How to Make a Viral Video (and how not to…)

When the indomitable Sammy sent me his latest video masterpiece this week, I laughed. Hard. On the surface, “ghostbusters music video” (capital letters lacking) has all the trappings of pure, adolescent boy dancing genius.

Terrible, unsynchronized moves? Check.

Plentiful, size 24 italicized font at awkward moments? Check.

Eighties throwback theme to make us all feel warm and fuzzy inside? Check.

Questionable stage setting (dirty dorm room with puppy calendar included)? Check.

Risque boy-scratching-self hide your eyes moment? Check.

 

For a moment, I thought I held pure gold in my digital hands. I then started reminiscing on other such boy-goes-fab videos I’ve seen in my day. The kid in Amsterdam dancing to Aisha, say, or the Mormon brothers who choreograph Enrique Iglesias hits. And I wondered…could this be at that level? Could this go big time?

And then I woke up.

Two days later, the video has been seen 7 times, and we now have the perfect opportunity to dissect the viral video industry once and for all.

What made those videos viral — and what is preventing this one from going viral?

A short, smart list:

  • Bad Title. If I might be so bold, I’d say that “ghostbusters music video” is not likely to turn any heads. Nor will 99% of the over-explanatory youtube video titles out there. Go for short, smart, and sweet. And then add a dollop of wild irreverence.
  • Too Long. At over three minutes, it’s just a tad too long for the average viewer. Shorter is better — and shorter is always funnier. As Conan’s tweets show time and time again, leave them wanting more is the cardinal rule of any viral phenomenon.
  • No One Tried to Make it Viral. On the marketing side of things, there was absolutely no effort made to try to make this hometown show into a viral video. I’m necessarily talking about bells, whistles, and Google adwords. But basic attempts at organic marketing have been all but nil. Me showing it at a four person dinner party (twice) was the most attempted exposure this video got. To pump up the views into double and triple (gasp!) digits, we need a well-written Tweet, a late night Facebook post, and a little email-the-high-school-dorm list action.
  • The Luck Factor was Lacking. Every story of pure viral genius has one of those moments when the scale tipped, an influencer saw the true power of the not-so-hidden message, and the sitemeter stats went a flutter. Sadly for all involved in this masterpiece, Sammy lacked this in spades. The answer? Pray harder next time.

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3 thoughts on “How to Make a Viral Video (and how not to…)

  1. Your points are great and I was actually compelled to click on the video to see what your fuss was about. I’m sure you know that the video you referred to has over 12k views now. Guess you’re marketing campaign worked even if there’s didn’t. Good job!

  2. Wait, Honeybadger thinks this video is HILARIOUS. Honeybadger stopped eating a live snake just to LOL at it!

  3. Your points are great and I was actually compelled to click on the video to see what your fuss was about. I’m sure you know that the video you referred to has over 12k views now. Guess you’re marketing campaign worked even if there’s didn’t. Good job!