Following hot on the heels of the latest Viral Video Nostradamus—where I foolishly aim to predict viral video hits—comes the converse of that concept: the Viral Video Round Up—where I attempt to reverse engineer how some recent video successes managed to go viral. Let's dig in:
By now I'm sure you're aware of the widespread reports of problems with the new iPhone 4, specifically that the device's wrap-around antenna causes reception to drop when the phone is held in a certain manner. I'm not an iPhone 4 owner, and can't speak to the issue from any personal experience, but there are numerous videos floating around showing off the glitch. I picked the most-watched one—and the one I saw first when this news started breaking yesterday—as our first example:
It doesn't take a lot to see what made this go viral, but it's still worth breaking down and spelling out, if only to remind ourselves of the obvious. First, videos about the "gadget of the moment" are almost always primed for success. And the iPhone 4 is, indeed, the gadget of the moment. It has dominated the week's tech news cycle for its launch, it's many positive attributes, and now this "glitch.” And when the "gadget of the moment" is an Apple product, the chances for viral success go up even more because of the rabid fan-base and cult-like following the company has achieved.
It's always a good strategy to make videos about current events in general, whether we're talking gadgets or sports or celebrity gossip—videos about hot-topics are generally more successful because they tap into what the public is already talking about and excited about. But when you've got video evidence of a major problem with the hot new buzzed-about device, you've actually got viral gold in your hands.
The video above didn't go viral because the creator had a genius idea or because he's a film school grad with mad directing skills. It didn't go viral because of who he is or even how he presents his subject. This example is all about the topic. This is simply an iPhone user who found a problem with his new phone and documented it on video.
But that should give us all a little hope. It doesn't always have to be about the million dollar concept or the fancy filmmaking tricks—going viral can happen without those things, provided there is some other ingredient to power it. In this case, that other ingredient is the fact that all anyone's talking about this week is the new iPhone 4 and the problems many are having with it. It was the perfect storm, and this guy was just the first to take advantage of it.
A time-honored tradition in viral video is to take two pre-existing things and mash them together. It can yield hilarious results, when done correctly, and this week we have a pair of mash-ups rocketing up the charts. I thought it would be fair to include them both.
First off, we have Star Trek: Tik Tok, an ungodly combination of classic Trek and current pop sensation Ke$ha. Enjoy:
That video surprised me by how much it entertained me. I can't claim to be a Ke$ha fan, but I did grow up on Star Trek… and I'm familiar enough with the song in question to enjoy the combination. The video was posted in April, but only really went viral this week.
Further proof that mashing together two pre-existing pop culture success is a road to viral success comes in the form of our second mash-up, Gandalf Goes To the World Cup. It combines Lord of the Rings footage with images and sound of the World Cup's now infamous vuvuzela, and if you're not sure how that could be considered funny, give it a look:
Both our mash-up examples take a current hot topic (Ke$ha and the vuvuzela) and combine that with something older, and that seems to be a sweet-spot formula for mash-up success. And they've both found a ton of viewers—the latter has over 2 million views in just a week.
Say what you want about the mash-up not being an original concept—and it's not… it's been done a million times—there's obviously still gas left in that tank. Me? I'm just glad neither of these is a Hitler Downfall video.
The Fan Film
I almost never post viral videos this long in runtime, mostly because I assume the average reader doesn't have 30 minutes to sit and watch something. That being said, sometimes an achievement is so great that it's worth mentioning. Sometimes a video's rise to viral success is so dramatic, I simply can't help but share.
Such is the case with our final example, a short film called City of Scars. It's a Batman movie, from a bunch of unknown Batman fans. And usually, when I'm sent a link to a fan-made film, I cringe a little bit with skepticism. Because usually… fan films are not that good. Often times they are flat-out awful.
What's remarkable about this fan film—a genre usually plagued by poor production values and bad acting—is that it's really very good. It's well written, well acted, and it looks like a "real" movie. That's not easy to do when you're just a nobody. This must have taken months to make, and who knows how much of their own hard earned money they spent. All to make a labor of love.
And it's found an audience that appreciates the talent and effort that went into it. Uploaded just a week ago, it's already amassed nearly 300,000 views. That's no small feat for a 30-minute-long viral video—particularly when it's on Daily Motion (not to rag on Daily Motion in the least, but they have a lower profile than some other portals that typically host most of our Viral Video Round Up examples). Pretty impressive.
If you have 30 minutes to spare, do yourself a favor and see how good a fan-made film can be. If you don't have 30 minutes to spare, bookmark this and watch it later.
- A video of reactions to the Landon Donovan game-winning goal to send the U.S. soccer team to the knockout round of the World Cup
- This video of Alex Trebek using Auto-Tune on a recent episode of Jeopardy… for real.
- This video from Disney/Pixar promoting Toy Story 3, where a Ken doll gives us dating tips… hilarious.