Sunday, 8 April 2012

Going viral

These days it seems as though one sign (or maybe expectation?) of success in a communications campaign is if a YouTube video goes 'viral.' It is an elusive request, since videos that do go viral sometimes seem to have no reason for earning millions of views (see Rebecca Black.) So, what makes some videos go viral and others resistant? Is there an element of fate or is it something you can target?

In a post from Emma Gannon, she outlines principles that one can use to garner more views. For example:

- Don't over-brand, your content is what should shine
- Make it human and timely
- Grab the attention from the start and keep it

It would seem that from Emma's pointers, the average social media user doesn't want to feel that he or she is being 'marketed' to or sold something, but rather discovering or sharing information or something amusing on their own terms. In a post from Social Media Today, they shared the results of a report from Invoke Solutions that identified (among other things) what made content share-worthy, according to social media users.

These included:

  • A considerable range of traits defined share-worthy branded social media content for participants including content that was new or noteworthy (75%), entertaining (69%), valuable advice (68%) and exclusive information (67%). Financial benefit also rated highly at 65%, but its fifth place ranking suggests that social media consumers can be motivated by content without necessarily expecting a financial reward.
  • Valuable advice was one of the traits sited for share-worthy content. Third behind new/noteworthy and entertaining. 

When I put these pieces of advice to the test using the video below, I can see the proof. The video was created by a physician at a Toronto hospital. Since posting on December 2, 2011 it has earned 2,368,867. Not too shabby - especially when you consider he is not in the PR biz! It does run a little on the long side, but there are identifiable components that contribute to its success (i.e. content, valuable advice, attention-grabbing design that keeps you watching.)

While there are guidelines that can be followed to make a good video that hopefully resonates, I believe a bit of luck goes a long way to pushing it into viral territory.

1 comment:

  1. While I see that there are some videos that actually do go with these guidelines and manage to be in some way viral, the other exampke you gave of Rebecca Black shows how it is not always the case. Content, valuable advice, attention-grabbing design that keeps you watching, may to some extent be important key element to make a movie known but at the same time, known and viral are two different things. I would classify Rebecca Black and also the recent Kony 2012 video as viral. As mentioned in a Ted talk ( , for a video to go viral it is my belief that they need unexpectedness, a creation of participation and also the help of other community influencers (especially bloggers).