The Formula to Making a Viral Youtube Video

Who better than to tell us what makes a video go viral on Youtube, than the company’s trends manager Kevin Allocca?

In a 2011 TED talk Allocca breaks down the three essential ingredients to what makes a viral video. According to Allocca, and I have no reason to doubt he is right given what he does for a living, the three things that make a video go viral are:

1. Tastemakers: someone who is already well known mentions the video. Allocca gives the example of the “double rainbow” video that had in fact been posted on Youtube many months before it went viral, but it had zero views until late-night talk show host (and tastemaker) Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about it. As of today Double Rainbows has over 36 million views.

Here’s double-rainbow for your viewing pleasure – it is so good:

2. According to Alloca, the second ingredient to a viral video is communities. The internet is no longer a one-way interaction in which information is uploaded and then digested by those who come across it. Now people can take information, remix it, comment on and improve it, share it and then re-mix the re-mix and so on ad infinitum. Because of this, Alloca says that something pretty lame ideas (my words), like the Nyan Cat, go viral because a community of people dedicated to re-mixing and promoting their creativity grows around it.

There’s only one thing better than the original Nyan Cat video by the way, and that is the 10 hour extended version. I am guessing most of the 23 million views are from black-op CIA terrorist torture operations, because ten hours of Nyan Cat will make anyone confess:

3. The final ingredient to a viral video is, and I think the most difficult to nail down, is unexpectedness. Whether spontaneous or contrived, unexpectedness is what separates just another youtube video from a viral video. There will be no community, nor will a tastemaker promote your video if it does not have the value of unexpectedness.

Unexpectedness, this idea of “coming out of nowhere” can take many different forms. In its simplest form is something someone lucks out and catches on film. But for those trying to create a viral video, that approach is almost impossible. The key to producing unexpectedness is creativity.

The simplest definition of creativity is: to make something novel. To create something new that has never been seen before. Something creative doesn’t have to wholly new, it can be just a slight twist on an old idea, but it literally has to appear to “come out of nowhere.”

See why unexpectedness is the hardest of Alloca’s three ingredients to a viral video? There are a million ways to go about being creative and it is beyond the scope of this post, so I will leave you with this: some really creative, viral Youtube videos that just might help you create the unexpected and become internet famous.


Autotune the News:

Daft Hands:

My personal all-time favorite viral Youtube video: Charlie the Unicorn

What’s your favorite viral Youtube video? Leave it in the comment section below!


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