What is a Viral Video? What Makes a Video Go Viral


Many times we do wonder why some videos go viral and gain worldwide fame instantly. What are the reasons that some videos spread quickly and broadly whereas some remain unknown? We all have come to a point that spreading of viral videos has become common and the phrase ‘going viral’ has become our lingo. What are the reasons behind those viral videos or what rules should a video follow for it to go viral? Let us explore here.

Viral Videos

Factors Behind Viral Videos:

Social Motivation:

Videos that provoke a social commitment in the minds of the viewers seem to go viral than plain videos. Of all the motivational factors behind social sharing of videos, social motivation ranks first.

Emotional Response:

Most of the videos that provoke humor sense in the viewer gains popularity. The content of the video should be hard to nail and be culturally sensitive as well. Those brands who want to get videos pertaining to their brand go viral should try and evoke multiple responses from the audience that resonates more intense reactions.

Behaviors of super sharers:

It has been predicted that more than 18% of the internet users share some videos once a week and 9% of the users share daily. If the brands are able to reach these super sharers, then there are all possibilities that their brand-related videos go viral.

Timing matters:

Most of the videos that go viral attract the maximum shares during the first two days of their launch. Higher the viral peak, greater is the overall volume of the shares. It has been predicted that most of the viral videos have been launched on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Reasons Why Some Videos Go Viral:

Many marketing professionals have framed an algorithm for viral videos, why some of them go trending whereas others don’t. According to them, there are 4 key elements behind viral videos namely,

  1. Congruency
  2. Involvement of the network
  3. The emotional strength of the video
  4. Paired meme synergy.

It is not mere luck that videos go trending and there are definitive formulas that break down the science of sharing with some thoughtful insights. Some common reasons behind internet viral videos are,

1. Role of influencers:

Some internet influencers with a swarm of followers introduce new things to the rest of us and attract a larger and new audience base. These influencers are also sometimes referred to as tastemakers and are known to make things differently.

2. Role of online communities:

When a video goes viral, different online communities start to create their own new versions of the video. It has been known that these online communities have so far remixed thousands of existent viral videos. Thus, a group of tastemakers shares a video with a larger audience to make it viral which are again remixed and shared to a greater volume of people through these online communities. For videos that spread across continents, remixes are created from different countries of the world.


Some YouTube viral videos are merely the result of someone taking their protests online unexpectedly. When such protects display the characteristics of unexpectedness and goes along the general opinions of similar people, then there are all chances that it will be shared and re-shared among a larger audience.


For a video to go viral it should have a significant amount of common ground with the target audience, so as to spread the message effectively. People tend to share things that validate their view and those that represent and replicate their own beliefs and opinions.

Similarly, people tend to automatically reject messages that contradict their view of the subject. Typically, we cannot make people care about something that they don’t really care about, but it is easy to help them see how another person or brand fit into their existing opinions and views.


When a message gets presented in a distinctive sensory style be it visual, auditory, verbal, etc., it becomes easy for people to remember it when they have to think about related subjects later on. Thus, the way some messages are delivered becomes the key to identifying characters that help us to recall them later. This works just like how we remember people based on the way they dress or they speak.

The above mentioned are the keys to how any type of media become popular when it has excess accessibility and how the audience defines its popularity. For example, YouTube defines the fate and future of entertainment and education in the world.

Also, this entire concept of viral videos ensures that people need not take permission to bring their idea under the limelight. They can self-publish their ideas and market themselves. All of us do have our own ownership of the Media.

Scientific Principles and the Psychology behind Viral Videos:

We keep getting some memes and videos in our social media feeds. These do not happen by accident and there are certain principles that drive this viral feature. Even psychologists are trying to get to learn the bottom of how something goes viral. Here are the scientific principles behind the viral video.

1. Viral videos attract social currency:

People post and share social media contents so as to get them perceived by others in a particular way. People do care much about how other people think of them and it affects their online behavior. So as to project to be a cool kid or a topper, some people share a popular content and share them in their own style by including some twists in it.

2. Triggers:

Social currency gets people to talk but triggers to maintain the talk to keep going. Triggers are indeed reminders of related ideas and concepts that maintain the fire associated with the videos to keep burning.

3. Emotions:

The basic human quality behind all the viral videos is that, when we care, we share. Humans are by nature social creatures and we all love to share our opinion with each other and we also want to feel accepted. So, when people come across something online that is either, informative or funny we tend to tell that to everyone. Psychologists feel that emotion is behind every single viral video in social media. Once a user gets overwhelmed with emotion, they share.

4. Publicity:

The more popular or public a video is, the more likely is that people will be attracted towards it. This phenomenon is also referred to as social proofing. People tend to copy the behavior of others because it provides information.

Videos with practical value:
Useful things are shared inherently. Most people tend to share useful and practical information just because it is beneficial to their friends and family. Most of the mouthwatering videos in social media are trending because they are very helpful.

5. Story sharing:

Psychology strongly proves that one main way through which our brain can stay focused is by consuming stories. The human brain has a tendency to shut down all the distractions and locks itself in a story. In general, people are irresistible to a good story and share them because they find it useful for their friends or their family members.

The strongest psychological reasons behind viral videos are social currency, a high level of emotional attachment and practical value. All these prove to us again and again that the concept of virality is not born but is made.

What Viral Videos have to do with Business Marketing:

1. To become viral, the video must evoke emotion:

If at all there is an institution that teaches how to make viral videos, then it would witness the highest of all admissions. Most people want to learn how to create viral videos to gain popularity and to spread their views to a larger audience. Almost all of us would have seen or shared a viral video at some point in time.

Have we ever thought the reasons behind why those videos were shared with us or why have we shared them with others? What was so special about those content and why did we share them in the first place?

Most people would reply to this question as the videos were funny. For example, the reason behind the extreme popularity of the Gangnam style dance was that the dance moves of the artist were hilarious. The video was also awesome and the music was soothing to hear. Such awesomeness is an emotion and paves way for the virility of the videos.

This happens long back in all of our lives. When our friend tells us a funny joke or a riddle, we pass the riddle and the joke to the other friends and family members to make them laugh too. They again pass it on to a new set of people. This is exactly how online viral videos work as well. If you want to create or spread a viral video, make sure to incorporate some true emotions with it.

2. The video should not be promotional, but should portray the image of the brand:

If a video about the brand becomes viral and popular, it is more likely that many people have heard about the company for the first time. This holds good for a number of startup businesses. This is the exact reason why brand relevant videos truly depict the personality of the brand without attaching a hard sell string to it.

The video should essentially be informative, highlight the important USPs of the business and most of all should be hilarious. Most of all the video should appeal to the target market of the brand. In short, the video should be far more entertaining than being promotional.

3. The Video should have a marketing plan:

Most companies see that their videos go viral merely as a deal of luck. But not all brands can afford to take this risk. It is hard for a video to spread if it has been produced by a company compared to something that is been uploaded purely for entertainment purposes. The video needs to be great but it should also have a great marketing plan.

A lot of established companies find it easier to create viral videos compared to startups as they already have a major social media following. Incorporating the marketing plan is simple, there has to be someone to share the video in the first place, planting the initial seeds gets most of the work to be done.

The marketers have to ensure that the video keeps sharing and does not come to a standstill that easily.

4. Keep the other marketing and branding efforts in place:

The only reason why most brands commission the video is that; they want to see the results. There is no point in rolling a huge sum of money in producing a video and not concentrating on the rest of the operational and marketing efforts.

Just imagine a company produced a video which is a huge success and is not diverting a large number of people towards the brand’s website. What is the use if the brand still has a cheap and old website that does not have a reliable online ordering system in place? This only means losing a lot of revenue and customers.

Thus brands have to make sure that they keep their other marketing efforts in place so as to maximize their return on investments. The marketing video can take the brand at the top of the sales funnel if they keep the other things on the lower level of the funnel perfect so as to attract prospective buyers.

Along with creating a credible video, the brand should also have other things in places such as a fantastic landing page design and a responsive website that converts visitors into customers effectively.

Thus the reasons why videos are viral than others are simple and brands can take the maximum advantage of this to market their brands to a large consumer base.

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