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The Perfect Storm: What Drives Viral Videos?

Not too long ago, it took years of hard work and determination to make your company a household name. Today, with the help of the internet, you can achieve viral fame overnight. Having your brand video go viral can propel your company to the forefront of home pages everywhere and give you valuable exposure to a much larger audience. While it’s impossible to predict what will go viral on a day-to-day basis and there is no secret formula, there are things you can do to give yourself the best chance possible to go viral.

 Elements That Decide What Goes Viral

Before talking about what you can do to give your video the best chance to go viral, there are two questions we must first answer:

  • What makes people share?, and
  • What gets the viral snowball going?

It can take a perfect storm to make your video go viral, but when everything comes together, you can ensure viral success.

What Makes People Share?

The path of least resistance to going viral is having people share your video on social media. If your video can spread like wildfire over Twitter and Facebook, then your video will go viral in no time. So what makes people want to share a video?

Emotional Connection

People tend to share things that resonate with them on a personal level. Eric Johnson, a content and video specialist for FeedbackWrench, thinks “There’s only one way for a video to go viral. It has to connect with someone. This can happen in many ways, but ultimately, virality is strictly a product of a video that has connected to someone in some way. The key to virality isn’t to impress, it’s to relate.”

Video can elicit a range of emotions from laughter to tears. If you can make a video that’s relatable and can touch people, there’s a good chance they’ll share it with others in hopes that they too will have a similar reaction.

times square viral video ads

An Ad For Yourself

People love sharing things on their timeline that are a reflection of who they are and what they believe in. Whether it’s a funny video or a political article, people want their timelines to be an accurate representation of themselves. This is great for your video because it’s essentially free promotion. IdeaRocket Creative Direct William Gadea says “A share is essentially an ad for yourself. You are saying, this is how smart I am, this is what interests me, these are the people that fascinate me, this is my sense of humor.”

Social media users tend to be very picky about what they share on their timelines, so if they share your video, you know they are an advocate for you and your brand.


This might be the hardest element of going viral to capture. Videos that are unique and stand out to people tend to go viral more often than generic videos. This may seem obvious but with 300 hours worth of video uploaded to YouTube every minute something’s got to give.

Videos can stick out as unique for a number of reasons. Whether your video is funny, creative, or shocking, it needs an edge to stick out from the rest of the pack. The internet is always bogged with content, so it’s important to give people a reason to stop, watch, and share your video.

The above video is a perfect example of a video that went viral in large part due to its unexpectedness. In the video – which was made by Blendtec – the man blends an iPad to show how powerful Blendtec blenders really are. It’s an entirely unorthodox way to display the effectiveness of a blender, but that’s why it works. Complete with quirky humor and a tongue in cheek 80’s inspired set and you have a home run video.

What Gets The Viral Snowball Going?

No matter how good your video is, it’ll need a little push to get it on the right to track to becoming viral. Two aspects that can get the ball rolling are tastemakers and communities of participation.


These are the people who can make or break your video. Essentially, tastemakers are individuals who hold a ton of influence in today’s society. This can be anyone from a celebrity to someone who has a lot of twitter followers. A tweet or endorsement from a tastemaker can exponentially grow your video’s audience and accelerate the process of going viral.

Different people hold influence in various communities. Tastemakers can vary depending on what the demographic of your video is in. If you’re making a cooking video, an example of a tastemaker in the food community would be celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. While this an extreme example, even a popular local chef could also be considered a tastemaker within your community.  You don’t necessarily need a tastemaker to viral, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Communities Of Participation

Gone are the days of one-way communication in entertainment. The internet allows for people to comment on and share their opinions on something in real time. Fans create forums and message boards solely devoted to talking about certain shows or movies. This creates an online community of sharing and interacting.

Also, social media is a place of sharing and communication. People love to share fun videos they just saw to their friends and followers. It makes people feel like they are participating in and having a voice in the success of the content itself. By sharing videos, people are buying into the hype and promoting your video for you; before you know it, you’ve gone viral.

Focus On Your Content

Now that you know what phenomena are behind videos going viral, you can prepare to make it happen. First and foremost, you should concentrate on making your content as good as it can be. You have to put in hard work in the pursuit of making original creative content. Alex Reichmann, CEO of iTestCash, says: “In many cases, viral videos are a result of vigorous work or someone at least being creative. If you rehash what’s already been done numerous times your chances at a viral video could lessen. So first and foremost it’s best not to take any shortcuts when it comes to quality videos.”

Hard work pays off. Without putting time into your video content, you run the risk of putting out a stale generic video that gives people no incentive to watch.

viral video crowd

Be Your Own #1 Fan

While some videos go viral organically, you should get the ball rolling with video promotion. Your content needs to be visible and readily available because you can’t go viral if no one sees your video. Promoting your video can be as simple as making a short, catchy title or telling people you know to watch and share – it doesn’t have to be a professional ad campaign. Chloe Mitchell of The Social Select explains that you should “Submit your video to relevant digital publications (Reddit, Buzzfeed, Mashable, etc.) and share with bloggers and other social media influencers in the space. It’s crucial to do heavy promotion early on so do your homework and figure out who would be the best fit and most likely to share beforehand so that once posted you can quickly reach out and increase your chances of being featured.”

These are simple steps that anybody can take to give their video the best chance of success.

When promoting your video, you should play it up with your target audience. If you can get big with your intended demographic first, you then have a dedicated audience, you can count on. Reichmann from iTestCash uses an example to explain this promotion: “Do you have a great video on theme parks? Submit it to social theme park Facebook groups and forums. A video creator that engages with his audience has a higher likelihood of success with videos and will help encourage your audience to help share your videos online.”

By putting an ad on Facebook to a group of people who have relevant interests, you are setting your self up with a good base audience. Starting your promotion with a group of people that you are going to like and share your video with others is a great place to start on the path to going viral.

There’s no secret formula for winning the viral video lottery, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a ticket. If you want to keep receiving great content and get our free eBook, sign up below for our newsletter.

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