What Makes A Viral Video? (Part One)

Posted under: Digital Natives 18th of February, 2011

Over the five years that YouTube has been active, the term viral video has been widely accepted in media as a video which has received an impressive amount of views on the internet. These can range from a couple hundred thousand, to a couple hundred million. With these impressive stats, many wonder what exactly will be the next viral video.

Some companies have surely tried to achieve such results, and what they are searching for is a mystical formula. From what I have seen, I believe that there are three types of videos which make internet fame. These types are amazing or impressive videos, which show off a talent of someone or a cleverly set up joke; an adorable video, usually featuring cute kids or cats; and a video that is so downright random or shocking that people want to watch it just because they want to know why it has caused such a reaction in others. To dumb it down to internet terms, win videos, cute videos, and random videos.

A video which I believe sums up the win category excellently is the second most watched video in all of YouTube. This being, “The Evolution of Dance”, a video of the comedian Judson Laipply’s own interpretation on musical history.

This man manages to smoothly flow into the next dance sequence in a humorous fashion, making the audience featured in the video howl with delight when they recognize a song. With more than 160 million views, it’s clear that many others feel the same. Another video within the top 10 of most watched videos of all time on YouTube, is one simply titled, “guitar”.


A video featuring a teenage male who plays a rendition of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D using his guitar. He manages to turn a classic song into an amazing rock song, prompting many other people to try and emulate his fast hands. This person I assume is ‘JerryC’, mentioned at the beginning of the video to have arranged what he’s playing. Over 83 million views certainly approve of Jerry’s new version of a classic, and it is also the 9th most viewed video on YouTube. Because of these reasons, I believe that ‘win’ is part of the formula for a viral video.

The other two parts of the formula will be covered in the next part.

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