• Alex Mane

How to Make a Viral Video

On the Internet, viral videos may seem like the ultimate form of success. Previously unknown content creators can have a stroke of luck (or a marketing strategy—more on that later) and have their moment in the spotlight. 

While viral content may seem like a glamorous goal, it’s difficult to actually achieve, mostly due to the fluctuations in activity that decide what goes viral and what doesn’t. Content that works one day might fall completely flat in another situation with just a few variables tweaked. 

Despite the difficulty of generalising viral content, there are some best practices to keep in mind that may increase your chances of going viral. But, a couple of caveats before we get started.

First, it’s generally not a good idea to specifically aim to make a viral video. It’s one thing to have great video content that you want to market to reach as many people as possible, but it’s another thing to create the content itself with the goal of going viral. We tend to caution against the latter option, as it can lead to content that serves no purpose and wastes your resources for no reason. 

Second, anyone who promises they can make you a viral video is lying. There is no formula that guarantees that content will actually go viral. Some content creators or distribution companies may claim that you can hire them to make your video go viral, but any arrangement that starts this way is likely to end in disappointment. 

Yes, there are several commonalities between videos that do go viral, and it is possible to manipulate those factors to try to have the most significant impact. It is not, however, possible to guarantee that those strategies will work for a given piece of content. Even for content creators who have had viral success in the past, each new piece of content is a new challenge that is subject to the same inconsistencies in engagement trends as everyone else’s content. 

With those disclaimers in mind, let’s talk about the facts. Thankfully, there are some easily-adjustable factors that many viral videos have in common. If your goal is for your content to reach as many people as possible, here are six tips for optimising your content. 

1. Elicit emotions.

Viral content often goes viral for one simple reason: it elicits emotion. This is why there’s such a thing as “negative” viral content, like Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad. The video went viral by gaining backlash, not praise, but still earned millions of views. Obviously, having millions of viewers who are watching out of frustration is not ideal, so positive emotions are more likely to generate the response you want. Making people feel compassion, humour, or other happy feelings is worth aiming for if you want your content to gain traction. 

This concept has a lot to do with why this woman’s Chewbacca video went viral. Her laughter is contagious, and it gives off a positive, happy energy that clearly resonated with viewers.

Source: Jon Deak

2. Share strategically.

Next, you’ll want to share your content strategically. Many people have the misconception that viral content happens completely organically, but this is often not the case. A video with millions of views may have received boosts from advertising the content, doing outreach to get media outlets or prominent figures to share it, or otherwise making every effort to get the content in front of as many eyes as possible. 

In one case, for example, a woman got the dance video below to go viral by intentionally trying to get traffic on several popular sites, and found success when it took hold on Reddit. Intentionally trying to get something to go viral isn’t a hands-off process by any means, so you’ll have to market your content just like you would in any other scenario where you wanted to increase its reach.

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