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What Makes a Video go Viral?

Updated on January 18, 2012

I recently published a hub about a viral video called The Honey Badger. Someone commented to me that I should look into what makes videos go viral. This comment spiked my curiosity, and I couldn’t help but start thinking about the matter. I started to think about the different videos that have been big hits. What was so significant about these videos? What makes something go viral and receive such a tremendous amount of attention?

When I think about viral videos, I have a few that immediately pop into my mind: The Honey Badger, The Evolution of Dance, The Bed Intruder, and Red Solo Cup, etc. So what is it that makes these videos such big hits? One common theme I think of immediately is stupid humor. All of these videos give us something to laugh at.

Let’s start with the oldest one, The Evolution of Dance. The basics of the video are a white man (with questionable dance skills) in his late-20s taking us through half a century of different dances in six minutes. The content of the video is intriguing for the fact that it lets us see how dance has changed over fifty years. That is kind of interesting, but it’s funnier to be able to watch this man perform the dances. He’s not a horrible dancer, but he also isn’t great. This could probably be called the first real viral video on YouTube. It came out in 2006 and was an immediate hit. Since his video, Judson Laipply has become quite famous and a highly sought after public speaker. I was fortunate enough to see him perform his dance and listen to his motivational speech last year at the school where I student taught. His viral video has more or less led to fame and a career.

Next, we can look at the Bed Intruder. This one came from an actual news clip that aired in Huntsville, Alabama. It was a news story covering an attempted rape that took place. The rape isn’t the laughing matter or what’s comical; the reaction and interview done with the victim’s brother is what went viral. His over the top, flamboyant and animated reaction is what draws the viewer to the video. Because of the news clip, The Bed Intruder Song video was created. This one also went viral.

The Honey Badger. I don’t really want to repeat myself on this one too much, so it’s best to check out my original hub on this one. The Honey Badger video is a satirical documentary about honey badgers, an animal which most of us have never heard of. This video is also extremely comical and filled with stupid humor.

The final video I have listed is Red Solo Cup. This video is put out by none other than country music star Toby Keith. This one is purely the definition of dumb humor. Now, I am not knocking country music, but this one seems slightly below Toby’s norms. It is a song purely devoted to drinking alcohol from red solo cups. Yes, those 16 ounce, red, plastic cups that are infamous at college parties. This video went viral and is such a sensation due to the fact that the song is extremely catchy. It simply gets stuck in your head. The video was also aided by the fact that Toby’s fame helped promote it.

Now that we have those four videos to think about, we can search for a common theme within them. All of these videos are humorous. However, it isn’t just any type of humor that can cause a video to go viral. As people, we are drawn to stuff that makes us laugh. We seem to especially like to laugh at someone else that we could maybe sympathize with. The Evolution of Dance is interesting, but it also gives us the chance to laugh at his dance skills. It’s intriguing, and many people can relate to having trouble dancing. The Bed Intruder is so comical because you have to constantly ask yourself how it can be real. Can this be serious with what he is saying? The Honey Badger makes us laugh because of the voice used to narrate the video and the things “said” by the animals in it. The honey badger, the actual animal, is also intriguing because few people know much about them. Red Solo Cup is funny because so many people can relate, but it is also just a video of a bunch of intoxicated people making fools of themselves.

Three of these four videos were produced by people of little or no fame. They had no huge following before their video. They probably had no idea their videos would go viral. They were probably just having fun. However, their videos have brought them fame, and in some instances, have produced money for them. It has gotten them other opportunities. The internet gives people such a large base of people to present their work to. Social media has really helped to spread stuff on the internet. I don’t think it is possible to really pinpoint what makes a video go viral. There are a few factors that can help it out, but there is no one solution. With almost all cell phones having cameras and the easy accessibility of posting videos to YouTube, it is inexpensive and possible for basically anyone to create a video. It’s pretty hard to create a video with the intention of it going viral; it’s just something that kind of happens.


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    • howtoguides2learn profile image

      Vidhya L 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Very useful share. I have also noticed that humor videos always go viral. Some of the good info videos also have high viewer count, for example labnol channel. But, it takes quite some time for these videos to get high number of viewers. Thank you and useful.

    • Joelipoo profile image

      Joelipoo 6 years ago from Ohio

      @Brett - thanks for the share and starting the club. Maybe the club will cause some of our hubs to go viral, and then we will all win.

      @hotel - Thanks. I think humor probaly is the main reason even if it cannot for sure be pinpointed.

    • hoteltravel profile image

      hoteltravel 6 years ago from Thailand

      This is an interesting find - humor is the reason behind videos going viral. Come to think of it, may be it is true. Voting up!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Interesting hub. It is very hard to pinpoint exactly what makes people share a particular video with all their friends, normally as you say something funny or very extreme. If it's extreme and funny, then chances are it will take off!

      Thanks for SHARING.

      P.S. The SHARING CLUB is now back online under "Do You Like to Share? Let's Help Everyone Get More Readers!". It had to be re-written from a social aspect to meet the T&Cs (completely my error, I hadn't realized).

    • Joelipoo profile image

      Joelipoo 6 years ago from Ohio

      @Website - Thanks. I had never thought about this until on of my other followers mentioned something about it to me. I feel like this is something that cannot be solved by a formula. It's just one of those things that happens.

    • profile image

      Website Examiner 6 years ago

      This is a great article. Very well-written. I like your methodical presentation, where you really seem in touch with your material. I also appreciated your analysis; never having given the matter any thought. I would also like to see the person or company that could dream up a formula for a viral video!