It's time again to analyze some video successes from the past week and see what we can learn about what helped them get so many views. We have a lot of great viral hits this week to discuss, mostly efforts from regular Joe's like you and me, to help counter balance last week's heavy emphasis on branded viral hits. Maybe we can find some nugget in these case studies to help guide us onto our own path to success.
Let's dive right in:
The New Beiber
Justin Beiber is fairly famous, which is an understatement. That boy is everywhere, and even starred as the musical guest on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live. A year or two ago, that wasn't the case. A year or two ago, he was a YouTube video creator building an audience.
And now he may have competition in the "pre-teen singer" world from this kid:
I can't not write about this kid this week. He is all over the place. There are so many instances of this video on YouTube they could practically spin off a sub-YouTube just for this video. Collectively, it's already into the millions of views, and only hit the web this week.
And it's not terribly difficult to see why. He's clearly talented. He can sing and play the piano better than most kids his age. He looks a lot like Justin Beiber, who himself has proven that there is a huge market for pre-teen male singers. It also doesn't hurt that this guy chose to cover a song by Lady Gaga, who herself is about as popular as can be.
If I had a nickel for every time I've said that "cute and talented kids are viral gold," well, I'd have a bunch of nickels. And I say it a lot because it's true. Kids with exceptional talent are a viral staple. I'm not sure every parent wants to see their 12-year-old become a star, but if they do… a video of that child rocking a Lady Gaga cover is a pretty good head start. He was on Ellen this week, and even got a call from Lady Gaga herself.
He's probably already been contacted by record labels hoping to repeat Beiber's level of success. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
I talk a lot about videos that have the "what was that?" factor… when the content of the video reveals something to the viewer they've never seen before or never expected. Videos that hit this sweet spot are almost always destined to go viral, at least to some degree.
Here we have a video, uploaded nine days ago, of an optical illusion. It already has over a million views. Check it out:
Now, what if I was to tell you that this was a student project? It would probably be all the more impressive. Would you be surprised to learn that it was also a winning entry in a "visual illusion" contest this year? I'm guessing not.
Optical illusions are a very popular type of viral content—though usually they are images or gifs as opposed to videos. There's definitely an element of that elusive "what was that" factor at work here. When he starts to turn the table, your gut tells you that you're about to find out how badly your brain was just tricked… but you can't help but be impressed. You can't help but wonder if what you're seeing is real, even while you know it is.
It's very well made—the illusion and the video—and I couldn't have even dreamt of coming up with something like that as a student. It's always refreshing to be able to highlight a video that went popular not because of a branding head start or an overused joke… but simply because it's a great creative effort from a young person. Even more refreshing to have two in a row like that.
Our third and final video is from a brand you probably recognize: College Humor. While I try to feature as much viral content from individuals as possible, as opposed to efforts from Fortune 500's, it's hard to argue with College Humor's recent track record. Funny tends to go viral, and these guys have gotten pretty darn good about being funny.
Here they take a common viral approach—the parody—and they succeed on the sheer precision of their spoof. It's Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," done by Darth Vader… it's "Galactic Empire State of Mind.” Man, you know you're probably in for a good ride when even the title is hilarious. See for yourself:
There are so many things working perfectly here that it's insane. First, the lyrics. They rewrote the entire song, and wrote it as Darth Vader might have. The Star Wars references are every bit as funny as the tips to the original song.
Second, the performance. The costumes, the hip-hop-style dancing by our beloved characters, the "Darth Vader voice" effect… just perfectly over the top. I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch the scenes of Chewbacca dancing without spitting out my drink.
There's another factor at work in this video's popularity too—the juggernaut known as Star Wars. Now… there are thousands of poorly made Star Wars parodies and tributes out there in the land of viral hopes and dreams, and they certainly don't all have success. But when the Star Wars references are done right, it adds a juice to the video's trajectory that simply can't be denied. People still adore Star Wars, and probably will for quite some time to come.
If I'd had more time (and space), I would like to have featured some of the following—all animals this week in the Honorable Mention:
- This video of a cat sucking air. I've no idea what the cat is actually trying to do, but it appears to be sucking air. It's odd, funny, and animal-related—all good viral ingredients.
- This video of a dog riding a turtle. And I think that's all I need to say about that video.
- This video of a dog doing some kind of bizarre dance.