So you want to know the secret to making a video or infographic go viral? You ask, is it possible? Well, not really – unfortunately no one can predict the reaction of humans. Who would have thought Charlie Bit Me would have got 825 millions views, or a sneezing panda having 216 million? There’s no accounting for taste, apparently.

This said, there are a few success stories out there. As usual, the answer is no quick fix, it’s hard work and perseverance. It wasn’t luck that got the Dollar Shave Club almost 20 million views. CEO Michael Dubin planned the video, filmed it in one day at a cost of $4 500 and strategically released it to coincide with the announcement of $1 million dollar funding and the relaunch of his website. It didn’t hurt, either, that Michael studied comedy – he felt humour was a powerful device to tell a story. And it worked! Even the Dollar Shave Club never expected it to go quite so big so quickly – their server crashed on the second day. With an annual revenue of $65 million, Michael Dubin is still smiling, with more products added to his exclusive club offering.

Another interesting success story is Girl Learns to Dance in One Year (Time lapse). Karen Cheng, an ad designer based in San Francisco decided to chronicle her journey of learning to dance over one year. Karen did a lot of marketing prior to releasing the video and she states that her video going viral was not an accident, but the result of hard work. She posted her video to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Hacker News and asked all of her friends to share it. On the 2nd day of its release, bloggers who had seen the video on Reddit began writing about it. Blogs drive a lot of traffic, with millions of followers and readers, which is just what Cheng wanted. By Day 3, the video had made the YouTube front page and had got 1.8 million views. She shared her success story online and summed it up in six points:

  • Release your video on a Monday or Tuesday, since most people watch YouTube at work – weekends and holidays are slow. If there’s a big breaking news story, that will also detract attention, so wait for the news to lose traction before releasing your video.
  • See if there are any potential sponsors who might be interested in your video. Cheng wore different brands of clothing in her video, used various bits of music and an App to keep her committed to her goal. She contacted each company – some shared her video, some didn’t. But she says to try them all anyway.
  • None of this matters if your video isn’t good. People share things that tap into their emotions, so make sure your video elicits awe, excitement, amusement, anger, anything…except of course, sadness and contentment. Or boredom.
  • Tell a story: Cheng had a dream of learning to dance and felt strongly about showing people the hard work that comes before achievement. While she doesn’t claim to be a brilliant dancer, her video does show how practice pays off.
  • Make the video short. People skip over videos longer than a few minutes (the time it takes to get busted watching YouTube at work). Give it a viral title – short, sweet and catchy.
  • Work it. The fame from a viral video doesn’t last very long, so ensure the media can find you. Respond to as many emails as you can. Set up your website before you post, with an email sign-up. Be prepared.

Hoping a video will go viral is not good enough. That’s just luck. Psy Gangnam Style with its 2.3 billion views (why, oh why?) had its fair share of luck, but there was dedication behind that one too. Hard work and determination can pay off.

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