After reading @EmAkin3 ‘s post on the viral “I Quit” video and discussing it more in class, it got me thinking – What exactly makes a video viral? Have people created a scientific method or discovered a secret ingredient to becoming a Youtube star?
Take this ultra-viral video. What does the Fox Say? by Ylvis has become an international Youtube sensation, becoming viral in a matter of hours rather than days or months. There a couple of painfully obvious reasons that explain why this vid could have spread so fast:
- It is a song and dance craze. Need I mention Gangnam Style or the Harlem Shake?
- Ylvis is a Norwegian band that already had a following – their last concert had 120,000 people and they have been together since 2000.
So that guarantees a number of views, but in comparison Psy also had a fan base years before he had a video go viral. And 120,000 fans does not translate into over 1 million views.
But before I get into the magic of what makes a video spread like wildfire, what does it actually mean for a video to be viral? Is it the rate of growth? Or perhaps the number of views? A Mashable article explains that a video that gets over 1 million views is in the 99.8th percentile of all viewed videos, which makes the fox video’s 102,457,081 view count all the more impressive. Or is it the amount of sharing that deems a video viral? Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart ranks the top videos in terms of sharing. Guess who is still number 1 on the list even after a month of virality?
So now that we understand just how viral the fox video is, lets get into why…….
This is a TedTalk from the Trends Manager at Youtube, and he says that there are a few main reasons why a video goes viral. Totally watch it – it is only 7 minutes – but if you don’t here are his viral video characteristics.
Unexpectedness: Who would’ve guessed that after listening to an Old McDonald-esque children’s song for the first 30 seconds of the video, you would then see an adult man dressed in a fox suit, screaming loud noises, and doing odd dances to strobe lights in the woods? The old bearded grandpa reading to his son in a rocking chair and contorting his face to the fox sounds doesn’t hurt either.
Tastemakers: Tastemakers are people with great influence that introduce new and interesting things to their audiences. With many videos, there is a lull period between when the video is uploaded and when a tastemaker spreads the word. But the fox video was a different story. One blogger tracked down the “1st tastemaker” of the fox video, the Pleated Jeans Tumblr account, who posted about, “One of the best videos ever,” the day that the video was uploaded, and a day later had 1,400 views on their blog. However, the tastemaker that really kickstarted the fox video was Gawker, who also posted about the video the next day and linked to Pleated Jeans at the bottom of their article.
Participation: What do these tastemakers do when they share their favorite videos? They take a viewpoint; they make fun of them, say why they don’t like them, etc. And when this happens others want to share the video and their opinion. By participating people can become a part of the viral video phenomenon, either by spreading or by doing. The amount of parodies, remixes, covers, etc. that are made based on viral videos is insane. Here, here, and here are just a few What Does the Fox Say? video interpretations (The last of which actually explains what a fox says).
While tastemakers get the job started, and certain qualities like humor, catchiness, or cuteness lend themselves towards virality, the participators are who really decide if a video will be viral or not. And this choice, where the people decide what is popular, is what social media is all about. Would a cable TV network ever think that 100 million people would want to watch a music video about what sound a fox makes – would this idea ever have been approved and broadcasted? But that is the beauty of social media – creativity and innovation are encouraged and we can be inspired, shocked, or brought to tears and laughter by anyone who has the guts to post.
So post away. Even if your video is about a fox.