As a video marketer, video producer, video storyteller and overall quality video consumer, I’m so excited to finally sit down and write this quick blog on how to create viral videos.

The inspiration actually came from a colleague explaining they were going to create a video that was going to go viral.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Them: “This video is going to be great. It’ll help spread the messaging we want to share on a massive scale, because it’s going to go viral.”

Me: “If you don’t mind me asking…what does ‘viral’ mean to you? And how exactly are you going to achieve it? What will your success metrics be?”

Aaaaaand the conversation pretty much stopped right there, as I started to see the wheels churning in my colleague’s head, trying to find the answers to my questions.

I wanted to share this, not to point a finger, but to debunk an idea that a lot of people who don’t specialize in video marketing think. And that idea is that there’s a set formula and metrics that define what makes a viral video.

Fact of the matter is a truly viral video means something different for everyone. Some marketers only see it as how many views the video gets, while others take into account views, watch time, video lifespan and other metrics when defining their idea of a viral video.

Adweek has a great piece highlighting some marketers’ definition of virality…check it out, if you’re so inclined.

When thinking about the metrics for a viral video for your organization, keep in mind that the term “virality” should be used sparingly, and your metrics should be truly unique compared to all of your other videos’ performances. A viral video is something special– the unicorn of your video marketing strategy– so treat it and it’s success metrics as such.

For example (and to keep things simple), if your videos usually get a thousand views in the first week, you might want to think about setting your definition for a virality at five thousand views within the first three days of the video’s publication.

Okay, okay, so now that you’ve defined what virality means for your organization, you can confirm that you’ll be able to create a viral video, right?

Mmmmm, sorry, nope.

Because here’s the big secret to viral videos that a marketing agency will never tell you: viral videos can never be predicted. Sure, you can try to throw some stark messaging behind a campaign to grab peoples’ attention– kind of like South Dakota’s fight against meth campaign— but at the end of the day, once you release a video out into the wild, no matter what channel you push it through or how long you’ve worked on its messaging, the success of the virality of your video is determined by thousands, millions or billions of people that have never even heard of you or your brand before.

And unless you can predict people’s behavior with 100% accuracy, there’s truly no way to ensure virality.

So, to recap: whether you’re looking to create a video or you’ve hired an agency to create a video, with the intention of taking it viral, follow these steps:

  1. Define your metrics to success for a viral video
  2. Think of and treat your ideas for viral videos like unicorns (every video should not be treated/thought of as a viral video)
  3. Understand that virality is out of your hands once your video deploys into the world. Unless the marketing agency you paid to create a viral video knows Chrissy Teigen, Harry Styles or literally any other famous person, your video’s viral success is completely dependent upon people you don’t know.