Viral Video – Introduction

| June 29, 2010

What is “viral video”? It’s a term people use a lot these days — especially when they’re waving their hands and trying to impress you into giving them your money. When The Media Show started out at AfterEd TV, the channel was calling itself a platform for “viral video.” But our most-viewed videos only got a few thousand hits, not millions like, say, Sneezing Baby Panda, or Hamster On A Piano.

We came to the conclusion that “viral” isn’t something you can declare in advance; it’s only something you can see after it happens. But even in hindsight, when can you call a video “viral”? Does it mean it has been viewed a lot? Over how long a period of time? Does it mean the video has been linked to by a number of sites, or just one powerful site which gives it a lot of views? Do people have to forward it to their friends for it to be viral? Does it have to involve “Web 2.0” technologies like blogs and Twitter, or can it just be sent over email? And the million-dollar question: can you make a video go viral, or does it just happen?

In this section of the case study, we look at The Media Show’s view statistics in YouTube Insight, along with view counts on other sites like TeacherTube and deviantArt. We pose questions about the viewers, how they found us, whether they came back, and which communities seemed most open to our videos. We look at strange accidents which appear to be driving viewers to us, in addition to more intentional tactics like using keywords, titles, and contributing to existing memes. We provide documentation of our evolving thoughts about how to get our videos to spread. We contemplate whether you can plan for people to forward videos to their friends. And we invite your thoughts as to which patterns are viral and which aren’t.