Thursday, December 3, 2009

Viral Video

What makes a video go viral?

Clients often suggest that we post a video from their organization on YouTube and then wait for the thousands of people that will watch it. Not so simple. Consider this information from

In the first month on YouTube:
  • 70% of videos get at least 20 views
  • 50% of videos get at least 100 views
  • Fewer than 20% of videos get more than 500 views
  • Fewer than 10% of videos get more than 1,500 views
  • 3% of videos get more than 25,000 views
  • Around 1% of videos get more than 500,000 views
Most organizations have more than 1500 contacts on e-newsletter or mailing lists but yet fewer than 10% of videos posted on YouTube will be seen by that many people. (Granted these numbers are for the first month but I think its fair to assume a video will garner maximum buzz in the first month).

For an organizational video to be something people are prepared to pass on to others it must have value in one of three ways:
  • It is entertaining - funny, zany, outstanding performances, unexpected outcomes
  • It is informative - essential information, not available from other sources, applicable to a broad range of people
  • It touches the heart - emotional, authentic, inspiring
I'm not sure that there's a formula for creating video that will go viral but here's a great example. I haven't even been able to verify the story that was part of the email that accompanied the YouTube link. Supposedly, the person who created this video works for a medical supply company in Portland and the deal was that if this video received over a million hits (as of today its at 2,750,877), the company would make a huge (but unspecified) donation to the hospital involved and offer free mammography to the community. Regardless, you'll see that its spirit and authenticity give it both emotional and entertainment appeal. And I can almost guarantee you that you'll pass this on to at least one other person. Perhaps there's something we can all learn from this.