Do you ever see a video show up on your timeline with a seemingly infinite amount of like, comments, and shares and you think to yourself… of all things, how did THIS video get so popular?? Viral videos are spreading quicker than chicken pox in a kindergarten classroom yet it seems there just might be a method to the madness.
To get started, I googled “viral” and you will not believe what I found. Merriam-Webster has the following definitions:
viral /ˈvīrəl/ adjective
- of the nature of, caused by, or relating to a virus or viruses.
- relating to or involving an image, video, piece of information, etc., that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another.
*insert shook face here* Do you SEE the second definition?? How long you think that’s been there? You think pictures drawn on the inside of cave walls back in the day ever went viral? Yeah, me neither.
Anyways, now that we know what ~viral~ means, let’s learn HOW to become viral ourselves. According to a New Yorker article by Maria Konnikova titled, “The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You,” the most common traits of viral videos are that they provoke an emotional response (positive response is best), they provoke some sort of arousal, they are memory-inducing, they have a social currency, they are a quality source of media, and they have practical value. If you reflect back on the videos you are most likely to share on social media, do they have many of these qualities? I know mine do…
Unlike the New Yorker article which is backed up by relevant research, there are lots and LOTS of sites teaching you “how to go viral” that might not be as credible as you think. An example is an article titled, “How to Make a Viral Fitness Video,” which recommended the following tips: keep the basics in check, consistency is key, credit yourself, and capitalize on the moment. I don’t know about you, but to me these traits don’t sound extremely provoking or emotion-inducing like we would expect. Do fitness videos differ that much from your “typical” viral video? Although a fitness video potentially has a smaller target audience, I think sticking with the previously mentioned six traits can take your lifting video to the next level instead of just posting the same thing all the other 48302jdfewjd08r5w843 “fitness bloggers” post everyday. 🙂
Another take on ~viral~ content comes from Mr. Kevin Allocca, a YouTube trends manager (he literally watches YouTube videos for a living… I think I went to the wrong school)…
According to Mr. Allocca, viral videos happen because of three things:
- communities of participation
He brings up a good argument for why videos go viral with even BETTER examples – watch it, it’s funny. My personal favorite is the clip with the cyclist talking about how typical it is for obstructions to be in bike lanes as he continually runs into them (5:38 if you’re not going to watch the whole thing *eye-roll*). Nobody who starts watching that video with no previous knowledge of what happens would have predicted his funny and maybe painful actions. Because of this, people want to share it to share the shock they ~felt~ when first watching it.
The word ~felt~ takes us back to those things called feelings which was the number one trait of a viral video… we went full circle if ya didn’t notice. So whether you share a video because of the emotions you feel when you watch it or whether you really just want to show off that grainy, poor quality video of your new PR, keep in mind what makes something viral and you might just become as popular as this lady with her wine weights. Cheers.