The 10 Immutable Laws of Viral Video

virus.gifSo my joking reference to the “second law of viral videos” at the close of this “YouTube Viral Video Broker” clip resulted in this question from Joe Chapuis:

What’s the first law of viral videos?

Fair question. I hadn’t really considered the rules yet… I was spoofing someone that would have the arrogance to cite “viral video laws.” But Joe’s question got me thinking about actually researching what makes a video viral. Then I realized it would be less work to suck down my fourth cup of coffee and make up my own.

So here they are, folks. The Immutable Laws of Viral Video.

  1. The definition of viral video is that the video prompts others to share it. It doesn’t mean it’s good by any definition.
  2. Stupid sells.
  3. Nobody can predict what becomes viral. My videos that achieve modest viral status (like the inane Google Earth one) are almost never the ones I expect.
  4. If you’re trying to market via viral, stay “unpackaged” and funny. And don’t get your hopes up. 2007 will be the “year of corporate viral video attempts” and most will fail.
  5. Topical is important. Viral is subject to “pile on,” whereby one viral explosion creates copycats. A clip is more likely to be discovered if it contains keywords from other viral videos that are being searched.
  6. There is no cure for the video virus, but it’s not life-threatening.
  7. Duration is “make or break.” Short will always outperform long. Stay under a minute for best results and never go beyond 3 minutes.
  8. The creator of the “Immutable Laws of Viral Video” (me) is allowed to break law number 7.
  9. There is no law number 9.
  10. If you try too hard to be viral, you probably won’t be.

In the early generation of viral videos, certain themes have emerged: dancing videos, music videos, impromptu moments, pranks, clever movie scenes, parodies, celebrity moments and, of course, AFV-like falls and stunts. … To get a glimpse into the “Viral Video Hall of Fame” see the list of the top 10 viral videos of all times, and a more recent list.

5 Replies to “The 10 Immutable Laws of Viral Video”

  1. Rule 3 is so true. Of my videos, the ones I expect to be funny don’t get much play time. Those that aren’t funny, get play time.

    And a candidate for Rule 9 would be “Keywords help sell videos.” One of the videos I have has “Snakes On A Plane” in the title. While the content is slightly related to SOAP (I’m wearing a SOAP shirt), the context is lost on all but 100 people (my fellow co-workers). So keywords help, but content helps more.

  2. I wholeheartedly second that. Good laws, Kevin. The coffee must be doing you good .:-)

    I’d add the words of Jon Stewart: “It was definitely viral. I felt nauseous afterward…”

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