girls do Science' to encourage young women to pursue careers in technology and science, despite the fact they've been told it's a 'boy thing'.

This video, that currently has 2.1 million views, became much more popular than it would have been because of the timeliness of the topic.

Timeliness is helpful, not just to make videos go viral, but other content too. Oreo hit the jackpot when they posted the image below within minutes of the power outage at the Superbowl:


Similarly, at Wyzowl we released an infographic to correspond with the Avengers: Age of Ultron film release and noticed a huge increase in traffic:


So, timeliness is definitely a key factor in making videos (and other content) go viral.

Related Article: 3 Ways Video Can Acquire Leads, Drive Conversion and Increase Sales

3. Promotion

You can make the most original and timely video ever created but, if you don't promote it, no one will ever know how to find it, and it certainly won't go viral.

Promotion should be integral to any video marketing campaign. After all, what's the point pouring lots of time and money into video production, and then simply posting the finished product in one place and forgetting about it all together?

We all know post and pray does not work.

Promoting on social networks is a great way to get your video seen. Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social networks are very video friendly. You can even promote your videos via the platforms, on a pay per play kind of basis.

YouTube also allows you to promote your videos. They show up as ads before the user's actual content appears. This is great for promotion because YouTube can zero in on the specific group of people you want to target, for example, British males aged 18-25.

The only problem with promoting videos like this is that Facebook and Twitter only accept 30 second clips, and for YouTube it's 15 seconds for non-skippable, and 60 seconds for a skippable video.

The Bottom Line

No one ever woke up and said: "Today, I'm going to make a viral video".

It just doesn't happen like that.

The three points discussed in this article will assist you in creating a popular video that will certainly have the possibility to go viral. However, the bottom line is, of all the 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, no one knows what will go viral and what won't. And, the worst thing you can do is set out to make the next viral video, because that will take your concentration away from your real message. Instead, you should concentrate on making the best video you possibly can -- focus on originality, timeliness, and promotion, and with a bit of luck, your video may just go viral.

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