What makes a viral video?

When a video becomes viral it means that it has gained its popularity through internet sharing,  including email sharing, social media and video sharing sites such as Youtube.

Successful viral videos are often humorous, such as The Lonely Island’s ‘Lazy Sunday’ sketch from Saturday Night live. They can range from being TV sketches, internet only productions or simply events caught on camera by eye witnesses.

The key element of any viral video is content. It must be fresh, relevant and unexpected.  If a video is being used for promotion it should make creativity a priority over advertisement as this is vital to any viral video. The content should appeal to the audience you are trying to target, make it speak to them by covering a topic that interests them and use language they are familiar with. The best viral videos cover topics that are discussable and relatable, showing something shocking or surprising that evokes a strong emotion compelling viewers to share it.

Videos with strong viral appeal often include or reinforce a positive message acting as a call to action, encouraging viewers to share it. A good example of this is Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ which was aimed at a female audience, encouraging them to challenge their views of their own bodies. The video ‘Kony 2012’ by Invisible Children Inc. contained a powerful message asking viewers to share the video to raise awareness of the plight of children kidnapped and forced to fight in Joseph Kony’s guerrilla army. ‘Kony 2012’ has since become the most viral video in history with over 99,000,000 views (May 2014).

It is important to optimise your video for online access and sharing. Studies have found that most viral videos are shorter in length as web users generally have less time and a shorter attention span with regards to watching content online. Choosing an eye catching title and thumbnail for your video will also help to make it searchable and easily identifiable, important ingredients for videos that go viral.

To get a compelling, relevant video to make the jump to viral status, you need to get it in front of the right audience. Viral videos are shared by digital influencers and taste makers like popular celebrities with large bases of followers. Once they share a video, it is then curated by other users. An important process in sending a video viral, as people are more likely to click on and watch a video if it has been shared by a favourite blogger or friend.

As a video’s hits begin to rise, a mob mentality takes hold and web users are more likely to spend their time watching a video that has a large amount of views. This is because they assume the video is worth watching if other users before them have chosen to spend their time watching it. To begin gaining this momentum some businesses decide to use paid for advertising such as Youtube promoted videos or Facebook ads.

Ultimately, it is impossible to ensure that a video achieves viral success. Even if you have incorporated all of the key ingredients, the video still relies on its viewers to take it to a viral level. To see the latest viral videos check out Unruly Media's Viral Video chart!

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