If you're anything like most of the video creators and marketing consultants I've met, you probably have a tendency to hope for big things from your latest viral offering almost as soon as you've uploaded. You might even refresh the page regularly throughout the first few days, hoping to see the view count skyrocketing—though I don't personally have any experience with this kind of vain and lame behavior, I swear.
But a new viral hit this week has served as a great reminder to me personally of the power of patience, so I wanted to share.
Meet Samuel, the 3-year-old poetry-reciting YouTube star of the week:
Reminds me of this little guy.
Cute kids are a great thing for the online video space. In the midst of online-video-related headlines regarding puppy-mistreatment, athlete sex tapes, and racist rants… it's more than refreshing to see that positive content still gets plenty of attention and love. Sometimes we need that kind of content to balance out the negative stuff.
And plenty of parents upload videos of their young toddlers reciting things from memory such as the Pledge of Allegiance or periodic tables. In some ways, posting videos to YouTube is the modern equivalent of whipping out your wallet to show your coworkers that picture of little Johnny playing catch.
And sometimes, just as with this poetry video—or the more-famous example of David After Dentist—a video that mostly was intended for friends and family catches fire and goes viral.
Except in this instance, the viral activity is occurring about nine months after the video was uploaded. The clip went online on January 13, 2010, and according to YouTube's numbers, it only recently went "viral," spiking on September 2—today. Check out the screenshot of the traffic:
That's astounding. Think about how many videos you have online that were posted months or even years ago. At any given time, someone with some measure of influence might stumble onto one of them, post it on a highly visible website, and you could go from viral zero to viral hero overnight.
One of the biggest reasons I enjoy working in viral video is that it's unpredictable, and therefore largely uncontrollable. How many of us launched videos this week (or worked on campaigns that did) only to watch animal cruelty or photographic-memory toddlers steal all our views? You have to love it. Because "viral" is still a wild animal, and beyond the control of any one person or brand. There may be advantages for some, but we're all playing in the same sandbox, and it's constantly evolving and changing at a pace that levels the playing field.
That has to give hope to video producers everywhere—particularly those who have yet to have the hit video they feel they deserve. Keep making great video content and market it as best you can, but in the end… it's the people who are going to make or break your content's status as "viral.” Don't expect overnight success, and don't give up on the chance that older videos might suddenly find a larger audience.