Welcome back to the third edition of this weekly series where we examine viral video successes (and sometimes failures). The goal is to reverse engineer the examples to help break apart and identify what factors helped the video go viral. Learning from those who succeeded before us is the surest way to find our own success.
Let's look at three videos that went viral in the last week or so.
1. The Kid
One of the most tried and true methods for viral success is to involve a child in your video, preferably one that is either cute or outrageous (or both). This first viral success story is about just such a child. Giuliano, the child star of the piece, is a 4-year-old weightlifter, and the video shows him performing various feats of strength.
The video was featured on Yahoo recently, as well as numerous other outlets, and has quickly amassed a ton of attention and views.
The four-minute video I'm embedding below is the most popular on YouTube (nearing 5 Million views after only seven days), but there are several versions, copies, and snippets of this on the site. There can be no denial that he is incredibly strong—just watch the video if you doubt it. He's even got six-pack abs!
Say what you will about how healthy it is for a child of this age to be doing strenuous activities like bodybuilding… the video has undeniably captured the attention of the masses. People just love videos of extraordinary kids.
Clearly this viral success story is not backed by any corporation or company. There's no commercial spin to this. Just a video of an exceptional child that is making audiences either cheer with delight or groan nervously.
I wish I had a more profound takeaway for you here, but the real lesson is truly this: people love kids. This truth is upheld with other famous viral videos like David After Dentist (33 Million Views), Pearl the Landlord (67 Million Views), Charlie Bit My Finger (130 Million Views), and (or "laughing baby”, 95 Million Views). Last week's roundup featured a miniature hockey sensation illustrating this same point.
Parents have been putting their talented kids in the spotlight for generations, so this concept shouldn't be new. If there's a master list of Topics Likely To Go Viral, kids and babies would be near the top, followed closely by Pratfalls, Sports Clips, Music Videos, Cute Animals, and Flash Mobs
I'm not suggesting you completely scrap your viral marketing concept in favor of something kid-centric. However, if you have an exceptional tyke nearby—and don't mind permanently scarring them for life by making them a YouTube sensation—it can't hurt to include such a child in your viral efforts.
2. The Zinger
The second example of viral success this week comes from someone who is no stranger to viral video success: Jimmy Kimmel.
You may remember his war with Matt Damon making headlines a couple years back, as he and his then-girlfriend traded video barbs about who they were "cheating" on each other with (Damon and buddy Ben Affleck were quite the good sports about it).
Kimmel's newest viral success would seem to be completely unplanned. While interviewing Dancing With The Stars contestant Melissa Joan Hart—she of the Sabrina The Teenage Witch fame—Kimmel asked a question about her using witchcraft during her dancing competitions.
Clearly perturbed at having to answer yet another question about her ancient past, the actress tried to zing Kimmel. Unfortunately, most talk show hosts are quite adept at trading zingers, and Kimmel shot right back a joke that was even better.
Watch the exchange here
You almost have to feel sorry for Hart. It's like me stepping into the Octagon with a UFC champion… there's just a clear mismatch. I'm sure she's tired of having to talk about her previous career choices, and is anxious to become known for something more current. But it's never wise to try and burn the host of the show you're being interviewed on, as I'm guessing she's now learned.
The lesson? Well, that some of the best viral videos aren't planned in advance. Capturing an unplanned awkward moment or accident is tough to do, to be sure. And Kimmel has the luxury of always having his show being filmed.
But I tell my clients all the time that if they have a video camera—particularly if they have one of the many portable cameras like the Flip—there's really no reason to not be filming regularly at events and excursions. You never know when you might capture something so hilarious (or, on the flip side, so horrendous) that it could go viral in days.
This clip below has nearly 400,000 views in under two days, and that's only this version (as with most videos online, there are several versions floating around on various platforms).
I'm not suggesting you turn a video camera on yourself 24/7. That's called life-casting, and is something most of us want no part of. But your business has events, goes to golf tournaments, and has employee parties, right? What's the harm in filming some of that?
Candid moments like this are incredibly hard to fake, as Spike Jonze and Kanye West illustrated this week with their fairly lame fake fight. (Oh, and on the topic of SEO, what is with that Huffington Post tag system above the article on that link? Can you say "trying too hard”?)
You will certainly never catch a moment like Kimmel's or any of the other famous "accidental" viral videos if you aren't even filming.
3. The Geek Out
If I had a nickel for every time someone had forwarded me the "2009 Best Apple iPhone Costume Ever!" video, I would have a heck of a lot of nickels. Uploaded on October 24, the video has already amassed nearly half a million views.
Take a look:
People love the iPhone. I would love it myself, if I didn't mind switching to AT&T—but that's another post for another blog.
People also love Halloween costumes. There's this entire subculture of Halloween costume admiration online, and it grows stronger every year.
This video features two guys in full-body iPhone costumes that make them appear to be working, human-sized versions of the smart phone. In reality, it's pretty clear they've modified a couple televisions to resemble an iPhone, and then hooked their real iPhones up to them.
While the explanation behind how the costumes work is very simple, the effect is that they appear to be giant walking iPhones.
The lesson? Tap into what's hot. Nothing's hotter today than Halloween, as the holiday arrives tomorrow. And in tech… there's still nothing hotter than the iPhone (no matter what Verizon's Droid wants you to believe). Smash those two together and you have a built in audience in the millions.
Distribution is always the hurdle for viral success, no question. Getting those first viewers to find your content is the toughest part. But everyone faces that hurdle. Starting out of the gate with content that is predestined to appeal to a wider portion of the video-seeking audience is a huge leg up on the competition.
I hope you enjoyed this week's round up. I'll be back next week with another. Feel free to share any success or failure stories with me (your own or those you find online) that you think should be included in the round up.
Best of luck in your viral video adventures.