With so much video about, what factors contribute to helping one video spread across the web like wildfire while another receives a lacklustre reception?
A few months back, YouTube’s Trends Manager, Kevin Allocca, gave a presentation at TEDYouth on just this topic.
According to Allocca, there are three factors that lead to gazillions of views.
why videos go viral
Videos that capture the attention of tastemakers – celebrities, reporters, well-known bloggers etc. – stand a better than average chance of going viral. How to access these folks? The YouTube Creator Playbook includes numerous best practices and strategies to build greater audiences for your clips. Additionally, your PR team might already have connections you can directly or indirectly seed your video to. While there are no guarantees, if you manage to convince a tastemaker or two to mention your video on a talk show, article or Tweet, your video views will soar. The catch is this can only happen if you’ve created an e-commerce video that is worth sharing in the first place (see point 3 below).
The latest Vitamin Water video leverages the combined viewing power of existing YouTube stars from Sexy Sax Man to Nyan Cat. Altogether, these YouTube favorites have millions of views. When viewers search for their videos on YouTube, the Vitamin Water ad stands a good chance of appearing in either the search results or list of recommended videos. Very clever! Only added to their channel a couple of weeks ago, the ad already has over 160,000 views.
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- Communities of participation
A video can’t go viral without a community of eager viewers to spread it around, potentially creating their own takes on the material. The tastemaker’s reaction is really just the beginning. That is why your brand should be a part of powerful social video communities like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook where people can easily share your clips and their reactions.
It’s a matter of critical mass. “S*** Girls Say” became a YouTube phenomenon earlier in 2012 after a link to the video was posted on its million-plus follower Twitter account and picked up by the media. The video also resulted in numerous imitations, because it’s just so hilarious, and true.
Without a doubt, unexpectedness is the most important factor in helping a video go viral. To evoke a reaction and attract the attention of tastemakers, your video needs to be original or unexpected. An intentionally surprising video increases its chance of being shared or copied – first by tastemakers and later by the wider community.
For example, Sprinkles bakery created a simple video about their very unique cupcake ATM. Located in Los Angeles, the ATM dispenses cupcakes instead of money and is 100% real. The video has helped publicize Sprinkles’ innovative invention, which has subsequently been covered by The Huffington Post. Since opening for business in early March, the machine has been issuing 1,000 cupcakes a day!
Employing humor is another classic technique for viral video success. Using the “Old Spice” brand of satirical humor, Dollar Shave Club’s astoundingly clever launch video builds a connection with the brand, piques the viewer’s interest in learning more, and gets them to share it. On March 5 – launch day – the new start up acquired 5,000 customers and attracted 11,000 Twitter followers. The video has already been viewed close to 4 million times on YouTube and it’s been up less than a month.
But in the end while it’s exciting to have your videos go viral, it isn’t really necessary to generate sales. You just need to have something of relevance to say to your particular target audience about your products. Being informative will generate quality views.