The Science of Going Viral: Video Edition

Whether it’s a heartwarming proposal video, an intense adventure recorded with a GoPro or a hilarious video of a person falling, we have all seen a viral video with millions of views pop up on our social media. The question is: how did a person who is not famous at all get a video to go viral and rake in the views? Nichevertising created a viral coefficient calculator that will tell you the chances of your video, post or webpage going viral.

Although this calculator may offer some insight, it will not give you the formula for what creates something worth going viral. For example, a witty video that makes people laugh would do significantly better than a video of your cat staring into the camera. You need to make a video that people will want to watch – make it watchable! Making a video watchable means that you need to make it to where someone won’t get bored or tap out a few seconds in. Most good videos are shorter due to our short attention spans. According to, the average attention span was only eight seconds in 2013. So from that we can draw that we need to keep the viewer interested in what you’re doing or saying. Whether it’s a cool trick on a skateboard or a video of you simply sharing your thoughts with the camera, you need to keep your listener engaged!

One of the newest places for videos to go viral right now is Vine. The app allows for six second videos to be recorded and then replays them on a loop – which is a great time frame due to our short attention spans. (I see what you did there, Vine.) A lot of the videos are funny, witty or poking fun at everyday “struggles” that people encounter. Then of course there’s always YouTube where hundreds of videos go viral everyday. However, on YouTube you have a wider audience. From a makeup tutorial to a baby eating cake for the first time, YouTube has all types of videos that are ‘viral’ in different categories. Basically, you need to know your audience.  If you’re going on Vine, you’ll have a younger crowd who’s most likely looking for a laugh. If you’re going on YouTube, you’ll just need an impressive video in the category you’re looking to post a video on or have a group of people that are willing to share it.

This brings me to my next, most important point – video sharing. People sharing your video is what makes your video go viral. Without people watching and sharing with their friends, your video would just be sitting around on YouTube with 10 views that you only got because you watched your own video 10 times. The viral coefficient calculator points out that you need people to share your video in order to start the momentum. However, even if you start with two people sharing it to 10 people who then share it to two people each, then you have already reached 40 people with only two rounds of sharing. If that keeps going, you will eventually reach thousands of people – how cool is the internet?

Clearly, there is more than what meets the eye if you are looking to create a viral video and become the next Vine or YouTube sensation. However, remembering these three things will definitely make a difference and start you out on the right track – make a video that is watchable, know your audience, and share your video!

Best of luck to all your viral endeavors!


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