Designer. Disruptor. Startup Mentor. Digital Innovator.

How to Make a Viral Video

"How to Make Videos Go Viral" - ibuildcompanies.com by Jeanne Heydecker
"How to Make Videos Go Viral" - ibuildcompanies.com by Jeanne Heydecker

Actually, there is no real way to know what will or will not go viral on social media. Many people have their recipes for making a viral video, go all in with a celebrity(ies) or influencer(s), or try anything to see what works. You can try to quantify any data to see if you can create your own formula for guaranteeing success, but there isn’t one. You never know what the next parachuting from space, gold/blue dress controversy or creepy dancing baby video is going to be.

There have been some studies that indicate that people click on links due to two impulses: “curiosity” and “controversy”. That’s why you’ll see a lot of clickbait sites entitling their posts with words like “you’ll never guess what happened next…” People are curious and they will want to know the end of the story. Titles to content using controversy are typically political advertising and NGOs where the use of it can dramatically increase donations. Here are the steps I go through before starting to produce the video.

Understand Your Market and Your Competition

What do they tend to share? Where are they on the internet in substantial quantities? Who are their key influencers on each platform? Are there editors at industry blogs that you should know? Setup company accounts and follow them. Copy down their hashtags. Make a spreadsheet to list their content, its format and schedule. Keep the data for later. Do the same with your competition.

Have the research reviewed by everyone on your creative team, then start brainstorming ideas. Write everything down. Throw candy at people. Sugar keeps people filled with energy. Make it a game. Write them all down, put them in a fishbowl and read each one out. Pick a few of the best and separate into teams to see if they can generate a quick synopsis of what the video would look like start-to-end. Keep everything open: no budget restrictions, hiring only the best, as much time as you need…

Then you need some gestation time. Creatives need time to let their brains do their thing. Come back and do the same thing again three days later or after a weekend if the first meeting did not produce desired results. Once you’ve come up with something exciting, and I mean, you really should feel excited about the idea, it’s time to go about beginning the writing process.

Using the data you already scored through market research, make sure that the concept is unique (at least in your industry and doing it in yours would make it funnier, more poignant, etc.). After examining your budget, decide what format to use. Will it be studio produced or something office-made with a hand-held? Can you afford a fully immersive 3-D virtual reality experience or just a video using internally-made or stock images that move with text and a voiceover? Once you have your plan, finalize your script but stay flexible.

Create the Best Video You Can Based on “Time, Money Budget: Pick 2”

Produce the best video you can based on what you can afford today with the personnel and tools available. The more users enjoy the video, the more views, shares, and attention it will draw. If your video feels commercial enough, you can add a short end credit with links to social media. Don’t forget to focus on what you put in your thumbnail and Use as a Title – CRITICAL TO CLICK-THROUGHS! Add a custom transcript with additional keywords, content as part of the description, hashtags, and upload that video to Youtube. Then post to all the other platforms. There are ways of automating this.

Get as Many Views as Possible in the First 48 Hours

The first 48 hours is the only period when your video has a chance of going viral. You should already have been active on your social profile accounts prior to dropping the video. You want to be uploading content regularly, adding followers, and networking with influencers and editors of on- and off-line media/publications throughout the time spent on production. Email everyone you know and have been adding to your email lists since the start. Ask them to share. Get on social media and ask your friends/followers to share it. Getting featured on a big industry blog is the quickest way to go viral, but tough to secure. See if those editors might be interested in a guest post. Advertising can almost be as quick but far more expensive. Worth it? Could very well be. Getting enough views to hit the tipping point is the key to success.

You Need 50,000 to 75,000 Views to Be Taken Seriously

Your video should start going viral at this point because the algorithms start taking notice of quickly rising videos. Once you hit around 50,000 views, you’ll start ending up in Honors categories (which are basically categories) and the more categories the better to get your thumbnail on each user’s home page. Likes and comments are both important to eventually earning Most Popular status. You can buy likes and comments on a variety of platforms as well. Expensive? Can be. Focus on the ones where your markets are. You may already see your competition there so be prepared to beat their numbers.

Most Popular and Most Viewed are what you really want for your video to land on the Videos home page; Youtube’s home page is even more rarified.

Going Viral Starts at 150,000 to 200,000 Views

This means you are going to be on the first page of all categories, hashtags, etc. for the platform, meaning that a lot of casual browsers of the platform will see you featured somewhere in their feed or home page and this is where “going viral” actually happens. If your thumbnail and title do their jobs, these casual browsers will click on it to watch. If they like it, they may like, share, comment or any combination of the three. This will have a snowball effect, making your video actually go viral. People will love you. Your coworkers will respect your work. Bravo.

After All That Hard Work

If people don’t like it, it will get downvoted and the 48th hour will pass with no appreciable benefit for all the work you put in. Think about why you did this in the first place. What was the point? Does your video HAVE to go viral to be a success? Did the right people see it? Did they contact you? Did you make a sale? Only then will you following the right metric that makes sense to any business in any industry.


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