Earlier this week, I did an interview with the CBC in Thunder Bay about a video by a local rap singer that had gone viral with more than 150,000 views. For a small city such as Thunder Bay, this was a major news story because the video went from being the toast the town to being an online phenomena in a few days.
One of the questions asked by the CBC host was how and why videos go viral. The answer is far from simple because it can be a difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint why a video captures the imagination of people to the point where they enthusiastically share it with other people, who share it with other people, and so on.
So what does a video need to go viral?
Perhaps the most important element is it needs to be entertaining to engage people enough that they want to pass it around to other people. “Entertaining” can be defined as funny, silly, captivating, enjoyable, interesting, different or immersive. It can apply to a song, a dance such the “Evolution of Dance“, a stunt such as putting Mentos in Diet Coke or just be something out of the ordinary such as steps that play music.
A viral video also needs a social media spark. It needs a person with a following or someone seen as an influencer to elevate the video to another level where it can be exposed to a larger audience.
In the “Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell described these people as “mavens” who accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.
For viral videos, there’s also an element of luck and being at the right place at the right time, which is probably more difficult to define or capture.
So, what are you thoughts about how a video goes viral? How would you explain it?