Anatomy of a Viral Video

Ever wondered what it takes to create a viral video? How to maximise chances of your video spreading to the masses?

Let’s first start with a handful of practical tips

1. Be authentic

Your video needs to look genuine and spontaneous, displaying moments as they would happen/unravel in real time  – as opposed to following a well-calculated programme. You have to be like a conjurer: display great showmanship, captivate your audience with fab story-telling and there’s your trick to make it all look easy and flowing.

If you’re digging deep – into something personal or emotional – then there should be emotional “moments.” Jenna Marbles – “Draw my life” sometimes lets her feelings do the talking whilst having a flashback on some moments of her life (showing gratitude, or asking for forgiveness).

2. Be unique – the magic of the momentum

Your video should capture something unique that could not be made up and cannot be repeated. Showing real time reactions, difficult to replicate stunts, etc. are sure ways of making the viewer feel like he’s witnessing something out of the ordinary.  Steve Kardynal chose to do a live streaming parody of “Call me maybe” whilst showing real time reactions of his audience, giving viewers the feeling that this is a unique moment.

3. Be weird-ish

 Your video should be memorable and trigger a reaction. nothing wrong with a little shocking moment, something that takes a second or two to sink in.

4. Be funny

In most examples, humour is usually at the core of a viral video. Viewers are not only happy to watch it more than once (as opposed to a sad video), but they will be more likely to share it on social media.

5. Sound good

Music plays a major role in videos, and moves brain to pay attention, so use it, and use it wisely. Of course it’s nice as a background, but you’d have to be a bit bolder than that if you want to integrate it in a viral video. Songs, remix, parodies can be the pillar of your video. It’s a great, fun way to convey a message, so why not partner with proper musicians for a great quality result.

6. Go over the top

Go the extra mile, be extraordinary. But be careful as some people might get a bit shocked in the process, so don’t ever be discourteous. Show off some specific skills, address your niche audience, be too much. You could also shoot your video in some unusual place or venue, or invite unexpected people on your video.

7. Be on trend

Try and surf on some hot topic, something that gets people talking and passionate about, and you’ll have more chances of getting attention. This rap battle from the Epic Rap Battles channel features Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney during the US elections of 2012 and has just under 137 million views!

IT IS DIFFICULT to know whether your video will go viral, but put all the chances on your side by following the guidelines above. Even if your video doesn’t get millions of views, aim at pleasing your audience and being memorable.

Below are some inspiring video ideas…

Be a magician

The most amazing tricks are a combination of story-telling – to ensure an engaged audience – and great visuals. In the online world, too many distractions means it’s difficult to get viewers’ attention. Get straight to your story, that means no logos, no product shots and no scree casts.

Consider GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad-you-can’t-look-away-from below. They spent millions of dollars on this ad promoting their website builder.

Supermodel Bar Refaeli  kissing a stereotypical nerd named Walter. Passionately. And for the majority of the spot. Accompanied by what TIME’s James Poniewozik called “some of the most unsettling wet sound effect this side of Walking Dead zombie killing”.

This makes me cringe so much, and for so many reasons. Am I the only one disturbed by this? Surely not!

But guess what? Mashable reported that the Monday after the Super Bowl, GoDaddy achieved its best sales day ever, adding 10,000 customers.

Finally, What was the ad not about? How easy the website builder is to use.

Stand out from the crowd

Seth Godin said it best. We don’t notice a brown cow as there are plenty of them. Purple cows, on the contrary, are remarkable. Being remarkable, Godin says, is to be “worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.”

Think of the typical video ad for a blender. Brown cow alert –> it can mix fruits and vegetables, it’s quick and it’s powerful… Exciting… right?!

Now watch the “Will it Blend?” videos from Blendtec. To show the power behind their blenders, Blendtec’s CEO Tom Dickson blends things we wouldn’t dream of shoving down our blenders.

It’s annoying (Who would break a working iPhone and blend it?) but there’s some morbid fascination to it too – definitely qualifies as a purple cow.

Be Practical

Another factor in creating a viral video involves providing actionable practical tips.

Fashion blogger Wendy Nguyen’s got over 41 millions views with her video on 25 ways to wear a scarf in 4.5 minutes.

Fun “how to…” videos usually gather millions of views (how to tie a tie, etc).

Promote, promote, promote

Do your research

Before creating a video, think about your target audience. Who are they? How do you get their attention? What would make them engage with you?

Try to write a list of all the websites that your audience visits. Then reach out to those folks a week or so before you release the video to give them a sneak peek. You might want to aim for coverage on 2 to 3 websites to cause a PR domino effect.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST you should use high quality video production. Gone are the days of amateur videos going viral, almost by accident. This being said, the video below did a great deal of good for Kohl’s business when the Chewbacca masks sold out after the video was watched 54.2 million times within a few days.

Credits: Steve Young for SmartShoot, widzeo