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What Makes a Video Go Viral

What Makes a Video Go Viral


“What Makes a Video Go Viral?”

by Robert Marshall

What is it exactly that makes a video go viral? More importantly, what does it mean for a video to be “viral” in the first place? As defined by the Oxford online dictionary, “viral” can be defined as: “relating to or involving an image, video, piece of information, etc. that is circulated rapidly from one Internet user to another.” Simple, right? What could be hard about writing Rebecca Black’s “Friday” or catching the next double rainbow on film? Not much, to be sure, but putting your video in a position where it will be seen by thousands of viewers is a bit trickier.

Many companies specialize in taking clients’ videos to 100,000+ views and beyond, but the important question is how this is achieved. The answer is two-fold: production and promotion.


If you are verily vying to get your video to go viral, here are some expert tips (Greenberg, 2007):

  • Keep it short: if it’s a long concept, break it into manageable clips
  • Plan for remixing: the more your video can be incorporated into other content, the better (ie: “Dramatic Hamster”)
  • Make it shocking
  • Fake headlines: make your viewers question reality
  • Pretty ladies


The “Most Viewed” Page

Looking for your first views? Make sure they’re from the right sources!

  • Blogs: reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs. If necessary, you may pay these individuals to post/embed your video.
  • Forums: start a conversation (and talk to yourself). When posting on forums, make sure to have multiple accounts to generate whatever size buzz you can muster.
  • Facebook: there are a myriad of ways to move your video to viral status using Facebook.
  1. Share your video with your entire friend list.
  2. Start an event that announces the launch date and invite everyone.
  3. Tag friends in a note about the video.
  4. Post video to Facebook Video, with a link back to the YouTube page.
  • Email Lists: depending on the size of this list, mass emails can be a very effective way to gain easy views.


Title Optimization

Your video is much more likely to achieve viral status if it has a pointed and direct title. Fortunately, YouTube video titles can be changed endlessly, so consider including buzzwords like “exclusive,” “behind the scenes,” or “leaked video” to add to your hype.


Thumbnail Optimization

YouTube chooses your thumbnail options based on what content is showing at the exact middle of your video. Use this to your advantage when editing. Also, try to include a face or person in your thumbnail. Think of all the swimwear model videos with hundreds of thousands of views. This strategy is obviously not necessary, but it can help.


Here are some other tips on getting your video from popular to viral:

  • Comments: have outrageous, heated discussions in your comments section. You can use multiple accounts, stage arguments with friends, or, if you’re lucky, you might find two people who don’t need your help arguing about your video.
  • Releasing Strategy: release all your videos at once. It may seem safe to post one video a day to keep your content fresh, but if a viewer is wild about your video, why make them wait to see more?
  • Strategically Tag: yes, you can use YouTube to create searchable keywords for your video, but you can also use custom tags that only you use to link back to your own videos on the “Related Videos” page.
  • Analytics: add “?video=1” to the end of your URL. This makes it easier to track inbound links with Google Analytics, TubeMogul, VidMetrix, or other metrics tools


With 10,000+ video uploads every day, it can be a lot of work to create a worth-watching video on YouTube, and even more work to give your worthy brainchild the exposure it deserves. However, with a little creativity, some tech-savvy-ness, and a little slight of hand, you can turn your video from an under-seen masterpiece into a viral hit!



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