The second half of the week in the online video world has been dominated by the outbreak of tornadoes Wednesday evening in the southeastern United States. The storms were huge, and the videos are incredible and frightening all at once. You can see several amazing tornado videos in this article, where I talk about how Twitter and Facebook helped the early (and almost instantaneous) spread of these clips.
But the truth is that pretty much all videos that go viral are aided in some way by social media. Twitter may be a supremely great source for breaking news information, but that doesn't mean it's not also useful for spreading videos that are less... urgent. For a video to rise above the enormous pack, it's got to have some sharing behavior associated with it.
Like the videos in this week's round up:
There's something about being scared that brings people together. Something truly frightening... you just can't help but share. So videos of scary events tend to have an inside track on going viral. Like the video of the skiers who jumped off a cliff to avoid an avalanche:
Gross videos tend to have a nice cult following as well. So when a very large man dances on the jumbotron, possibly while removing his shirt, you have a video that is both gross... and scary. Two audiences with one clip:
I did warn you about the shirt.
A scary sight can also be hilarious, triggering yet another motivation to share. A good example of this is the branded video from Friskies, called "Get A Cat":
The Bottom of the Barrel comedy channel scored its first big hit (they've uploaded six videos, on a channel that's only a couple months old), with this harrowing portrayal of a dangerous kids' cooking show:
The public also enjoys seeing other people get scared. And while those videos are more comedy-oriented than fear, the fright element still drives the joke... and drives the view counts. Like this short moment of terror brought on by an elephant:
Animals get scared too, though it seems to be more rare. But I was not aware that a dog could be afraid of a duckling (warning: lots of barking):
Frights are a great way for brands and amateurs alike to trigger viral behavior. Scare them even a little bit, and your video will probably be memorable, maybe even memorable enough to pass on to friends.
For good or bad, we seem to really enjoy videos related to violence, on television, on the Internet, and in movie theaters--Americans do, at least. Violent scenes, violent people, violent talk... I guess we're just a bunch of tough guys (and gals).
Weapons, for instance, can be a big draw, if there's something particularly rare or amazing about them. Like a fully automatic shotgun, which has been seen over 4 million times in a few days:
Or a gatlin-rubberband-gun-crossbow, which is hard enough to say, let alone to build. But this guy did it:
Cause marketing can even get in on the violence act. Take, for instance, the not-easy-to-market anti-silver-carp movement. Silver carp is an invasive fish species in the U.S., and is rapidly altering the ecosystem. The fish also have the curious habit of leaping straight up out of the water whenever they hear a motor.
So a group that's concerned about the environmental issues at stake created a unique video concept that is so clever, just the description sounds like viral gold: they created a samurai suit, strapped on some water skis, and used a samurai sword---while waterskiing--to swipe at the fish that jumped up at them. The result is pretty funny, and should appeal to a wide audience, many of whom might not otherwise have known about the problem. That's good viral marketing, right there.
The video hasn't gone viral just yet, but it got its first big wave of viewers from Deadspin (a popular sports blog in the Gawker Media network). I feel confident it's on its way to a ton of views:
The king of all online video is still comedy. We love to laugh---it's what gives me faith in humanity. And when we laugh a lot, we want to share that laughter with friends. Several videos go viral every week just be being genuinely funny. The catch is... it's not always easy as it looks to create.
But Freddie Wong has it down. At this point, almost all his videos qualify as viral hits, but that's because he's genuinely funny, and pretty talented with visual effects. And he finds a way to weave the effects into concepts that are already entertaining on their own. Here, he taps the Internet's undying love of unicorns for laughs:
I'm happy to continue promoting the work of self-made YouTube successes like Freddie. He's the shining example of not only how to make great videos (he makes a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff public, and they often go viral in their own right), but also how to promote and market them.
Another group doing things right is Epic Meal Time, and yes... they've made this column a few times before as well. They make great videos, have found their audience and their niche, and are doing enough to keep things interesting with their clips that the audience is still growing.
A recent innovation is their Kids Edition video, starring the head Epic guy's son, who does a pretty mean impression of his dad. They also actually cook and eat their epic creation, just like dad would do:
Sometimes the comedy is just flat-out vulgar, which plenty of viewers seem to love. It all depends on the context, because not many people enjoy seeing swearing for swearing's sake. But a video of a Korean professor teaching American curse words to his class? That's a pretty good set up, and if you can get past the many, many swear words uttered in this video, you'll probably have a few laughs along the way. The video is from last summer, but only recently landed on my radar, and it has had a nice spike in views this week after landing on the Buzzfeed home page. (Last Warning: lots of cussing ahead):
The beauty of comedy videos is that you don't have to appeal to everyone. Sense of humor is unique from person to person, which means there's a sizable audience for multiple varieties of comedy clips.
Movie trailers are big audience-grabbers in online video, second only to music videos in their popularity. Studios are pretty savvy these days, knowing a large audience awaits them on the web that might not see their trailer in theaters or on TV. This week's successful movie trailers ranged from one of the biggest summer blockbusters of 2011 to a little experimental film you might have heard of. First, we'll get the major title out of the way, with this fantastic trailer for the upcoming final installment of the Harry Potter series. Watch it on the highest resolution you can... it's worth it:
The experimental film I mentioned is YouTube's own Life In A Day, which has a pretty great trailer of its own:
And for you fans of 300, the producers are back with another visually-appealing war adventure called Immortals:
I couldn't fit all the videos I enjoyed this week into the four categories above, so I'm leaving a quick list for you here:
- When will the trick-shot madness end? Not this week, as we have another 12-year-old trick shot artist, and a dude who does trick shots by long-snapping the football.
- After a breakout hit (over 7 million views) that we talked about two weeks ago, the male/female duo, karmincovers, is back with another impressive rap cover that makes me wish I had more talent.
- I was fascinated (and a little frightened) of this demonstration of how fire ants use their bodies as a living raft in water.
- Can real birds use Twitter to send Tweets? Yes they can, but it won't result in anything but gibberish.
- Are you a Mario nerd? Do you love marriage proposal videos? If you answered yes to both those questions, you'll love this.
- Two car brands saw viral traction this week with very different ads: Lamborghini went with style and special effects, while Honda went the "creepy/weird humor" route.