The Elements Of A YouTube Viral Video
Only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube daily will reach 100,000 plus viewers, which is one of the benchmarks used for a video to be considered “viral” on YouTube.
The elements of a viral video that allows it to reach that level fall into two buckets: above board best practices and below board ways to game the system.
The above board elements of a viral video include:
Can Answer A Simple Question: “Why would someone want to share this video with others?” – whether it’s funny, controversial, racy, unique, or just plain strange, all viral videos must be “share worthy”. There is a certain element of “badge value” that comes from sharing something with your friends that you know that they would enjoy, especially if you are the first. A video then becomes a form of social currency, to hopefully be exchanged exponentially.
Video Is Well “Branded” – the title and the thumbnail video image need to jump past the other video competition. By understanding thumbnail optimization and how to write an engaging title, you can set up a video for success. Like any other form of advertising, the title and the thumbnail have only a couple seconds to register someone’s interest before they move on to something else.
Social Media Outreach – a video has about 48 hours to profit from being on the “Most Watched” video page, so thinking ahead on ways to share it through outlets like Facebook, MySpace, Stumbleupon, and Digg can definitely provide a kick start. However, the line between sharing a video with those who may be interested and outright spamming can be very thin indeed.
Which brings me to the below board elements of a viral video. In his post on TechCrunch, Dan Ackerman Greenberg covers some of the points above, but also goes into ways how his firm artificially pumped up viewership through usage of multiple accounts and comment manipulation. What is also interesting was his mea culpa follow up post after the blizzard of negative comments he received.
For a deeper understanding of YouTube and the sociology behind it, this video done by Dr. Michael Wesch of Kansas State University is both a fascinating story, as well as a great source of insights into YouTube itself: