How a Facebook Video Goes Viral

By December 9, 2014 No Comments

We got a chance to produce a viral video recently. We were on site to surprise a family that was being awarded an adoption aid grant for client Show Hope. Here’s the finished piece:

It was an absolute blast to be there for a very special moment with this family. To boot, the video far exceeded our expectations. The video was shared on YouTube and Facebook. Show Hope’s audience engages far more on Facebook than any other platform, so the decision was made to upload directly to Facebook instead of embedding a YouTube video (here’s a good article on why you should always do this for videos on Facebook) Below is a screenshot from Show Hope’s Facebook account dashboard around 3 weeks after the video was released.

Over 82,000 views, over 305,000 reached, and 520 shares. This is incredible for a video posted on Facebook, a service notorious for forcing Pages to pay for reach.

This got me thinking, what makes a video go viral? Kiss Metrics has a great article that goes into detail on this. The article, written by Carter Bowles, outlines the five elements of viral videos that trigger sharing:

The 5 Elements of Viral Content:

Interesting – The video covers an unusual or inherently fascinating subject. Or it covers a known subject in an interesting way or asks interesting questions about it. To get at interesting have to let curiosity take over and ask questions that challenge conventional thought.

Surprise – Who doesn’t love a surprise? Surprise taps into a desire we all have of being delighted by something unexpected. Even unwelcome surprises can go viral, provided that the surprise is in the “prank” category and doesn’t harm or overly embarrass the person being pranked. (see Scared Bros at a Haunted House)

Emotional Intensity – A person will share a video because it connected with them deeply on an emotional level. The more intense emotions you can illicit with a video, the more likely the video will go viral. Laughter, Outrage, Fear, and Awe are all “viral-ready” emotions. (Check out how OK Go uses Awe in their latest music video)

Positivity – Emotional intensity is important, but positive emotion is better. Negative emotions like outrage can go viral, but sadness never goes viral, and fear can easily turn to sadness if handled incorrectly.

Actionable – People share things that they think will help themselves or other people solve an important problem.

Given Carter Bowles insightful keys to viral content, it’s easy to see what made the Show Hope video sharable. The subject matter was positive. The was certainly an element of surprise. You might also say the context of the grant giveaway in the video was interesting, as normally grants are given using a simple letter in the mail.

In general, viral videos are more difficult to produce and achieve success with. The goals are higher and you’re asking for more than a simple view. If video was baseball, viral videos would be the grand slam. But viral videos don’t need to be a complete crapshoot. The research-based viral keys above show that you can indeed take a scientific approach to planning a viral video.


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Bullhorn Media – A video production company serving the Nashville area. We understand that great marketing has always been about great storytelling. And great storytelling is what we do. 


Header image credit: Adam Fagen

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