Is there a method to making your video go viral or is it just down to luck? This is a question posed by clients, brands and colleagues alike. Everyone wants to make a successful video, but can anyone really guarantee it will go viral? Is there a formula or a set of rules to follow that will increase the chances of virality? At a talk I went to recently at SXSW, Prerna Gupta suggested there is a method to create a successful viral video - in turn, hacking YouTube.
Prerna Gupta is the CEO of Khush - developer of the popular intelligent music apps Songify and LaDiDa. She became a YouTube stalker. She wanted to know if there were any patterns, what was successful, who made them, and why.
She was enthusiastic about creativity, deeming it a fundamental human trait - that means you and everyone else can be a creative. Viral video is cheaper than other forms of advertising and it's also consistently growing. From 180 million YouTube views, Prerna's apps have secured over 1 million downloads. This equals a significant profit - something every brand can understand.
Enough of the small talk though - how does one make a great viral video?
6 Building Blocks
Gupta found through her research that there are 6 building blocks to making a successful viral video:
Music - humour and cover songs work best
Surprise - shocking / unexpected videos work best
Cuteness - pets are the best form of cuteness
Boobs - self-explanatory really
Humour - parody, absurdity, off the cuff
Celebrity - a celebrity referencing your product
Product Demo Versus Virality
How do you include your product in a viral video? Product placements are worthless, but a product demo or description is essential. There is therefore a trade off between demo and virality. The tip is to put the demo in the post roll - around 20 seconds at the end of the video. Then put a link/reference to the product in the text description at the top of the page.
Viral Video Successes
Singing Badly In Public With LaDiDa - 200,000 views
In this video, LaDiDa turns the professor's horrible singing into a legit pop song!
Checklist Product Placement - CHECK Music (using humour) - CHECK Surprise (no-one expected initially his song could turn out this good) - CHECK Humour (the song is obsurd) - CHECK
Husky Dog Sings With iPad - 8 million views
Khush created a product placement viral video in collaboration with Mishka the dog. She was already a YouTube celebrity from her previous videos where she says ‘I love you’. This video hits the sweet spots of demo and virality.
Checklist Product Placement - CHECK Music (using humour) - CHECK Surprise (no-one expected a dog could sing) - CHECK Humour (the dog is singing is rather funny) - CHECK Cuteness (use of a pet) - CHECK Celebrity (Mishka was already a YouTube celebrity) - CHECK
The Annoying Orange 8: LaDiDa - 17.8 million views
Khush collaborated with a YouTube star - this time with the Annoying Orange - for another project.
Checklist Product Placement - CHECK Music (using humour) - CHECK Surprise (no-one expected the ending) - CHECK Humour (the characters, story and ending are humourous) - CHECK Cuteness (the orange and iPhone have a slight cuteness to them) - CHECK Celebrity (the annoying orange was already a YouTube celebrity) - CHECK
Songify This - Can’t Hug Every Cat - 15.6 million views
This viral video was made for Khush by YouTube stars The Gregory Brothers using their app ‘Songify’.
Checklist Product Placement (placed throughout and at the end of the video) - CHECK Music (using humour) - CHECK Humour (the music) - CHECK Cuteness (there is no shortage of cute cats) - CHECK Celebrity (The Gregory Brothers are already a YouTube celebrity) - CHECK
The Key of Awesome!: Eminem - Love the Way You Lie ft Rihanna Parody: Key of Awesome #27 - 48 million views
Checklist Product Placement (at the end of the video) - CHECK Music (using parody) - CHECK Surprise (the parody of the music throughout offers lots of suprise) - CHECK Humour (the music video storyline is humourous) - CHECK Cuteness (the use of children is cute) - CHECK Celebrity (the key of awesome was already a YouTube celebrity) - CHECK
The Most Formulaic Viral Video Ever?
Elephant Plays with a Galaxy Note! - 2.2 million views
This final video was not shown at the talk, but one I spotted while I was writing up my notes - It is probably the most formulaic viral video ever made.
Checklist Product Placement - CHECK Music - CHECK Surprise (the elephant can use the product) - CHECK Humour (the elephant can use the product) - CHECK Cuteness (the elephant) - CHECK Celebrity (you could say a Samsung phone is kind of a celebrity) - CHECK Boobs (attractive female helps the elephant) - CHECK
Video production tips: Be creative - use a Canon DSLR to take the video, use iMovie / Final Cut Pro to edit, film in sunlight and make use of the many free music apps to accompany your video.
Thumbnails - make sure these are clear to the audience and relate to the video. Getting these right can really make a difference to how many users click through to your video.
Get to the point - make sure the user is hooked within 10 seconds of the video.
Videos based on current events will nearly always result in more views.
Seed views - get a blog to pick up your video, do some PR, share to Facebook fans and Twitter followers. The initial seeding is important - a few thousand is a good start.
Collaborate with a fellow YouTuber.
Following these tips won't guarantee success, but they could help you get your video to go viral. If you would like more information on viral videos please feel free to contact Acknowledgement.