This is the second of what we hope will be a weekly series examining viral video success stories. We aim to point out what's popular in the world of viral video, and also attempt to analyze what it is that helped create or foster that success.
Let's look at three of the big viral explosions from this week.
1. The Flash Mob
For my money, a flash mob is always good for a laugh. This week saw another smash hit viral video that utilized the engrossing power of an expected flash mob.
Titled "Let's Squish Our Fruits Together,” the video is taken in a standard grocery store during regular business hours—actually, it might be during their peak operating hours, as there appear to be quite a good number of shoppers. Suddenly, without warning, some music begins playing, and a woman and man—who previously were blended in with the rest of the shoppers—begin singing to each other, Broadway-style.
They sing a song about squishing their fruits together—don't worry, it's more a metaphor for racial and cultural harmony than anything dirty… I think.
Soon, more "players" join in until there's a good five or six performers, including one that appears dressed as an employee.
It's pretty obvious what makes this one work. As with all flash-mobs, the element of surprise (and the capturing of onlookers' expressions) seals the deal. Throw in a catchy tune that is also funny, and you have a recipe for success. I'm honestly not sure why some television network hasn't thrown a ton of money at a show about flash mobs. It's like highly-coordinated and choreographed practical jokes, and Lord knows there are plenty of practical joke shows.
The video was only added a few days ago (October 20) and is already up over half a million views, which shows clear trending toward viral super stardom.
It's also worth pointing out that this is from ImprovEverywhere, a group that has a long history of bringing us some fantastic flash-mob-based video entertainment (like the famous Frozen Grand Central video and No Pants Subway Ride). That gives them an advantage in going viral that you and I don't have: they've been there before (a lot) and know what works, and they have a built-in network of fans. Still… they're great at creating entertaining clips, which is a requirement for any video to succeed.
Watch "Let's Squish Our Fruit Together”:
2.The Record Breaker
This one isn't actually a success… yet. But I have no doubt that it has legs, and.
Last night, dancers from around the world paid tribute to Michael Jackson by attempting to break the world record for the largest simultaneous dance to "Thriller.”
The record is apparently 1,722 people, set back in 2007. The record was expected to be demolished by this year's attempt—no doubt fueled by the renewed Jackson interest following his death in June. Sure enough, the event, called Thrill The World, had an estimated 20,000 participants in more than 200 locations across 37 countries around the world.
What's interesting about this approach, is that it appears there won't be any single video garnering most of the views. Instead, people who participate are encouraged to upload video of their dance.
So the goal wasn't to have a video with 10 million views, but rather to have 1,000 videos with 10,000 views each. The resulting publicity should be roughly the same. The creators of the event are selling some t-shirts, as well as some advertising on the site. Not sure if that's a profit angle (no one would blame them) or if it's just to cover expenses.
Attempting to break a record seems to have a bit of a hook for some people, and I'm sure that's what Thrill the World is hoping for.
They're also using a time-tested method of viral success: engaging users/viewers and putting some of the onus for production and success on their efforts, which drives them to promote it themselves.
For our third profile, we come to something near and dear to my heart: hockey. Despite being a distant 4th or 5th among the major sports in the U.S., hockey videos are actually among some of the most popular athletics-related videos on YouTube. It must have something to do with the crushing hits and frequent fisticuffs.
My personal favorite kind of online hockey video is the jaw-dropping goal. One of the things that originally drew me to the sport of hockey was the ability these players have to control that slab of rubber while moving at high speeds… on ice. So I can appreciate an amazing goal video—the best of all time is that Alexander Ovechkin falling-down backhander—itself a viral video with over a million views.
This week saw the rise of a new stellar hockey talent, nine-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom, of Canada. The move he makes here… well, no nine-year-old has any business making a move this good. I've seen a few older players try the same thing—it usually fails, by the way—but never anyone this young. I'm expecting Sports Illustrated to dub him the next Sidney Crosby any day now.
All in all, another good three lessons this week. Flash mobs are always popular, and typically quite inexpensive to put together. Mobilizing fans of an artist, team, or brand can help kick start a viral campaign through user-generated submissions. And people love sports, kids, and kids playing sports.
Best of luck to each of you in your endeavors to understand and recreate viral video success. We'll be back next week with another round up. Until then… happy viewing.