There Is No Magic Formula to Create A Viral Video

Trying to create a viral video often seems like trying to win the lottery. The odds of winning big are slim and if you do, there is usually no rhyme or reason why. It seems almost random. When you look at the types of videos that do go viral, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a common thread between them.

The Examples

To get an even clearer picture of just how different one viral video is from another, take a look at the biggest hits on YouTube and Facebook from last year.

●      “Chewbacca Mom” is a Facebook Live clip of a mom excitedly opening and trying on a noise-making Chewbacca mask she bought for herself at Kohl’s.

●      “James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke with Adele” in which the Late Late Show host and Adele drive around London and sing some of her greatest hits. 

●      “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen” is one of the most absurd and silly videos on the Internet. In it, Japanese comedian Daimaou Kosaka sings about...you guessed it: pen, pineapple, apple, pen.

●      “Water Bottle Flip Edition” shows YouTubers Dude Perfect flipping water bottles, so that they land upright, even from a roof into the cup holder of a car below.

●      “What's inside a Rattlesnake Rattle?” is a YouTube video that shows what happens when you dissect a rattlesnake tail and find out what’s inside.

All five don’t seem to have anything in common or follow the same format. Yet, many businesses and individuals still hope that their video will have the same level of popularity. For some, virality is an expectation (no matter how unrealistic).

The Competition

Besides the fact that most viral videos are random and have nothing in common with others, competition is fierce. You have to compete with millions of other videos that are uploaded to the Internet every day for viewership.

The Internet is saturated with video content. Every second, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. Every minute, an estimated 400 hours of new videos will be uploaded.

According to Internet Live Stats’ real-time map, close to 5 million videos are viewed on YouTube every day, and in one second, 69,756 videos are viewed.

Research reports from Cisco forecast that by 2021, a million minutes of video will be uploaded to the Internet every second. Also, video will account for over 82% of all Internet traffic.

The Odds

You should know what it takes to go viral, before you channel your inner Han Solo and shout, “Never tell me the odds!” There is a massive amount of online video, but few can be considered “viral”. For instance, there are over 1 billion active users on YouTube. However, there are only about 1,500 channels with more than 1 million subscribers, and just a little more than 10,000 videos have over 1 billion views.

This doesn’t mean that video isn’t valuable. On the contrary, it is one of the most effective ways to engage with your audiences and grow your business. However, set realistic expectations. In other words, don’t think you’re going to create the next video that everyone is talking about. 

In fact, based on a recent analysis, only about 1% of social video actually goes viral. Do you still think that your first video upload or even your 50th is going to be an instant hit? In reality,  no one really knows the secret to creating a viral video─even those that have done it.

The Secret To Going Viral: There Isn’t One

No matter how many times viral “experts” claim that they know the hidden secrets to virality, there is no proven formula. A video may simply be entertaining. It could be hitting hard on a current trend or feature celebrities. There may even just be stellar distribution and advertising tactics at play. Most often though, people just get lucky.

According to a Harris Poll, 57% of people that share videos online admit that they don’t even know a viral video when they see it. If a formula existed, wouldn’t more videos have gone viral by now? 

Yes, there are best practices that can help improve the performance and engagement of your videos. At 10twelve, we’ve found that the most shared videos have a few things in common. (Note: It’s not a magical formula for viral video.)

1. They already have a large, active online community.

The most viral videos are created and distributed by brands that already have a huge, active and engaged fan base. Most importantly, they have super sharers. These are people that can reach thousands to millions of people when they share content with their online communities, whether it is through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other channel. (Hint: Celebrities.)

The second top-trending YouTube video last year (remember “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen,”) , went viral after Justin Bieber tweeted about it, saying it was his “favorite video on the internet.”

2. It’s highly relevant.

Videos that are remarkable or have cultural relevance appeal to a larger audience. They add new information or interesting insights that compel people to share with the rest of their network. This is why some of the viral videos out there touch on current and controversial topics such as politics.

For instance, the number eight video in YouTube’s list of top trending last year was a segment on Donald Trump from “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”. A significant portion of the top-trending Facebook Live videos last year were related to the election, politics and heated topics like law enforcement and guns.

3. It appeals to a wide audience.

Videos are often shared because viewers can relate to the content. It discusses something that directly affects them or people that they know. It may express a similar “sense of humor” or the same political or cultural beliefs. In order for a video to trend, the audience has to be huge and appealing enough that people feel compelled to share.

Trying to make videos with the intent that they’ll go viral is a waste of time. There is no secret recipe or proven formula. There may be a few tried-and-true best practices that can make your videos more appealing and engaging, but set realistic goals. Focus on creating valuable content that is useful to your target audiences. You’ll find much more reward in doing that than in trying to get a million views overnight. To learn more about creating high-quality videos or discover other ways to grow your business, contact 10twelve today.