How To Create A Viral Video

A good parody is an attention grabber, especially when it’s on YouTube.

That’s one of the lessons I learned first hand at the “how to make a viral video” session at SXSW, where along with 500 other people, I had the good fortune to star in a parody video that since it’s posting only four days ago, has already been viewed over 34,0000 times on YouTube.

So here’s what happened. Spoofing the highly popular  surprised kitten video – as in viewed 21 million times popular – Damian Kulash, the You Tube sensation from the OK GO band, pretended to tickle a room full of people in the SXSW audience. See  surprised SXSW audience. If you like this spoof, check out Damian’s attempt to tickle his pet dog, who doesn’t seem at all surprised. See surprised dog.

The SXSW viral video seminar was led by Jonathan Wells, the creative director at Flux,  Margaret Gould Stewart from YouTube, Jason Wishnow from TedTalks and Damian Kulash from OK GO. They were informed and articulate, and it was one of the  more meaningful and lively discussions at SXSW. I learned that many popular viral videos happen not on purpose like, Charlie bit my finger.  So the question is, how do you create a successful viral video on purpose? Here are 10 secrets I learned from this panel of pros:

1. Don’t be a Debbie Downer. Most videos that go viral spread happiness.

2. Go for a sense of wonder, inspiration and surprise, and create content around the unexpected and the great reveal.

3. Use multiple camera angles and close ups so viewers can develop an emotional connection with those on camera. Watch James Watson on TedTalks to see some awesome camera angles and inspired delivery of content, in turn creating  both an emotional and intellectual connection with the speaker.

4. Exclusivity online doesn’t work. Allowing people to embed your video is good common sense.  Science has it that the traffic that drives virality in the first 48 hours is due to embedded video on blogs, not on You Tube.

5. Viral doesn’t always mean having to create original content. You can also curate original content from others and provide a platform to help them gain a larger audience for their content.

6. Create a video people will compulsively want to watch over and over again. One way is to think of the most impossible thing to do. Then do it. That’s the approach taken by  OK GO on their latest video, which took 6 months, 65 takes and 60 engineers to create. But it averages 4-5 views per session.

7. Metadata is the SEO equivalent of making your video go viral. Make sure you tag your video properly once it’s on YouTube so people can find it. It’s also recommended that you connect your YouTube channel with your Facebook account. This way all your YouTube updates will get automatically posted on Facebook.

8. People are compulsive about sharing human experiences. Visceral emotions in video around love, food, sex, and laughter generally get passed around.

9. Viral is in the eye of the beholder. People who come to YouTube from social networks are more interested in what else their friends are watching. The idea is to understand the mindset that people bring with them and build off that in creating your video.

10. Be quirky.YouTube’s top celebs are quirky and lo-fi, but they draw audiences any cable network would envy.

Without a doubt, it’s always fascinating to see smart, unique, and occasionally crazy concepts come to life. Most interesting are those that connect with a brand and really support brand awareness.

I welcome your comments and love to hear what you see working to hook fans with video!