Is there a magic to making viral video? Can you plan to make one? What does being a viral video actually mean?
All good questions. First the easy answer. There is no technical definition of a viral video everyone agrees on. It’s one of those things people just “know it when they see it”. But every viral video obtains millions of views. How many millions a video needs is up for debate, but I don’t think it should be a hard and fast number.
There are examples I’ll share in a moment that have nearly a billion views. I’ll also share ones with just over 4 million views. They are all viral. Some became a worldwide phenomenon, others simply took their own market by storm. You’ll see what I mean it a bit.
The videos that come to mind for me are usually not ones that were intended to be viral. There are the occasional TV scene or brilliant marketing video. For every one of those though, there are thousands that ended up in the failed pile.
The truth is there is some sort of magic that transforms a seemingly simple video into something the world wants to watch. You can put your finger on some elements. Usually they are funny, or cute. Sometimes they are emotionally charged (good or bad).
But trying to force any of those elements often backfires. Perhaps it’s because they lack the genuineness of many videos that go viral. Here are a couple of videos that epitomise the concept.
It doesn’t get much funnier or cuter than a couple of kids. Since 2007, they have over 842 million views. And they still get fresh comments daily from people seeing it for the first time. The video description makes it clear this wasn’t staged and the kids were just being kids.
Just when you think you’ve figured out what makes a video go viral, one comes along that breaks those rules. This video is just a guy freaking out over a double rainbow. He’s so moved by the beauty he goes on and on for three full minutes, eventually brought to tears.
No cute kids or animals. Potentially funny I guess depending on your mood, but not laugh out loud worthy. So how did this video get over 43 million views since posting in 2010?
It’s all because of one man: Jimmy Kimmel.
After seeing the video, Kimmel tweeted it out to his followers. They watched it and shared it with friends. Next thing you know, millions have seen “Double Rainbow Guy” freak out.
And that is the answer to the first question I asked at the beginning of this blog: Yes, it’s magic – but there’s a chance you can be the one making it.
Making a plan
Many people, marketers, and production companies make plans for their videos. Some hope they go viral. Other’s plan for it (and usually fail miserably). So what is the magic you need?
But not just any traffic. You need really good, high visibility traffic of an influencer. In the case of Double Rainbow Guy, it was Kimmel. Between his personal and talk show Twitter accounts Kimmel has nearly 10 million followers. If he says to go look at a video, millions will. Chances are some of them will share it too.
I can’t take credit for recognising this as an indicator of success though. In a post on DigitalMarketer.com, Adam Lyons, lays out a three step process for almost guaranteeing a video will go viral.
He’s produced numerous videos that followed a formula to become viral. So, “Yes”, to my third question at the beginning of the blog: you can plan for one. You should read his post to see all the gory details, but it basically goes like this:
- Find a new, growing trend
- Create a parody video somehow related to an influencer in the trend
- Get the influencer to share it
This is what he did with the example he shared in the blog. The company, Six Pack Shortcuts, identified a trend in food videos, zeroed in on Epic Meal Time as an influencer, then created a parody of one of their videos. Finally, they made sure to let the influencer know about the video and how inspired they were by them.
Epic Meal Time shared the video, which led to millions of views. More than that, within a few hours the company had made over $36,000 (~£27,000) in sales. And they’d eventually get 4 million subscribers.
To see the formula in action, here are the two videos. The first is the original Epic Meal Time video, the second is the parody.
Compared to 43 million, or nearly a billion, the 4 million views may not seem like much. But those four million were nearly all from the types of consumer the company was looking to reach. This is why I said earlier it isn’t necessary to put a firm number on the how many views a video needs to be considered viral.
Your video may not become the next global sensation, but it could completely dominate your intended audience. And that’s all you really need (though global domination would be nice too!).
If you read the full Digital Marketer blog, I’d love for you to come back here and share your thoughts.