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Ten of the best youtube videos

Updated on September 6, 2010

Youtube and viral videos

What makes some online videos go viral? A study of the most viewed youtube videos is an insight into our society and popular culture. It is also valuable knowledge for anyone involved in marketing and promotion especially those wishing to try out the extremely effective modern video marketing methods. Viral videos tend to be of a number of different types and I’ve tried to cover some of the main categories. This is in no way a chart related to view count though all videos have had at least 1 million views and is in no particular order. It is more a case of using examples to shed light on what compels us to watch videos and share them with other people. The system can be gamed to some extent but as search engines and social media are becoming wiser and more sophisticated the process that makes content popular is becoming more democratic.

Where the hell is Matt

Matt Harding had his first viral success in 2006 with a video of him performing his funny dance in various parts of the world. He repeated it in 2008 on a grander scale sponsored by ‘Stride’ – the ridiculously long lasting gum. He danced in 55 countries and as the video progresses many of the locals of each country join in creating a real feeling of a global village. This along with a breathtaking array of different countries and some great shots make this one of the all time favourited youtube videos. Interestingly few people remember the sponsor shown at the end credits. This is a useful warning to video marketers and a more prominent placement such as a watermarked brand or web address throughout the video may have worked better for marketing although an overtly promotional video can turn many viewers off.

Weezer - Pork and Beans Video

Music videos are among the most popular of viral content though weezer's video for pork and beans is notable for it's direct hommage to the youtube stars of the last few years and features cameos from some of the most popular. It's a good music video and worth watching for an overview of youtube culture.

100 greatest hits of youtube in 4 minutes

Best youtube videos in 4 minutes is a mashup of some of the biggest youtube hits. It's had 6 million views and some might say that's it's using other people's material to promote the music by the UK band Hadouken but I like it and it's a good summary of some of the youtube classics.

Frozen grand central

If an event is worthy of public attention then youtube can make it so. Improv Everywhere have done a series of videos based on public stunts and this is the most viewed at 23 million views. The freeze has spawned a number of similar events around the world including several in the UK. My video of the London freeze at Liverpool st station has accrued 40000 views and along with my other videos of similar London events (mobile clubbing and the London pillow fight club) have been spread by other sites and blogs.

Men in Coats

Comedy is one of the most popular categories on youtube and many acts have been massively popularized this way such as the 60 miliion views 'Ahmed the dead terrorist'. A friend of mine Mick Dow created the men in coats, a uk magic/comedy act which after a TV appearance was uploaded by a fan and accumilated 45 million views. It was later taken down for an unknown reason though has been uploaded many times since. It shows that high quality comedy can often turn viral of it's own accord.

Inspired Bicycles

This came to my attention after meeting the rider Danny Macaskill on a train from Skye to Inverness, Scotland. in May this year. A pleasant and unassuming person, he told me the story of his video which over the course of the past year has made him a celebrity in the world of stunt bike riding and he is now signed to Red Bull. Extreme sports are one the most watched of youtube categories and this video although including some world class stunt riding is also notable for it's perseverance. The 4 minute video starts with Danny attempting to ride along a spiky fence and continuously falling off until eventually he succeeds. The remaining 3 minutes is filled with some creative and well filmed bike riding complemented by music from the band of horses. He had received hundreds of emails to date from schoolkids telling how inspiring they found the video.

The battle at Kruger

This is 9 minutes of amateur footage from the Kruger national park in South Africa. It is unedited and shows 3 lions hiding in the undergrowth amid a small herd of water buffalo. The lions eventually charge and capture a baby buffalo pulling it into the nearby lake. As they drag it out 2 crocodiles leap for the baby buffalo and a tug of war follows. The lions win and pull it onto the land only to be greeted by an army of regathered water buffalo who surround the lions and begin several minutes of intimidation. The dominant buffaloes attack the lions and eventually win back the baby who is miraculously still alive. I found this amazingly compelling viewing and enhanced by the fact that it is eyewitness, amateur footage.

Charlie bit my finger

This classic video has been viewed a massive 225 million times and shows the appeal of cute situations with babies and kids. This along with other similar videos such as hahaha show the appeal of these 'slice of life' videos.

Nora the piano playing cat

This impressive tinkling of the ivories from a cat is one of the best examples of our fascination with animals and pets. Pet videos can be charming, sentimental, funny and highly watchable.

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

This inspiring lecture from randy pausch was delivered a month after a diagnosis that his pancreatic cancer was terminal though it pays little attention to this. His delivery is moving, entertaining and upbeat and based on the question ‘what wisdom would you deliver to the world if you knew it was your last chance. He offers insights on science, social and professional intereactions and overall advice on life. Youtube counts a view watched at least half way through and at 1 hour 16 minutes it’s 8 million views shows that we have an appetite for more than the 3 minute standard when it comes to education and inspiration


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