If anyone knows a thing or two about viral videos, it’s Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s Head of Culture and Trends. Speaking at The Conference, a gathering for media and communications professionals in Malmö, Sweden, Allocca took a few questions about what it takes to make a video truly viral. According to Allocca, there is no magic recipe for making a video a viral hit, but he does have some observations about what videos tend to blow up. So let us break it down for you.
1. Be Original
Videos like “Gangnam Style” go hugely viral because they’re not the kind of content that we’re used to seeing, especially from the record industry. If you’ve got something people haven’t quite seen before, chances are they’ll be excited to share it.
2. Be Engaging
We all remember Rebecca Black’s viral nightmare/hit “Friday,” but the song didn’t go viral because people liked it, it went viral because people were talking about how much they hated it. The song inspired conversations with some commenters insisting it was a sign of the apocalypse and others defending it as a catchy pop tune. In both cases, people shared the video to continue the discussion and find people within their network who agreed.
3. Be Collaborative
Allocca notes that “Groups of people can make their own popular culture,” meaning that sometimes it isn’t about one video going viral, it’s about a viral concept. While some “Harlem Shake” videos and “Call Me Maybe” parodies did score millions of views, what made those songs truly viral was the sheer number of videos created by everyday people. Chris Pratt’s Ice Bucket Challenge video has been viewed millions of times, but it’s just one of many by celebrities and ordinary people alike. Sometimes it’s the concept, not the content, that goes viral.
4. Be Emotional
Brands desperately want to go viral but they often struggle because people can spot the commercial a mile away. No one wants to feel like a sucker for sharing an ad. Some brands have overcome this by creating content that appeals to people’s emotions instead of their wallets. That’s what Dove did with their “Real Beauty” campaign; one of their videos show a sketch artist drawing women based on their own description and underscores how we often exaggerate our flaws. More importantly, it tugs out our heart strings when the artist reveals a second, more flattering portrait of the subject as described by an acquaintance.
Alloca stressed that there’s no surefire way to predict what kind of content will or will not go viral. However we’re learning more everyday about the kinds of things that people choose to watch. Everything from the way people shared videos during the Arab Spring revolutions to niche communities on YouTube that share videos of pets or trains teaches the video giant more about what motivates viewing habits.
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