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The science of viral video success


The science of viral video success


This guest post is by Chi Lo of Boom Video.


Viral advertising, content syndication, video distribution and social video seeding… am I catching a cold, racketeering or gardening?

Or is it just buying a number.

In our increasingly gamified world we chase numbers, notifications, friends and followers. It’s in our nature – a big number is like a badge of honour – universal approval for content we’ve created. It’s a number telling us someone cares.

So given that we are talking numbers and content… could it be that the YouTube counter is the ultimate in approval for online video content?

I must admit I’ve realised that when someone shares a video I use the view counter as a screening process. I mean, if five million people have watched this before me then surely it must be good, right?

Brands are realising this too, and they are realising that numbers can be bought.

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about interruptive video here – I’m talking about videos that make you smile, frown or even just shock you. The best ones are the ones that make you want to pass them on. These are social videos.

The beauty about this is that if a brand can make you feel the same way, then the fact it’s advertising isn’t a barrier to sharing. Great brand content is admirable but successful content is what you can overhear being talked about on the street.

But it’s not just gut feel that I’m relying on here. Over a year of tracked data we recorded 22% of all people ‘replaying’ a video through our player. The remainder are sharing, clicking through or visiting brand pages. People are actually doing something with the ad.

So the big question is, how do brands start this magical process? How do we get people talking?

The answer lies in the first lines of this piece. But to start at the top, it’s hard to define a product that goes by many names. The USA has dubbed it ‘social video seeding’ and I feel this is going to stick.

Simply put, it’s about an initial push of paid media to guarantee both a number to your content and create an earned media multiplier.

But advertisers need to understand that it’s not just about buying any false number; it’s about buying an audience. This is the right audience that is actually going to take action with your brand after they see your video. It’s about buying distribution and kick-starting something that will be much larger than the sum of its parts.

There are four key elements:

1. Audience

It’s about the right environments, whether that be placing a video editorially into a great blog, getting a relevant influencer to share it to their fans or presenting it natively within a Facebook app.

2. Sharing

It’s up to the content to get the audience sharing it. But make it easier for them, build social into the very fabric, content and technology of the campaign. People share when they want to pass on the response they had to watching, so make the content elicit an emotion.

3. Getting talked about

Now this is the tricky part, but easier in the world where everyone has a social voice. Your brand permitting – don’t be afraid and hide comments, let them roll. It helps Google know your video is popular and the Internet will embrace you for it. Let people take your brand on and talk about it in a way that’s relevant for them and their friends. Ask yourself, is the video a catalyst for conversation?

4. Brand fans

The final stage and the one that all of this leads to. A video so good it demands and creates advocacy for both the brand and the video.


That big view number that brands are chasing is really just the byproduct of all of these.

But it’s not just an art – it’s a science.

It’s a very rare video that can do the above on its own. After all, if you want to sell a lot of a product, you don’t make it available in only one store – you make it available in thousands.

There is now 100 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute (and that’s only one platform). How else do you hope to compete without getting your video in front of the right audience at the right time?

Influencers, blogs, social environments and a distribution strategy are all key in effective social video seeding. Advertisers and agencies need to understand that the difference between great content and successful content is in the distribution.


Chi Lo is account director at Boom Video the online multi-channel network, influencer talent agency and creative studio.


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