The Secret to Viral Videos: A Case Study

Secret to Viral Videos: A Case Study

Viral videos can be a great way to introduce your work to a new audience. There are videos which have made the rounds on Internet and have achieved millions in views. The most notable recent example is the BlendTec “Will it Blend” videos. With creativity, marketing savvy and a very clear cut message, BlendTec has been able to introduce its brand to over 5 million people in a very short period of time.  This is an astounding achievement in my estimation, considering how little the company spent to put the videos together.

Developing a video in the hopes that it will go viral is very difficult. Part of the challenge is you’re counting on viewers to pass on the video to their sphere of influence – and there is no real way for you to be able to influence this action other than by the video itself. Clever content is a good start but you also have to make sure it’s easy to forward the video – either the link or the content itself.

In many ways, what people pass on is a matter of personal taste and preference. While I think funny videos get passed on more than others, I don’t’ think a video has to be funny to be passed on. Content that is sufficiently out of the ordinary seems to go viral as often as funny ones.

I recently came across the blog “No Permission” which documented how a certain on of their videos went viral. Here is how he says the entire thing got started:

A couple of weeks after I had posted, a friend sent me an IM “Hey, you never stumbled Nanny”. He meant that I’d never given the video a thumbs up via the StumbleUpon browser plugin. StumbleUpon is a social network / link sharing site, in which your friends in your network see sites you’ve given a thumbs up, and vice versa. We’ve had some success using this and other similar sites, and I usually Stumble a new video post on YouTube as a matter of course. I use YouTube as the preferred Stumble site because it’s the most popular video site, and a video there benefits more from a greater view total than on any other site.

In any case, my friend Stumbled the site, and I immediately seconded it. The seconding serves two purposes, one it’s a vote of confidence in the first Stumble, which makes it more likely to be seen by others, and two it combines my stumble network with my friend’s, increasing the number of people the video can be exposed to.

Nanny caught on with the Stumble crowd, and racked up a number of views from people Stumbling on the page over the next couple of days.

But then the big step happened- the video got added to the FunWall application on Facebook. Someone, likely one of the Stumblers, started “forwarding” the video via FunWall, and the view count really took off.

I encourage anyone interested in making viral videos to read the full post. Here are some of the takeaways I came up with after reading it several times:

  1. Submit your video to Stumbleupon since its more attuned for videos
  2. Video receives greater exposure once a second submission is received (vote of confidence)
  3. Post on Facebook FunWall (reduces link friction – ease of passing links on)
  4. Distribute email attachment version
  5. Once you reach critical mass traditional media will pick it up increasing exposure even further

Of course this is only one example and the whole thing would have been a failure if the content had not been so compelling, but this is a very useful case study. I was also struck by how proactive you have to promote your content so as to feed the frenzy (if there is one).

Picture courtesy of foreversouls.

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