Going Viral: An In-Depth Look at What Determines a Video’s Virality

At this point, everyone knows that video marketing is where you need to be, but can you do better than just your average marketing video?

There are videos all over the web that have gone viral with little to no explanation. They all have different content, different backgrounds, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a link between them at all. Going viral seems almost random, but is it?

The keys to virality seem to be ephemeral and ever-changing, but is it possible to lock on to a few of the tips and tricks of virality to utilize them for yourself?

With the rapid movement of the internet age, it can be impossible to keep up. We’re going to try anyway. 

Let’s take a deep dive into viral video content and see if we can’t see what kind of things make a video go viral.

Going Viral: An In-Depth Look at What Determines a Video's Virality

What is a Viral Video?

Think of the label “viral” almost literally. The content spreads from person to person, often with exponential growth, almost like a virus.

One person sees a video and shows two people. Those two people each show two people and so on.

With the rise of popularity of social media, “showing two people” became “sharing to two platforms” which then exposes the video not to one or two extra people, but to entire friend’s lists or follower bases. Before you know it, a video has been shared by thousands, and seen by tens of thousands, and that’s just the beginning. 

There’s no exact measure for virality. Not everything has to be Gangnam Style or the “Numa Numa” video, thought to be the first viral video.

Sometimes viral means that people you know “in real life” are talking about it. Are people in the office mentioning the video? Has your mom seen it? What about any kids you know? That’s a pretty good way to guess.

Another way is to see if another video has morphed off of it. Just like a virus, these videos too, can mutate into brand new things. Viral videos sometimes get included in other videos online, on popular channels, or made into memes, enhancing their virality and creating a whole new “virus.”

So, how do you make one? Are there components to a viral video that are guaranteed to get you viral success? Can you go viral on command?

After you figure that out, is that actually what you’re after? 

Pop Culture is Essential

Culture is moving faster than ever, and the difference between something being in and something being out (or worse, canceled) can be a day or less. You’re going to have to have a quick trigger finger with those trends or hire someone who does.

Using pop culture as a means to gain popularity on a video is a classic technique. People are already searching for that content, so it’s more likely that they’re going to see yours as well.

Are you showing up in those tags? Is your video well planned out and entertaining? You might have the setup for a potential winner there.

Also, pop culture has kind of become cultural canon for us. We have this shared vat of information that everyone can pull from.

Using bits and pieces of this information to scrapbook together something new makes it recognizable and more accessible to other people. Everyone knows certain celebrities, movies, or songs. 

Pop culture isn’t just television and music anymore. It can include things that are in the news, internet culture, other viral videos, memes, the list can go on forever.

Drawing from these sources is like making a small collage for your video. Memes rely on this format, and many viral videos do as well.

Timing is Everything

With pop culture comes timing. Again, something can be in, and then out again, before you even heard that it was in to start with. The world moves fast, and you need to keep up.

Hitting the perfect timing just might be the trick to peak virality though, so you need to make the effort. If you know an event is coming up that you want to center a video around, don’t wait for the event to happen.

Film it beforehand with several potential options. If the outcome of the event matters, like the winner of an award show, you will have the backup ready to go.

There’s also dramatic timing. Pay attention to some popular meme videos right now. They’re short, sweet, and to the point.

Don’t Downplay Emotions

Speaking of emotions, these videos usually to make people feel something.

There are several kinds of viral videos. Two that come to mind are those that are shared because they’re funny, and those that are shared because they evoke sympathy. 

Everyone has seen those videos shared through social media of puppies being rescued from wells and children being adopted. People share them because they make them feel big emotions. 

Funny videos are also making people feel big emotions. People want to feel happy and laugh, and they want to share that laughter with others. If your video isn’t making people feel something, they probably won’t be very inclined to share it.

There’s some genius marketing in the advertisements for the ASPCA. You know the ones that play late at night showing abused animals over the Sarah McLachlan song. They’re total tearjerkers, which is perfect for their brand. 

The same emotions won’t work for everyone. Some people naturally evoke sympathy, while some are just naturally funny. If you’re trying to market for your brand, a sad video probably won’t work if you’re selling ice cream (unless you spin it the right way). 

Whatever emotions you evoke, make them big. People won’t share boring content.

They want to think. They want to laugh. They want to cry.

Think about what you would share if you were on the other end.

Remember the Way of The Virus

Never forget the way that things spread through the internet. You’re relying on multiple different categories of people seeing this video and liking it enough to share. Homing in on one specific market is great when it comes to many forms of marketing, but not when it comes to virality.

Your end goal is to create a video that as many people are going to watch and share as possible. They don’t all have to like it.

People can share things that they hate, as hatred is an emotion, more on that later. It will still get more eyes on it, some of which will be positive and enhance your virality. 

With that in mind, appealing to the masses is the way to go. You can’t please everyone, but while controversy will get eyes on you, it might not be in the way that you’re hoping.

Think Outside of the Box

People are going to share things that they haven’t seen before. This means that you’re going to have to get creative, or you’re going to have to hire a creative team. 

If you’re marketing for a product or service, this might be a tricky area. The kind of creativity that thrives on the internet sometimes borders on “weird,” and can be an uncomfortable zone for many brands to live in. If that’s the case, maybe aiming for viral isn’t the best idea, and aiming for “popular” is a better target.

Not everything that goes viral is creative, but many things are. People love to share unusual and creative things as if to say “hey, look what I found.”

If you do what everyone else is doing, there’s no reason to share your video. Everyone has already seen it.

The Internet Doesn’t Always Make Sense

With the swift tides of the internet comes the fact that sometimes the trends don’t make sense.

Humor shifts fast and the things that people find amusing enough to share may seem nonsensical to people who don’t spend a lot of time watching viral videos. This also might be part of the reason that viral videos seem to be so random. 

There’s something that draws us to the silly and inane, but also the sad and emotional. Sometimes people want videos made with studio-quality cameras and professional sets and actors. Sometimes those videos are snubbed in exchange for videos taken on a smartphone camera with handmade costumes and one person playing 4 roles.

Keeping this in mind is healthy. You can make the perfect video, and have it flop because this week whatever you’re doing just isn’t trending. 

Don’t Try Too Hard

It’s easy to track trending content and try to mimic it. Not in the way that viral content sometimes works, where pieces are scrapbooked together to create something new and better, but in a way that feels like bandwagoning. 

Content that doesn’t feel organic won’t do well. Companies often make the mistake of seeing that animal videos do well and just trying to shoehorn dog and cat videos into their normal content. It might show a slight boost in engagement, but the content won’t go viral.

In general, people don’t like being advertised to. The content has to seem organic (or at least authentic) for people to want to interact with it. Copying a meme or a trend will feel unauthentic and your followers might not appreciate the move. 

Is Going Viral Always Good?

Remember that Gillette ad? It got a lot of pushback and the company received some mixed feedback overall. It’s not alone.

One wrong move from a company can be social media suicide. You have to be prepared to take that risk and know that your brand is able to withstand the potential hit should things go wrong.

That said, they can sometimes wrap around so far that they go right again.

Take this video for example. You can file this under “the internet doesn’t always make sense” category from the sections above.

Is the video good? Not really, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was made for what seems to be local television. 

Do you think that more people than ever visited their website (and potentially their mall if they were within a reasonable driving distance), if for the internet “points”? Almost definitely. 

So, whether or not it’s worth it is up to you. Keep the risks in mind, create the content that speaks to you, and hope for the absolute best.

Are You Ready to Go Viral?

Viral videos are a great way to get your brand out there, but they almost have to be organic to be effective. To make a great viral video, just do your best to make a great video. Hire a good staff that knows what they’re doing when it comes to writing and film and have a solid marketing strategy. 

Remember, there are risks in going viral and you should be prepared for them ahead of time. Viral content can be great for your brand, but one wrong step can be terrible. 

In short, you just want your videos to be sharable and evoke emotions.

You want them to stick in people’s heads and leave them talking. You want to create the content that you would also want to share. Isn’t that the point of creating things?

If you need help creating exciting marketing videos, contact us today for a free digital marketing review.

Owner and Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Hall, and his team specialize in creating brand awareness / traffic and lead generation / marketing funnel and conversion optimization, while utilizing the appropriate marketing channels available within your industry. With diverse clients throughout the world, Jason's team is well connected within many industries to assist with your marketing strategies. With no long term contracts and various levels of service, Jason's team will increase the quality of your online traffic, leads, and sales.

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About the author...

Located in the heart of the Emerald Coast - Destin, FL, founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Hall, and his team specialize in creating brand awareness / traffic and lead generation / marketing funnel and conversion optimization / and PR campaigns, while utilizing the appropriate marketing channels available within your industry.

With diverse clients throughout the world, Jason's team is well connected within many industries to assist with your marketing strategies. With no long term contracts and various levels of service, Jason's team will increase the quality of your online traffic, leads, and sales.

Jason Hall 5Channels.com

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