How to make a video go viral


Earlier this year I was asked to give advice to one of our clients who wanted to make a ‘viral video’. At first I was a little bit overwhelmed by this request, as my initial view was that something only goes viral if the content is top notch. As Media Guerilla states, “If there’s any real “strategic” part of making a video viral these days, it’s the making of the frigg’n video, it’s the creation of the content”.

And yet, many video’s (and posts) do go viral with content that if I dare to say so myself is weak. Even if Media Guerilla has a point, maybe there is something else to it.

Fact: The video we created did go viral and hit the #1 most viewed slot in our chosen category on YouTube.

Part 1: Content, Content, Content.

Surprisingly it’s often the last thing that is considered. The starting point should be what do we have to say and how can we say it creatively. Even if the ‘dark Jedi tricks’ can make the chances of success go from good to great, if you have poor content then the chances of success equally go from good to hopeless.

Part 2: Outreach

Below is a copy of the email I sent to the team giving them advice on what to do (nb. I have removed client sensitive information including the link to the video). Most of this content was adapted from advice I found on the web – I should point out that Dan Ackerman Greenberg’s post sheds great insight but also commits so many deceptions that I needed to heavily edit his ‘best practice’ techniques.

RULE 1 – be honest and transparent about who you are at all times. No astroturfing. However, doing nothing but hoping this video will go viral will not work – you have to put in some hard work too – suggest you get cracking on the below.

1) Multiple names

Try uploading it with different names – use a different headline to make it more appealing for the surfer who goes by the title

2) Get onto the most viewed page

  • Blogs: reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs – be clear who you are – state what you are doing, tell them about why you are did the video and ask them to post our embedded videos.
  • Forums: We start new threads and embed our videos. Again be clear who you are and start conversations about the subject – sometimes, this means kickstarting the conversations by setting up a new account on each forum. Yes, it’s tedious and time-consuming, but if done well, it can have a tremendous effect.
  • MySpace: Plenty of users allow you to embed YouTube videos right in the comments section of their MySpace pages. We take advantage of this. As above – remember to be clear who you are
  • Facebook: Share, share, share. Be part of relevant groups on Facebook and share the video with the entire friends list – this can have a real impact. Other ideas include creating an event that announces the video launch and inviting friends, writing a note and tagging friends, or posting the video on Facebook Video with a link back to the original YouTube video. Needless to say (and I am being repetitive – but don’t spam anyone and be clear who you are).
  • Email lists: Send the video to an email list – making sure this list knows who you are and are happy to receive mails from you. Depending on the size of the list (and the recipients’ willingness to receive links to YouTube videos), this can be a very effective strategy.
  • Friends: Make sure everyone we know watches the video and try to get them to email it out to their friends, or at least share it on Facebook. Again, be clear as to who you are when doing this.

Each video has a shelf life of 48 hours before it’s moved from the Daily Most Viewed list to the Weekly Most Viewed list, so it’s important that this happens quickly. As I mentioned before, when done right, this is a tremendously successful strategy.

3) Thumbnail Optimization

            Change the picture – pick the most interesting bit from the video and make this the photo on the thumbnail

4) Comments

            Make comments – be clear who you are – do not have comments with yourself.

5) Tagging

            Make this video easy to find. Ask yourself what would you type into Google to find this and then ensure these tags are used

As I mentioned before – we followed the above strategy and managed to get to the top of the most viewed list. We were clear at all times who we were and received *no* complaints from the people who we mailed.

Recommended reading for other good ways to make a video go viral:

Marketing Pilgrim – How to Make A Blog Post Go Viral with Social Media

Web Ink Now – 8 tips to make your YouTube video go viral

Social Networking – Tips for Viral Success For The Online Social Networker

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30 Responses to “How to make a video go viral”

  1. Part 0: Is a “viral” right for my campaign at all?

    Sadly this is the most often overlooked and most poorly researched point/question of all.

  2. Excellent point Jason – this should be the first point in anyones list.


  3. Very interesting point. Congratulations on your success

  4. Very interesting post. Congratulations on your success

  5. I agree with point zero. Most viral campaigns that fail do so because they should never have been viral campaigns at all.

  6. 6 Video Vixen

    Great post. You might want to check out viral video seeding tips from Feed Company president Josh Warner in imediaconnection. It’s pretty informative about how these campaigns work.

  7. I have uploaded my most recent video which I hope will go viral. I’ve had a few hundred hits in a couple of days (which is amazing when compared to my other videos, and considering that I live in New Zealand, my video got up to #68 most viewed on the day, with just a few hundred views)

    But I’m not satisfied with the rate and it seemed to have already peaked even though everyone who has watched it tells me how great it is etc etc (yet they almost never leave comments on youtube, just tell me personally)

    What do I do next? Start over and move on to the next video, reload the current video, simply change the name of my video? I have called a few marketers in my area, but they didn’t have any experience with viral videos, are there marketing companies that could help overseas (NZ based clients) as it seems making it and throwing it on youtube clearly doesn’t work. Have I got a chance, or do I need a laughing baby?



  8. The thing about Viral is that it is basically a hit-or-miss thing, especially since there are so many ideas of what “viral” is. Viral as the top of YouTube’s Daily Most viewed is very different from Viral Numa-Numa kid. There’s only so far that you can try and force it.

    There’s a lot more to making a viral video than what was mentioned in the article above. What the above article seems to be more about is taking a video and making it viral, a lot like Greenberg’s Post. But, if you listen to creators like The Fine Brothers (who made a Lost Spoof and this, who consistently produce content and accompany every movie made with the equivalent of an Email Press Blast, they would agree that there is a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

    I think that is what the point of the above and Greenberg’s post mainly is. Now that “Viral” has become vogue, your video, in all likelihood, will not go viral without a big push. Assuming it’s good enough, that is.

  9. Based on my YouTube viewing, you forgot:

    1- Include cute animal
    2- Finish with a painful looking accident

  10. Another simple strategy is to cast youtube stars in your video. We used this stategy to to help one of our videos go viral and generate 2.9 Million Views on youtube!

    Watch the video on out site or for help with your viral videos –

    The two man “captives” in the video are TheHill88 & Boh3m3 popular vloggers on Youtube.

  11. 11 bob o

    thanks for the tips…hopefully people will enjoy my video:

  12. 12 Anonymous

    You can’t force a meme. You can’t use social networking and make the internet your personal army.

    Content does not make a video go viral- any shitty video can go viral. Content can help, but in many scenarios it comes down to figuring out what content will click with the public; not necessarily what is considered “good” or “bad.”

    It happens naturally, and it happens organically. It cannot be controlled, restrained, or pushed. It’s more often about timing than content.

    • 13 jdalessa

      I violently agree. It cannot be controlled, there is no “formula” for a viral video. I think that because of this, viral videos are what they are-they remain relatively untainted by the marketers and their unending quest to make a canned gimmick.

  13. 14 Jimmy9348

    Luminosity wrote 7 steps to a viral video here:
    Personally, I can think of at least one step that’s missing. Can you?

  14. 15 Robert Marley

    Thank you for the great information on this website. I will use it for my Grade 7 technology project. Congrats on your video going viral.

  15. You can make a video go viral by way of the world wide web. Simply target the following Yahoo search categories. Other search engines will find this “How To Make A Video Go Viral” and re-purpose it on the world wide web. Look at how Yahoo changes the content in description about this article of each of the search categories listed below: Go to Yahoo and search for:

    1. How To Viral.
    2. The Web Viral
    3. Freelance Article About Go Viral
    4. Build a Website to Go Viral
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    Our mystery advertising agency can help you increase traffic 24/7!

  1. 1 Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire! » The Buzz Bin
  2. 2 The Definitive YouTube Resource List | Social Media Trader
  3. 3 5 Steps To A Viral YouTube Video | Guides | YouTube Reviews
  4. 4 The Future (?) of Journalism in the Age of Youtube | lo-fi, hi-style
  5. 5 Viral video strategies that work - Josh Rimer
  6. 6 List of Ways to Build Links & Promote Your Website | Graphic SEO Free SEO Tutorials
  7. 7 How to make your video go viral | MoreMarbles
  8. 8 The Definitive YouTube Resource List | Indoor Digital Billboards
  9. 9 going BEHIND THE SCENES of virality including an EXCLUSIVE Look at a LEAKED VIDEO - film315
  10. 10 The #1 Thing to Do to Go Viral on Social Media – – Social Media ZoneBeyond the Echo Chamber–Social Media for the Rest of Us
  11. 11 We often overestimate the likelihood of success, viral hits | DMX-Direct
  12. 12 The Definitive YouTube Resource List – Ace Campaign
  13. 13 Viral Videos | Jackie M. Berryhill
  14. 14 YouTube’s Got Talent

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