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What if you created the next viral video? Most of time, videos go viral without ever intending to do so. I mean, check this out: a baby talks into a camera and it gets over 500 million views. Who would have ever guessed something like that would garner so much attention? This seems to be true for most of the popular viral videos. Now, let’s say you want to create videos that spread like wildfire and are seen by millions. Where do you start?
Before we begin, you should instill one thing into your mind: virality is never guaranteed. I’m going to list several elements that viral videos tend to share, which could help you to create a video that your friends will want to share, but you might end up with nothing. Similarly, a video doesn’t need to have all of these elements to become viral. It’s really up to luck and good fortune, but keep these tips in mind and you’ll tip luck in your favor.
#1: Fulfill A Need
Every good video has a purpose, and that purpose is to fulfill some need that the viewers may or may not know they have. Maybe your video’s purpose is to be educational, like how to make ink, thus fulfilling the viewers’ curiosity about ink creation. Maybe your purpose is to be entertaining, fulfilling the viewers’ need to laugh or kill some time. If you don’t fulfill a need, or fail to fulfill it well, that’s when the viewer clicks out of your video. No shares.
Viewers have all sorts of needs and it’s your job to identify which of those needs you want to fulfill. Try to identify one specific need per video. The age old motto of “Keep It Simple, Stupid” definitely holds here. Viral videos tend to be focused, on the point, and driven by a desire to answer one question. Once you know which need you’re fulfilling, you can tailor the entire video to take advantage of that.
#2: Evoke An Emotional Response
How many times have you seen a video, given a brief sniff through your nostrils, and ultimately moved on to the next video? This is what happens when the video doesn’t evoke an emotional response out of you. Indifference is the main enemy of a video’s potential to be shared. The reasoning behind this is easy to grasp: if you don’t care very much, why would anyone else care? Thus, no shares.
This emotional response can fall on either side of the spectrum. It can be warm and happy: a heartwarming story about two long-distance lovers who overcome obstacles to finally be together. It can be wildly entertaining: a short comedy sketch or an epic rap battle. Or it can be deeply angering and controversial: a press statement, a call to action, or a video that addresses rough social topics.
It’s not really important which response you evoke, only that you do evoke some response. Angry people share videos to lambast the content. Laughing people share videos to spread that laughter. Happy people share videos to inspire others.
#3: Edit Mercilessly
There’s nothing worse that sitting down to watch a 2-minute clip only to wait, and wait, and wait through a 45-second introduction. In fact, in the current age of instant gratification and loss of attention span, an introduction that spans over more than 5 seconds will really hurt your video’s likelihood of being watched, let alone shared. Before you release or upload your video, cut out everything that is not absolutely essential. Be merciless in your edits.
Make the intro as short as possible. Even better, don’t include an intro at all. If you have scene cuts or multiple clips within the video, start each section as late as possible and cut them as soon as possible. Remember to keep it simple and focused. The more extraneous and unnecessary material you edit out, the more likely your clip will hold the viewer’s attention. If they get bored, they quit, and quitting means no shares.
On a related note, try to capture scenes and lines that are instantly quotable or imitable. It’s hard to know what fits without hindsight, but consider videos like “Charlie bit me” and Antoine Dodson’s “Well, obviously…” and you’ll see how something like that can make a video instantly recognizable.
#4: Avoid Quirks That Discourage Sharing
Lastly, if you want your video is to be shared by your friends, make sure you leave out aspects of the video that would discourage them from sharing. It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how often we can overlook something so simple. The difficulty is knowing what exactly counts as a “discourager of sharing” but here are some things you may want to avoid.
Excessive profanity and vulgarity is a big one. I may find a clip absolutely hilarious, but if every other line has a curse or racial slur or crude language, I’m going to think twice before I post it on Facebook. Similarly, videos that are overly sexual might be popular in a specific demographic, but likely won’t reach viral status. Try to avoid material that’s too dark and/or too controversial. Yes, dark and controversial will evoke emotions, but if you overdo it, the viewers may just want to distance themselves from the video altogether.
Shareable videos really come down to one thing: emotion. When a need is satisfied by a video, we feel satisfied as viewers. When a video prompts us to feel something — anything at all — we’re prone to sharing that experience with others. Badly edited videos tend to reduce, or even destroy, the potential emotional impact that a video can have on us. And, of course, if I just don’t like your video for whatever reason, I’m not going to share it.
Do you share videos? What do you think makes a video worth sharing? And what would prevent you from sharing a video? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!