Is there a science behind the perfect viral video? Arch Creative have been searching for an answer…

Viral videos – we’ve all seen them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram… the list is endless. But how do we know if a video has gone viral? Your mum appears in the hallway with her iPad in one hand and the other gesticulating in confusion, “What’s this?” she asks. “It’s a video of a hyperactive goat.” “But why has it got so many views?” she asks.

This is the fundamental question – what does makes a video go viral? Is it artistry? Politics? Humour? Or just plain old weirdness? Although some videos become a craze across social media platforms for no particular reason (like the aforementioned hyperactive goat that briefly took over Facebook), others increase their chances of “virality” through strategic planning.

The science behind viral videos

1. Timing is key

Setting up a business page on both Facebook and Instagram allows you to view your weekly insights. These statistics show which days of the week and what times of day your followers are active. This means you can post at peak times and reach a larger audience.

Promotional features also allow your videos to appear, if relevant, on the timelines of people who do not follow you. For YouTube and Facebook, the majority of content is scheduled and popular keywords are included in video titles to reach a maximum audience.

This highlights the importance of a social media strategy – a schedule of projected posts which ensures social platforms don’t fall behind.


2. The Insta-Alliance

After contributing to the death of Vine (the social media platform with a six second time constraint on videos) – Instagram added the video feature. Although limited by the square format frame, the feature became one of the most popular forms of short video alongside Snapchat.

In terms of strategy, some businesses form agreements to engage with each other’s posts as soon as they are posted to gain more likes and views.


3. The Influencers

If it’s written about it will get more views – it’s as simple as that. Whether it’s journalists, bloggers or a local news channel who write about your videos, it will certainly boost the views.

But how do we get them talking? We’ve examined (yep, examined) the top viral videos of 2017 so far to see if we can pinpoint the innate qualities of the viral video. Strap yourselves in – for…

The Top 5 Videos of 2017 so far

1. Although it seems like we can’t remember a time when we didn’t sprinkle our salt (or any other seasoning for that matter) like Salt Bae, he has only been in our lives for sixth months! And after posting a variety of salt-sprinkling videos he has become a meme like no other. Here’s the dazzling original with 3 million views.

2. Like the successful Salt Bae, Melissa Mccarthy, American actress and comedian, brings a touch of humour with her scarily accurate depiction of the late and not-so-great White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. With 29 million views here’s Melissa outrageously funny Saturday Night Live sketch.

3. Last week BBC News reposted a video that went viral with 2.3 million views so far on Facebook of a cockatoo and a kitten in Japan. Why did it get so many views? It’s all down to its meme-ability – essentially its translatability into different memes like this one.

4. Another BBC News item from last week went viral for an entirely different reason. Rather than being humorous, this video demonstrates the power of the emotive. Fraser, the 20 year old taking the elderly out of care homes for a bicycle ride once a week, is hailed as an everyday hero in this BBC Three report, viewed 24 million times on Facebook.

5. Finally we have James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke with Bruno Mars which is his most viewed carpool in 2017 so far, with just over 66.5 million views. The YouTube mini series works particularly well because it combines celebrity with reality, with the star singing along to their own songs and chatting with Corden – the archetypal everyman.

So whether the video relies on its humour, absurdity, relevance of topic, emotive quality, celebrity status, relatability or meme-ability it is generally a haphazard-hit rarely striking the same place twice.

That being said - viral videos tend to break down into these focus categories:

  • Humour/comedy – we all like to laugh. Humorous videos also have that innate shareability. If we’re laughing, we like to share it with our friends.
  • Absurdity/surrealism – again, we all like to laugh! But more than this, we’re attracted to the idea of weirdness and oddity – and we like to validate our opinion that something fits into these categories.
  • Relevance – a newsworthy topic is a relatable topic. This focus is about tapping into the public consciousness.
  • Emotion – tugging on the heartstrings is a clear path to virality – especially if you can cut through to people who might not usually consider themselves emotional (see the Heineken ad below).
  • Celebrity – the most obvious route to virality – celebrities, especially acting out of their usual image, sell.

All of these strands are compounded with a general sense of meme-ability – the ability to reuse these thoughts and ideas across the internet in a personal way to represent our feelings and attitudes. Memes, we’d guess, have never been as airily described.

In terms of advertising a lot can be taken from the tactical popularity of viral videos and companies like our client Samsung, Heineken and McDonald’s (who’s so-bad-it’s-good viral campaign has been effectively culled from the internet). Heineken recently sparked a positive reaction with their unofficial response to Pepsi’s insensitive advert featuring Kendall Jenner. It’s 2017 advert “World’s Apart” has been viewed nearly 13.5 million times and touches on everyday issues in society.

Are you looking for a video to go viral? There’s no easy route – but the first step is making something. That’s where Arch come in. We’ve got the tools and the know-how to take you from concept to production on your video project. If you ask nicely, we might even supply the hyperactive goat.