What Makes A Video Go Viral on YouTube?

It is a struggle for everyone that is on the internet and has a video camera. What actually makes a video go viral? What brings your brand, blog, product in front of millions of YouTube visitors all looking to digest unique video content?

Real Life Examples of Viral Videos

As most of you know, I am obsessed with my Subaru WRX. I take pictures of it…take it apart on a weekly basis…and watch much of my income get dumped into it with upgrades. The sickness spreads beyond my car as I also pay attention to drivers out there that are behind the wheel of WRX’s and STi’s.

Ken Block is known throughout the car industry for producing viral videos that scream through YouTube like wildfire. His latest viral video shows off his new Fiesta RS WRC rally car with the “Monster Girls”. With 568,400+ views and counting…the video you see below is doing pretty well on YouTube.

(of course, when he made his Subaru STi video informercial…it is at 26,427,000 views and counting…maybe he should switch back to Subaru. See that video here.)

Ken is tapping into one of the oldest rules in viral videos…sex sells. In an attempt to one up Ken Block, fellow rally car driver and general nut case Travis Pastrana made is own version of “car and girls” video.

In this video…Pastrana says “car + girls = traffic”. And while Pastrana’s video is only at about 300 views when this article was published, I have a feeling it will eventually take off as more forums and Facebook pick it up.

What To Take From This And Viral Videos You Produce

Do you need to have dancing girls around your eBook or video review? No…absolutely not (but it might help).

Viral YouTube videos are a black art of sorts. You never really know what is going to take off and what sits in the graveyard never to be found. From my experience with YouTube as both a watcher and producer of content, there are several key things you need to keep in mind when producing your videos if you want them to go viral.

  1. They Must Be Entertaining – If you are going to put up some boring video and expect it to get a lot of views…you are going to be waiting awhile. People want to be entertained. Even with more boring subject matters and reviews, the entertainment value can still bring a lot of views to your video. I remember including me wrecking in one of my video reviews of a mountain bike and that video saw 10’s of thousands of views over the regular website views. It brought (and still brings) a lot of new visitors to my blog.
  2. Be Over The Top – This really goes with #1, but on video…everything looks flat. You really have to take facial expressions…wording…and tone to a new level for it to be caught on video. You will feel stupid during the execution, but it will come out better on video.
  3. It Has To Be Unique – Even with the videos above…there is nothing new about girls and cars…but there is a uniqueness to the editing and feel to the video that allows it to not be just another car video. Especially with the 25+ million views video from Ken Block, the uniqueness of his skill and the added effects (like drifting across light bulbs) add to the “wow factor” of the video.
  4. Keep It Short – When I used to work in video production, we were constantly looking for ways to keep people invested in the content while viewing. We found that shorter clips (around 6 minutes max) with multiple cuts through the clip (15 to 20 seconds) kept people’s attention. You do not have to have fancy editing techniques, simple cuts are fine but what you want to stay away from is your face infront of a camera for 6 minutes. People will get bored quickly and leave no matter what you are saying.
  5. Quality Wins – Take your time and do it right. Just slapping up subpar video quality with audio that people can hardly hear is not going to work. Also, use HD where ever possible.

At it’s heart…it really is a simple formula. It just takes time to execute it correctly. When you look back at the videos that you posted on YouTube, did they have these features that set you up for success? Or did you create a video that you wouldn’t even watch…

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Anonymous July 1, 2011 - 11:57 pm
Hey Robb, I like the way you deconstructed this. Makes perfect sense - and I enjoyed the Pastrami vid too LOL. A good example of a video going viral simply because it is just friggin awesome is one called 'People are awesome' If you only do one random thing today, PLEASE go and watch that now. IT will make your day. Man people are awesome!
Julian Foster July 12, 2011 - 6:36 am
Diet Coke + Mentos Big Data Explosion Prank on Guy Flirting with Girl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB2Z4clau4g   This video is part of a social media experiment being conducted by Informatica to see how many views it can get in a 3 week period. Please help it go "viral".
Ali Mese September 3, 2013 - 4:35 pm
I also find that the script sometimes dominates the production. If you have no interesting content, noone cares about how fancy your video is. Nice post!
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