Trends & Insights

Viral Videos: Why and how do they happen?

By Sydney M. Wolff | Jan 8, 2016


“Going viral” is a term that everyone has heard, and in today’s digital world it’s pretty much the equivalent to stardom. “Charlie Bit My Finger” was one of the first videos ever to go viral, and the timeless clip still makes people laugh. Today, many publishers have committed to integrating popular videos into their websites. Mashable and The Telegraph have entire sections on their sites dedicated to viral videos. But what exactly makes a viral video, viral? There are three common characteristics that most viral videos possess: short titles and short form, humorous topics, and a popular video publisher.

Short Titles and Short-Form

People are more likely to click on a video that has a short title. If it’s to the point, a viewer will have a better idea of what they’re considering watching. Short videos have higher completion rates, and a person is much more likely to share a video that they’ve completed watching than one they haven’t. Both short titled and short-form videos are easier to watch and share via social media, and more sharing means more ‘viral-ability’.

Humorous Video Topics

It’s easy to engage viewers in a funny short clip. Everyone has seen the most recent talking dog or stealthy cat clip. Humorous videos are usually user generated, bringing people closer together. We all enjoy waking up to a group chat or email thread with silly commentary on the latest viral video. Funny videos provide a nice break during the day, and the positive, happy feeling they bring makes us more likely to share, re-watch, and talk about them.

Popular Video Publishers

Let’s be honest, popularity matters. When building up a video’s reputation on social media, a publisher’s original network and audience size is important. Buzzfeed’s video series get millions of views from their loyal followers. High view counts make it easy for new content to go viral, and to maintain popularity for a longer period of time.

People of all ages know how addicting a viral video can be. Whether it’s the pick of the week or your favorite classic, they never seem to lose their touch. After all, how could puppy compilations and passionate singers at your fingertips get old? It turns out that the key to viral success could be as simple as knowing when to cut your video short, or having a celebrity like your content. No matter what makes videos viral, they’ll continue to play a valuable role for social media platforms, publishers, and consumers alike.


Sydney M. Wolff