What Makes a Video Viral?
My original blog post for today was going to be about Pinterest. Then I guest spoke at one of the City Colleges of Chicago about social media. I played a viral video. Instead of watching video, which I have seen dozens of times, I watched the class. I observed the looks on their faces. There were women crying. There were huge smiles and even the student who slept through the rest of the class was awake. It was only a five minute video but the impact it made on the audience will last a life time.
I jumped in the cab to return to my office and received an email from a friend with whom I was talking about the video last night at dinner. She had forwarded the link to a half dozen of her friends with a message that they had to watch it. A few minutes later, I checked my Facebook notifications, and I had been tagged in a post, thanking me for sharing that video with the person a while back. It was a whole lot of buzz and emotion about a silly viral video. But, in my life, two months after it was released, the video was everywhere. It spread like a virus… or a viral video. It was the WestJet Christmas Miracle video of February.
So people have asked me and countless other social media experts the same question over and over… what makes a video viral? First reaction is that if you are asking, you are on the wrong track. I don’t think you sit down and plan a viral video. I think you produce an amazing video and it becomes “viral.”
I looked at a couple of the most viral of videos and I found something in common. I found that the most viral of videos touched people on some emotional level. Whether it made them cry, laugh or just smile. It touched the viewer. In fact it touched the viewer so deeply that they didn’t just like or share it on Facebook, but instead they posted there, emailed it to friends and spoke about it to others. It is this emotional tie and reaction that makes a video viral.
One of the best examples of this is the WestJet “Holiday Magic” viral video. If you click on the photo above, you can watch it. When I showed this video to a class of 40 college students, 10% had tears in their eyes in front of their classmates. Others were biting their lip. Others had huge smiles. All were absolutely silent, totally engulfed by the video. It was an unbelievable experience to see. Watch the video and you will see why. I am not going to explain it because I want you to experience it. You can thank me after.
Another great example is TNT’s, “A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square.” Click here to watch this video. This is a light-hearted video about someone who finds a button to press in a village square. He presses the button and a very dramatic scene happens. Once again, watch the video to truly experience it. But you watch this two minute video and chuckle the entire time.
I think these two viral videos illustrate something very powerful. If you create something that elicits real emotion, it will make an impact. Too often we look to social media to deal with the masses. But when you make social media about the individual person and impacting one person, you will have something very powerful – a strong message and a viral video.