Lessons from 9 Viral Videos and 3 Second Acts

You would have seen one or more of these viral videos – some of these took off like wildfire on YouTube.

There is no ONE reason why videos become viral but there are a few observations we can make about the characteristics of these videos.  A typical viral video will have some combination of these 7 characteristics:

1. Content:

The content VERY uncommon. It is hard (and takes a LOT of discipline) to re-create such content. Plus, even if you were able to re-create it, the duplicate may not fly the way the original took off. “Video #6 Noah takes a photo of himself everyday for 6 years” is one such example.

2. Chance:

This can happen to the surprise of the video creators. Gary Broslma (#4 Numa Numa video) and Matt Harding (#3 Where the hell was Matt) are examples. Both Gary and Matt have publicly admitted that even in their dreams they didn’t expect their videos to gain the popularity they gained.

3. Characters:

The characters behave in a way that is totally shocking or surprising for the occasion. “Video #8 JK’s Wedding Entrance” is one such example. Nobody expected that the bride, bridegroom and their friends would enter the way they entered (dancing) for the wedding event.

4. Comical:

The video captures a totally (unbelievably) comical moment that people are dumbfounded. They wonder “How could this really happen?” and share it with others. “Video #2 – Miss Teen USA South Carolina answering a question”  is a good example here.

5. Community:

The community (local or global) participates and becomes part of the video. Naturally, they help spread the video and because of the massive collective action, the video goes viral. An example of that is “Where the hell is Matt (2008)” version in the “Second Acts” section.

6. Compelling

The message is compelling and touches our hearts and souls. “Video #6 Dove Evolution” is an example of a compelling message. The video shows how we have a misconception of “beauty” in this world.

7. Creativity

Extreme creativity. “Video #9 Krishna Act” is gives an example of such extreme creativity. When you watch the video, you can’t do anything but to appreciate the sheer creative talent displayed by the team.

Now please enjoy these viral videos.

9 Viral Videos

These videos are in no particular order. They are there for you to enjoy but also for you to stop and think about the reasons that made them go viral. Enjoy the videos but also look for some lessons from them collectively.

#1. Free Hugs Video (with music by SickPuppies)

#2. Miss Teen USA 2007 – South Carolina answers a question

#3. Where the hell was Matt? (The original version)

#4. Numa Numa Video

#5. Noah takes a photo of himself everyday for 6 years

#6. Dove Evolution

#7. Will it Blend? – iPhone

#8. JK’s Wedding Entrance

Today show re-created the show once again bringing a ton of additional visibility

#9. India’s Got Talent – Krishna Act

Second Acts

Second Acts are not easy. The expectations are high and unless your second act is 10X better than the original, it won’t fly.

I have chosen three second acts just to showcase this.

Video #1 Where the Hell is Matt (2008) was sponsored by Stride Gum. This is one of the videos where the second act was more popular than the first one. The reason I can think of is the community participation. Matt repeated his world tour second time (with professional crew) but involved local communities to come and dance with him. The collective power of the global communities skyrocketed the second act.

Video #2 – The New Numa Numa Video was reasonably popular but not as popular as the first one.The reason I think is that the “surprise” factor was lacking. The second video was REALLY good but people expected that to be REALLY good. In fact, they wanted it to be more than that.

Video #3 – JK’s Divorce Entrance was a commercial venture that did not come close to JK’s Wedding Entrance. The new tried to repeat what JK’s Wedding Entrance (used some “knowledge arbitrage” there) but it was hard to convince someone that characters would be so happy to come dancing for a divorce.

1. Where the Hell is Matt (2008)

2. New Numa Numa Video

3. JK Divorce Entrance


I simply didn’t include a few more videos (eg: 1. Britain’s Got Talent – Susan Boyle 2. Flawless Dance Act) because embedding was disabled by request.