How can you make a viral video?

It’s a question we get asked a lot.  And it’s a difficult question to answer because the reason behind why one person shares a video is only really known to them.  Having said that, there are some steps that you can follow which can at least give your video a viral fighting chance:

Step 1: Tap into emotion

To become a viral video, the content has to be something that people want to share with their friends and networks.  Without shares, there’s no viral video.  Subsequently, to make us want to share a video, the content has to resonate with us on some emotional level.

Accordingly to Karen Cheng, viral video star, content that makes us feel good, inspired, excited, in awe or proud prompts more of us to share it than content which evokes a negative emotion. This is why videos of animals and babies tend to go viral; they evoke a positive feel good emotion in us.

A great example of how a video resonated on a powerful emotional level that helped it to go viral is the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, This video tapped into a deep emotion in woman, demonstrating that women are often more beautiful than they give themselves credit for. It reported over 1.3 million in shares.


Doves Real Beauty

Step 2: Spend for distribution

Online video is extremely competitive so to give your video the momentum it needs to become viral, a distribution and seeding budget is key.

The importance of this can often be underestimated and too little budget is allocated, however only sufficient and thought through distribution will give your video the best chance in getting seen by the right people.  Paid ads. Targeted influencer outreach. Video SEO.  Social media presence.  Press contact. All need to be considered and budgeted for.  Also, plan the time and day of your video release and carefully optimise your metadata.

The video content doesn’t have to be high budget in terms of production – in fact that’s why home videos do well – but it does need investment to become viral.

A great example of a viral video given momentum by its distribution and seeding is NordicTrack’s world’s largest treadmill dance. The video has reported results of over 60,000 social shares, over 150,000 press shares, a feature on Ellen and 20 million views prompting many viewers to post their own videos of themselves dancing on a treadmill.


World’s Largest Treadmill Dance

Step 3: Button down your metrics for success

To secure the internal buy-in of superiors to “make a viral video” can be tough as it’s a risky plan. So the final step to giving your video a viral fighting chance of getting off the drawing board is to button down the videos objective and metrics for success.

What are you trying to achieve by “making a viral video?” Is it brand awareness or direct sales?  If it’s brand awareness, make sure the lead metrics are linked to shares and press features. If it’s about direct sales, ensure the lead metric is focused on sales growth e.g. x% increase in online sales.  Clearly linking the plan of “making a viral video” to business objectives, supported with metrics which superiors can measure ROI,  will help the chances of it firstly being produced and secondly giving it the best chance. Identifying the objective upfront will also guide the creative process, how heavily branded it is, and what the call to action should be.

A great example of a video that went viral and succeeded on its direct sales metrics is Squatty Potty which reported $15million of sales, a 600% leap in online sales and 400% leap in retail sales off the back of the video.


Squatty Potty

Pursuing a viral video strategy can be risky, but following the above 3 steps can give its outcome a greater sense of predictability.  For on the ball businesses though, there is another way to benefit from viral success, and that’s to piggy back on the success of other viral videos via Google’s Preferred Breakout Videos. This service allows businesses to advertise on content that is going viral meaning you get all the exposure with less risk…..…but you still need the ad spend. Decisions, decisions.



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