What makes a video go viral? Marketing technology company, Unruly, thinks it comes down to two things: how viewers respond psychologically and the social motivation to share the content.

Let’s break that down. When a video goes viral, it makes us feel some kind of way, whether it’s happy, sad, or angry – or whether it makes us laugh until we cry. The point is, the feeling of a more extreme emotion is what truly generates a response for viral content. Nobody shares a lukewarm video that’s kind of funny. When you hear “Charlie Bit My Finger,” “Bed Intruder Song,” or the “Evolution of Dance,” you can immediately quote the lines or follow the steps of the dance.

“…we want our friends to feel the way we do about those videos…. because it validates our taste, humor, and opinions.”

The videos have left an emotional imprint in our psyche that gives us the motivation to share them with our social circles; we want our friends to feel the way we do about those videos and to positively respond to our shared content because it validates our taste, humor, and opinions.

Viral Marketing

Viral videos can be a powerful marketing tool if used properly. An early example of this was the 2010 Old Spice viral video, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” featuring a handsome man in a towel in a tawdry display of what every woman’s man should be like.

The outrageous video garnered such an amazing response, that it went viral, but many people didn’t realize it was an ad until the product was displayed at the end. The video, which tallied 98.7 million views and 337,000 engagements, according to president and co-founder of SEO-PR, Greg Jarboe, increased Old Spice’s body wash sales by 107 percent.  

Lessons Learned

If there’s anything we can learn from viral videos, is that they have the potential to launch (or end) careers, create a buzz around a person or product, and evoke a feeling that can impact people for a short moment or many years. As a marketer, you should consider establishing a campaign to maintain momentum after a viral video.

Finally, if your video is going to be what everyone is talking about, you better be ready to sell them something. After all, anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.

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