We had a great client meeting today about a new product they wanted our help to launch. And during the discussion, the client casually mentioned another company who had produced a video last year that was “supposed to go viral.” But, of course it didn’t; the client, and we, both recognized you can’t just prescribe for a video to “go viral.”
Coincidentally, when I got back to my desk after the meeting, I had an email from my brother with a link to a YouTube video for TNT in Europe. I clicked on the link because I trust my brother’s taste. I clicked the play button. I laughed. I covered my mouth in horror. I watched the whole thing. I immediately tweeted to 1,000+ followers that they had to watch it.
The video was posted yesterday. As of 2:30 today, it has 4.5 MILLION views. Now that’s what I’d call viral.
Why did one video “go viral,” and another not? Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly what will work and what won’t. But in comparing the 2 videos, a few things become obvious.
- Make your viral video 6 minutes long.
- Introduce it with large corporate logos.
- Introduce it (after the logos) with a lecturer and definitions.
- Make it hard to understand (both the plot and the audio).
- Use a fake setting that looks almost real, but is obviously low budget.
- Host it on your own servers. (While the video was also on YouTube, the company hosted it on their website in their own player.)
- Use the same topic and approach as several other videos. (One similar video on YouTube had 40,000 views, but was obviously done in a tongue-in-cheek, cheesy, humorous style — and was easily understandable.)
- Make your video brief.
- Use a dramatic opening.
- Use good pacing.
- Use suspense.
- Use real human emotion.
- Use humor and pathos.
- Throw in some unexpected plot twists.
- You might also add guns, a girl in a bikini, and a football player or two for good measure.
In short, it’s just like telling a story. People like to pass on good stories. And in order for a video to go viral, it needs to have that same kind of emotional tug.