Every Friday we try to find some of the best viral videos making the rounds and give you a look.  And after taking last week off from this column for Thanksgiving, I’m overwhelmed with videos to choose from.  As usual, I have some thoughts about what might have helped each video climb the charts.  It’s all in the name of education… and maybe some fun.  Let’s jump in…

Overdubbed Cats

While I was celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with my family, I found a pretty cute video of two cats playing paddy cake. You might have seen it.  They’re obviously not playing paddy cake… because they’re cats. They’re just kind of fighting or playing, but in a totally lazy way.  So it appears as though they are playing the childhood game.

Then an enterprising soul took it upon himself to record voice-overs for the two cats and upload his own version.  And it’s pretty hilarious–and that’s coming from someone that doesn’t typically get too big a kick out of overdub videos.

When showcasing a re-edit of a previous video, it’s always good to watch the original for a bit of perspective, especially if you haven’t seen it.  If you’d like, you can do that here.  Honestly, that probably would have made this column on its own, as I am a sucker for animal videos, but then I saw this:

The original video was actually uploaded two years ago, but didn’t take off virally until late November.  It has over 1.2 million views.  The overdub actually came out before the original video had completely caught fire, in early November, but after it had started to spread.  It has just under a million views as of this writing.  At this rate, the overdub is going to overtake the original pretty soon, and almost certainly end up with a higher overall view count.

There are many reasons this video has gone viral, most notably the humor.  Comedy is the single most popular kind of video for people to share, because laughter transcends cultural boundaries… we all love humor, all around the world.

But this one is all about the timing.  It was impeccable. By the time any viewers had the idea to make an overdub of the original, this guy was already done… had already uploaded… and was already catching fire, right alongside the video it was spoofing.  If you’re going to dabble in mashups, recuts, overdubs, and the like–and why wouldn’t you, they’re one of the cheapest and most popular varieties of video to around–you’re going to have to move faster and faster to beat the competition to market.

Amazing College Football Play

I know many of you are probably not sports fans.  But I don’t think this video requires it.  Something amazing is something amazing, regardless of context.  And when you see what this guy does, you’re going to know that it was awesome, and know why it was awesome, even if you don’t know a Super Bowl from a Techmo Bowl.  The play involves a player named Broderick Brown for the Oklahoma State football team.  They’re playing in their big annual rivalry game with Oklahoma, and Oklahoma has the ball.  Check out what happens next:

That’s just a feat of human athletic ability that you’re not going to see every day.  You might not see another play like that for decades.  In a sport where highlight-reel plays occur by the hour every weekend in the Fall, this one truly stands out, which helps explain it’s 3.5 million views after less than a week online.

I realize this video doesn’t really have a marketing angle.  I mean… it does–the uploading channel is certainly happy to get the views… and I doubt Oklahoma State University’s Athletic Director is upset about the positive publicity for his player and his program.  But it’s not advertising anything… it’s not from a big brand.  But viral hits can come from anywhere, and there’s something for video marketers to learn from every one of them.

Like the lesson of amazement.  See, videos only go viral when they’re shared.  And they’re only shared whenever someone makes some kind of emotional connection.  It might be laughter, like our first example.  Or it could be shock, surprise, anger, or sadness.  Or it can be amazement.  Making people’s jaws drop is still one of the easiest ways to help ensure that social interaction will take place around your video.  The star of this clip didn’t set out to make an online viral video production, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.

Xbox Kinect Wizardry

One of many ways to amaze a viewer is to impress them with a skill or ability of science or technology.  And there’s no hotter toy for the video and imaging geniuses of the world to tinker with these days than the Xbox Kinect.  Each of the weeks since its release has seen videos of people modifying the device to do cool things.  One such person has taken two Kinect devices and set them at a 90 degree angle from each other to create a pretty killer 3D motion camera effect.

The video’s nearly four minutes long, and you certainly don’t need to watch the whole thing to get the idea, but you should definitely watch for a bit.  Considering these things are fairly cheap in the grand scheme of things, it’s impressive what he’s able to accomplish by combining them with his own ingenuity.  Take a look:

That’s pretty cool, right?  It’s even cooler when you consider that Microsoft has so far responded quite positively to the community of amateur hackers and developers who are fiddling with the Kinect–they’ve been encouraging even.

But you can’t give all the credit to Microsoft’s device, because after all, this guy was the first one to do this.  And it’s obvious to me while watching the video that he’s much smarter than I am.  I’m impressed.  I think most of the 700,000 people who have viewed this video are impressed, which is why so many of them passed it on to their friends.  Even if you don’t understand what he’s saying from a technical standpoint, you can marvel at the effect he achieved on such a small budget and in such a short time–the Kinect only came out a month ago.

So again I ask a question I’ve asked before:  What can you do that is impressive?  What talent, skill, or know-how do you–or your business–possess that is uncommon or showy?  In order to encourage viral activity in the viewer, you need to push the right buttons.  Impressing them is but one of those buttons, but it’s one of the most reliable.  Show the audience something they can’t see every day in a hundred other places… and then watch them tell their friends about it.

Honorable Mention

As usual, I could probably go on and on.  But in the interest of time and space, I’ll simply link you to these other favorites from the week: