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How to Make a Viral Video: Lesson 1

The Age of Viral: Introduction

This is the first of a 10 Lesson series on How to Make a Viral Video.

Credibility Note: I've been a freelance journalist for the past 7 years and it is my job to create successful online videos for some of the biggest networks. Recently the New York Post published a video a produced for them. It got 1.8 million unique views in 3 days. Read on.

In 2006, a couple of guys released an amateur, single-take video shot on a cheap handy-cam. Wearing lab coats and protective goggles, they concocted an elaborate, and almost grotesque, mix of Mentos and Diet Coke. In just 3 minutes they managed to create mesmerizing carbonated explosions and fizzling patterns.

The Mentos and Diet Coke Experiment video was born. By the end of the first day they had 14,000 unique views on youtube. A week after the upload, they’d been invited to several nation-wide talk shows and their video had become a worldwide sensation. Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe had effectively started the conversation on what makes videos go viral.

Since then, many have attempted to emulate the style behind the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment in the hopes that their home videos will also go viral. The hunger for instant online stardom has fueled some of the most quirky attempts, but it has also brought us classics like the viral music videos from the world renown band Ok Go.

But the need to understand and make viral videos was not reserved for your neighbor - or your 16 year old cousin trying to become the next Justin Beiber. Worldwide heavyweight companies like Coca-Cola and Redbull were first adapters of the power of social media when it came to “Viralizing” their content.


Let’s first understand that the word “viral” has been liberally thrown around for years. Most people use it when referring to “cool” videos they have seen in more than one social media. In the beginning - when facebook, twitter and instagram were just being introduced to the world - a video would be considered viral if it reached a measurable amount of 1 million unique views (usually on YouTube). Today, the concept of time has come into play.

A video in 2016 is considered viral if it manages to reach anywhere from 1 to 3 million unique views in the first 3 to 7 days of its publication. So, if you published a video in 2006 and today it reached 1 million views, it is, by definition, not considered viral. However, if you publish a video tonight and three days from now it reaches the 1 million mark, then it has, effectively, gone viral, meaning that it has appealed to a vast audience and that it is quite shareable. We’ll talk about “shareability” later in this course.

In the next few lessons we will address the 4 Principles behind making viral videos. Always keeping in mind that, although no one can truly guarantee that a video will go viral, you can structure your videos in a way that will make them much more likely to be shareable and, hence, viral.

See you next week.



This is a practical blow of fresh air when it comes to podcasts. My team and I have just started producing a podcast designed specifically for freelance journalists and video producers in mind with the belief that 5 minutes of short interviews with media experts and colleagues, and quick hands-on advice, can be much more effective and valuable than 45 minutes discussions.

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