A video is never guaranteed to go viral, but a few factors make it significantly more likely.
In the first few months of 2013, viral videos covered all kinds of topics: a serious look at female self-esteem, a silly competition between two Star Trek actors, and more. But according to Brian Shin, CEO of video analytics service Visible Measures, these and most other viral videos share at least two things in common: “discussability” and “relatability.”
For a video to be “discussable,” it usually features something shocking or surprising, which compels viewers to share it with others. Likewise, if a video contains something deeply human to which we can relate — even if it’s cuddling cats — we’re more likely to share it out. The two factors often go together.
We chatted with a couple viral video experts to learn what made these clips the biggest hits of the year, so far.
Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” video is by far the most popular video of 2013 to date, with nearly 54 million views on YouTube and about 68 million views across the web, according to data from Visible Measures. That’s more impressive considering the video was released only a month ago.
Shin believes a few factors played into this video’s success. It’s deeply human, it sparked multiple spin-offs and it shares an incredibly powerful and positive message about the way women see their bodies, which people felt compelled to share.
“The message is something you really can’t be against,” he says. “That’s something everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and feel good about. It’s a message that can’t be not shared.”
Jeff Gordon Prank
Pepsi and others have pulled pranks in their ads, but this video was in a league of its own. Jeff Gordon dresses in disguise to take a car salesman for a wild ride.
“‘Prankverts,’ in which brands create their own stunts involving supposedly innocent members of the public, have been a really hot trend this year,” says David Waterhouse, global head of content and PR at Unruly Media, a video marketing company. “And the most successful of these new wave of commercials is Pepsi ‘Test Drive.'”
The secret sauce behind the video’s success, according to Waterhouse, is that it elicited so many different emotional reactions for viewers. “For most ‘prankverts’, the most common emotional responses are ‘hilarity’ and ‘surprise,'” he says. “However, when we tested ‘Test Drive,’ we found that it went one step further by adding ‘exhilaration’ into the mix. That meant, even if you didn’t find it funny or particularly surprising, you could still be exhilarated by the intense action and the awesome driving skills.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Waterhouse notes there was also a debate about whether the car salesman in the video was aware of the prank or not. That increased the number of people talking about and watching the video.
For a few weeks, the “Harlem Shake” was almost inescapable. Waterhouse says 40,000 “Harlem Shake” videos released in the first 11 days after the meme exploded; people viewed them 175 million times, collectively.
The reason for this success, according to Waterhouse, is because it was “so easy to replicate. It’s short, has a very easy structure to follow and a catchy song intro that makes it instantly recognizable,” he says. “Its simplicity is the cornerstone of its success.”
The Maker version of the “Harlem Shake,” seen above, was the most popular take on the meme early on, according to data from YouTube. Shin suggests this was a combination of good timing — it was one of the earlier videos in the meme — and the fact that it served as an inspiration for many of the videos that came after.