ICYMI: What it takes to make a video go viral

Columnist Ellie Papadakis dissects the best viral videos on the web.

I’ve always pictured the vast tubes of the Interwebs like something from the time traveling scenes of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” with terrible ‘80s graphics and all. So if the Internet is the time traveling rollercoaster-like tubes, than Bill and Ted’s phone booth is like the latest viral video.

My point is, things on the Internet travel really fast, but they only seem to hold our interest for a short amount of time.

So what makes a video viral?

I guess the easiest thing to notice is that these types of videos are often short, cute and funny. Take “Keyboard Cat”, for example. Although only 54 seconds long, this video has been viewed over 36 million times. And while it is amusing, it was posted back in 2007. The Internet and its tastes were a lot simpler back then.

If there’s one thing that people on the Internet have an affinity for it’s the bizarre. Strange videos often go viral, such as “What Does the Fox Say?” and “Gangnam Style” Both of these songs earned plenty of radio play. And while it’s true that they were both one-hit wonders, the fact that they came out of the Web amazes me.

So, move over Justin Bieber. If you want to be a popstar in the age of today’s Internet, you’re really going to need that “OMG” factor.

Lately, and especially with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Web has been all about good deeds. Recently, an acapella group from Oxford University went viral with a music [video medley of Shakira songs] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRWVMPnByzo) that’s recieved over 4 million views. The proceeds from the song went to a charity in the UK.

(If we’re being totally honest though, it doesn’t hurt that the boys are handsome and British).

These videos beg the question: Is there a way to know when a video will go viral?

Probably not.

The thing about the Internet is that it can be very temperamental. One day it could like one thing, the next day no one will care. There are perhaps certain things that you could try to amp up in your videos.

For example, cats. Cats are good. The Internet will always love cats.

That said, did the creators of the ALS challenge know it would take off like it did? They probably had high hopes, but that challenge went on for months and I don’t think anyone would have guessed at that longevity.

In the end, I think that the best way to make a viral video is to not think about making a viral video. If you try too hard to put in all the elements, it will look too contrived and sloppy. And if there’s anything the Internet hates it’s contrived things and sell-outs. Just go make a video and have fun — you never know who will see it.

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