5 Reasons Videos Go Viral

by Sicily Kolbeck / Dec 04, 2013 / 0 comments

What do you do when you’re bored? Do you play with your dog? Watch TV? Or do you do what most people do, go on YouTube? No need to lie. I do the same. When I arrive at the home page, it’s filled with the latest viral video. I see these videos and think ‘How did they become so popular?’ I did some research and found the top five reasons videos go viral.


5 Reasons Videos go Viral

flickr creative commons: AJMexico, adapted by Wandering Educators



1. Triggers. Rebecca Black’s Friday has hundreds of millions of views. Why? Because whenever the treasured day comes, what song pops into your head? It’s Friday, Friday, Gotta get down on Friday! This makes you want to sing the song, share the song, get it into your friends heads, annoy them.

Friday by Rebecca Black:



2. Community. As an example, ‘Nyan Cat’ is a huge hit, right alongside ‘Friday’. With anything that gets huge, people want to make remixes. Now there is a Russian, American, French, and many more remixes of the loveable cat. It is a community of Nyan Cats. People feel involved. They dressed up as Nyan Cat. There are phone cases, pillows, even blankets with the loveable creature on it.

Nyan Cat:


Russian Nyan Cat:


French Nyan Cat:



3. Unexpectedness. People love to be surprised. Put it in a video, and you are golden. For example, smack cams. Not the nicest way of surprising someone, but they are rising in popularity. Usually the victim is sitting, unaware, whilst the instigator whispers to the camera ‘Smack Cam’ - they then come up from behind, SMACK, then run away. It’s quite a hit. Pun totally intended.




4. Emotion. When emotion plays a role in a video, people are immediately hooked. For example, the video of a fireman rescuing a kitten from a fire. When anybody sees this, they feel sympathy, and then hope. So they show the video to their friends, it tugs on their heartstrings, and makes them happy. How could you not love this?

Firefighter and Kitten Video:



5. Tastemakers. What is the point of a video without viewers? Enter the taste makers. These are people that get the buzz about the video started. Usually they are famous and bring attention to the video by talking about it on a show, tweeting, using social media, anything. For example, Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about the double rainbow video, and now it has millions of views. Thank you Jimmy, because everyone loves this video!

Whoa, it’s a Double Rainbow!:



For a more elaborated version of a couple of these, here is a TED Talk on Viral videos.

TED Talk:




To sum it up, to have a viral video you must have a famous friend (or a famous person to talk about you), emotion, the element of surprise, a community of people that like your video (or not, in Rebecca Black’s case) and you must trigger something in a viewer’s mind. Simple enough don’t you think? Some of you might have to be content with just showing your mom your videos.




Sicily Kolbeck is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program