What makes Videos go Viral?

You have heard it, they have and seemingly everyone has. Oppa Gangnam style! Its surprising how this video that basically ridicules the idea of living a Gangnam way of life and parodies nearly every popular dance move can go viral so soon.
It’s difficult to get the killer moves and the catchy tune out of ones head. So what is it at ground zero? Is it the beats, lyrics, moves or the video? I would side with the last one. It’s the video that is addictive, that gets a grip and you don’t tire of the lameness being showcased. Be it the colorful dresses, dance moves in a spa, dumping ground or a parking lot. Now to understand what could have been the reason behind this video gaining a million views, I turn for wisdom to Kevin Alloca – Trends Manager at Youtube.
Not long ago, Kevin spoke at a TEDYouth conference elucidating why videos go viral. In a totally simplistic, example driven session Kevin demystified the phenomenon. Although Gangnam style wasn’t out then, most of his parameters fall right in place for this video. To put it simply there are three major reasons for any video to garner a large number of views (I will put the Gangnam Style video through each of them):
  1. Tastemakers: These are people who share or tweet about a video if they find it interesting, funny or anything out of the ordinary. Now this could also be done by normal people like you and me. But the tastemakers are influencers. They are people who have achieved celebrity status or it’s just that their opinion matters to most people. Once any one of the influential lot share, mention or tweet about a video, link or image, their followers are most likely to check it out and well, re-tweet or share the same. In the Gangnam Style video, the Tastemaker was T-Pain who first tweeted about the video on July 29th. So you see, one big influencer there.
  2. Community Sharing: As traditional marketing goes, we have thought/opinion leaders who are looked up to by fans and followers alike. Hence once the influencer has put his/her thoughts on the wire, other people are bound to notice. When the idea becomes popular within the community which could include more influencers, you’re bound to see an exponential rise in views. For Gangnam, post T-Pains tweet popular blog Gawker put up a post and subsequently personalities from pop culture tweeted about it too. These weren’t strung out kids in a low key indie college rock band. Instead they were celebs such as Katy Perry, Tom Cruise, Robbie Williams and the likes.
  3. Unexpectedness: This I believe is one of the strongest parameters to a video going viral. PSY apart from being an underground hip-hop artist on the K-Pop circuit, has taken on the great social divide in Korea. Gangnam actually means “South of the River”. While Korea has been late to join the affluent mass with infrastructure that towers and tech that has finally come of age, the gap between the rich and poor has only widened. So Gangnam being the business district there which boasts of luxuries, is where every yuppie in Korea wants to be at. This is exactly what PSY is running this cultural parody about. The song is totally about wannabes or wanted-to-be’s as some refer to them as. People who really have no clue about the upper crest way of life but are desperate to pull off stints of that magnitude and have no qualms in being posers. The sarcastic yet funny approach that taken was something unexpected.

Add to these the fact that there have been flash mobs in games to Times Square (for Good Morning America) to a Jail as well. While PSY rides on the path to glory with appearances in SNL, Today Show and every major broadcaster across the globe writing or anchoring about it to Eric Schmidt doing the Gangnam at Google office in Korea, you sure as well now know what’s got it all going.

There you see, it all falls in place. Three simple steps to ensure that your video goes viral. Or are they that simple at all?

One thought on “What makes Videos go Viral?

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