Are Viral Videos Luck Or Is There A Formula?

By Michelle O'Keeffe on Jun 18, 2014
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Viral videos. Are they an artform? A science? Or a combination of both? Honestly, if I had the answer to this question, I wouldn't be here writing this article, I'd be sitting on a beach somewhere having sold the 'formula' for millions! Truth be told, no one has the definitive answer, but there are definitely some important learnings I will outline here to help give you the best possible chance of success.

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We recently produced a 10 second video for a client of ours that we felt had a real chance of being shared. We watching that video in our office at least 30 times a day for weeks, that was our first clue ;-) This video has gone on to have over 330,000 views, over 200,000 of which occurred within the first four days of posting, which was an amazing outcome from a zero base (that's right, we had no database to share this with).

Here's the video:

So, what boxes did we tick with this video? A recent  study from Elon University has looked at 20 successful viral videos in order to determine any consistent themes or characteristics that could have contributed to the video's success. They found eight fairly common themes.

They were:

  • Title length: The average title length for these videos is 2.76 words. So keep the title short.
  • Video length: Keep it short! The average video length was 2 minutes and 47 seconds.
  • Include irony: Nearly all videos (90%) featured irony (the viewer sees or hears something unexpected) and, in a lot of instances there is some sort of breaking of 'social norms'. Just be careful with this if you are representing a brand. Don't want to break too many social norms!
  • Include surprise: Half of the videos show some expression of surprise (the viewer sees or hears something like a gasp or scream).
  • Include laughter:  If it's relevant, include someone laughing early in the video, within the first 30 seconds.
  • Include music: 60% had some form of music, whether it be referencing a popular song, singing or background music.
  • Youth: 35% featured people estimated to be under the age of 18.
  • Talent: 30% had some form of performance that would have required practice and skill.

Going through that list we had a short video of youth performing a talent with something unexpected. And you hear a gasp, 'ooooohhhh whaaaaat'! We love that last part.

So, there you have it. If you need help producing a short video of some talented kids laughing in an unexpected way while screaming a song, get  in contact with us!

Michelle has been in marketing strategy for over 20 years. Michelle got involved in Engaging from Day 1 with the conviction of creating a business that ‘does great work with great people’, including clients, partners and staff. A born problem solver, she immerses herself in clients’ businesses and reconstructs their sales & marketing activities to ensure they operate to deliver directly on the business’ objectives. Michelle is passionate about maintaining a company and company culture that leaves the world a better place than we found it.

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