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Pants on the Ground: What Makes a Video Go Viral?

Last Tuesday, “General” Larry Platt was just another 62-year-old from Atlanta. But on Wednesday, American Idol aired Larry’s tryout performance of his original song, “Pants on the Ground.”

By Thursday, the video went viral and now has more than 500,000 views on multiple accounts on YouTube.

His song is a trending topic on Twitter, his lyrics are on hundreds of Facebook statuses, and he is being interviewed by top T.V. and radio shows around the country. Even Brett Favre was caught doing his best Larry Platt impression. All of this came from the power of a viral video.

So, what is a viral video?  Here is a quick peek at the concepts of successful viral videos.

  • Timely. If there is a trending topic in the news, people will be searching for information about it everywhere – including YouTube and other video sharing sites. For example, right now you could create a video that relates to the NFL Playoffs somehow and it would get more hits just because more people would be searching for that topic. Find a way to post a video that you can tie to a topic in the news.
  • Relevant. If your video seems to speak straight to a particular audience, they will share it with their friends because they can relate to it. For example, one of our clients, Judson Laipply’sEvolution of Dance” is one of the top viewed YouTube videos of all time.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMH0bHeiRNg[/youtube]By dancing to well-known songs from each decade beginning in the 1950s through today, he related to a wide range of audiences.  Another example is The Dove Real Beauty campaign, which resonated with women – daughters, mothers, and grandmothers – around the globe and became a successful viral campaign because it sent a positive message about the sensitive subject of the perception of beauty.
  • Humorous, stupid or shocking. If a video instills a “haha” moment or a “wow” moment, people will not only watch it again and again themselves, but they will want to share it with others. Most of us have seen “Charlie Bit Me” where we can’t help but laugh at the two British brothers’ hilarious interaction. Or the video of Miss South Carolina bumbling through her answer at the Miss Teen USA pageant. Or when we watched in shock as the Pope was tackled by someone in the crowd at his Christmas mass. Make a video that steps outside the box and make people laugh or shocks them (either because it is outrageous or stupid) and your video will go viral.
  • Celebrity figure. If a celebrity endorses something, creates a video, or does something that is caught on camera, people will watch. While getting a Hollywood celebrity to be in a short video for you might be near impossible, you can find celebrities in your particular field that can use their well-known names to get more hits on your video.

Viral videos play on the fact that we want to share the feeling we get from the video with others. If it’s funny, stupid or crazy we forward it to the people we think will appreciate it for being funny, stupid, or crazy.   Many of the most popular viral videos were never designed as promotional viral videos.

The key for you as a business owner or marketing professional is to tie in a very subtle outro scene to the end of the video that includes your website.   If it’s too blatant of a promo then it won’t get forwarded and thus won’t go viral.

Ideas are everywhere, but there are no guarantees that your video will go viral. Watch out for companies that say they can guarantee that your video will go viral because human behavior isn’t 100% predictable.  Using a firm like Prime Concepts or a few others that help produce online videos can help with concepts and production quality, but the results are measured in the marketplace.

In future posts we’ll explore how you can harness the power of this virtually free publicity for your business.  Until then….

What are your favorite viral videos and why?

Author Byline: Ford Saeks, Business Growth Specialist, Keynote Speaker, Author and Consultant. Helping you find, attract, and keep your customers. https://ProfitRichResults.com

January 19, 2010 Posted By : Ford Saeks

1 Comment

  1. Kevin C

    Great info, Ford. Viral videos are becoming a powerful tool to attract attention to or help build a brand for a business or a person. I especially agree that you can’t be too blatant to self-promote in your video or it’ll turn off viewers, since most people are biased against ads and too obvious a plug for you or your business will come across like an ad. Still, it’s a tough line to toe. Would love to see more posts about how to use viral videos for branding and building mindshare online.


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