How Videos Go Viral

We’ve all been wondering why certain videos get the luxury treatment – a million views, mentions all over the news, and eventually radio time. Why do they go viral? Here’s a trimmed-down explanation of the factors turn a video into a phenomenon:

1) Social currency –Social currency means a video keeps listeners in the loop, in the cool crowd. If a video has high social currency then everyone has to see it to be part of the inside joke and the references. A great example of a video with social currency is the famous “Harlem Shake’” video. Creating videos that center around unique ideas and activities will give your video social currency.

2) Triggers – Triggers give your video has associations with something else making them easier to remember. Wiz Khalifa’s song “Black and Yellow” is a perfect example of a trigger because it’s associated with Pittsburgh sports. Now every time someone mentions the Pirates they’re reminded of Wiz. To add triggers to your video make clever references to pop culture phenomena like Snuggies or Donald Trump.

3) Emotion – Emotion is an easy trigger to manipulate because it speaks to humans so universally. For example Macklemore’s “Same Love” video about the gay experience is incredibly emotional. To add emotion to your video depict stories, examine your own life and its most touching or heart-wrenching moments.

4) Public – When a video has good public outreach it easily spreads by word of mouth. Word of mouth is the most effective way to spread a video because people only share content with intent. So when the Beyonce came out with “Run the World (Girls)” women most enjoyed the video and told one another, not men.

5) Practical Value – Practical value is the easiest to understand. It simply means your video offers knowledge to its audience. For example, early YouTube had an interesting video called “The Evolution of Dance” that featured a man dancing through the decades of the 20th century. It was both intriguing and educating.

 6) Stories – Last and not least is the story aspect of viral videos. This one speaks for itself. Stories have the most potential to make viewers laugh, cry, and think. For example take 60 year old skateboarder Neil Unger in the Moth & The Flames’ “Young and Unafraid” video that went viral earlier this year.

To learn more about what makes a successful video go to