How Does A Video Go Viral?

In a recent Market Dialogue presented by the American Marketing Association, a speaker described the process of viral engineering. Only he wasn’t talking about the newest pathogen or pandemic.

Instead, he was explaining how to create an internet video that would “go viral” as a popular pass-along in social media and other online communications. In his 45 minute talk on video, he touched on the scale of social media and themes for online marketing in the future. It was a remarkably generous conversation by the leader of an ad agency currently traveling in the fast lane.

Social media is a sweet spot for Dave and his group, so the 20 people who gathered were “all eyes” as he listed the content that typically grabs viewers’ attention and triggers sharing online:

  1. Funny or cute
  2. Talent or unusual skill
  3. Funny: commercials
  4. Funny: awkward or embarrassing
  5. Celebrations in real life
  6. Nerdy (robots, videogames)
  7. Funny/strange: compilations
  8. Funny: spoofs (imitation, satire or parody)
  9. Tragedy: disasters and world events
  10.  Memes and themes (like badgers or bacon)

Most (but certainly not all) of these can be lumped under the term “entertainment.” But entertainment, no matter how side-splitting or compelling, has to be noticed first by the right viewers to release its viral power. Dave identified these tools as effective in encouraging a video’s online contagion:

  • Memes (to find what is currently popular, try searching
  • Tag/hashtags/links – piggyback on trending ones
  • Influencers and bookmarking (,
  • Web PR (try distribution services)
  • Paid placement

Dave also gave out a very valuable “YouTube Best Practices” handout to the attendees. You should ask him about it.

In “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell’s hypothesis about social behavior becoming “viral” was predicated on interrelated components. It’s clear that “going viral” online also requires interrelated elements: content and distribution must function together based on viewer’s interests and involvement in social media. Far from being accidental, viral videos are intentionally designed to spread online.

What do you see as the value of going viral?

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