The Biggest Factors Behind Viral Videos

January 5, 2017 3:40 pm Published by

Of the hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded each year, only a fraction of them go viral.

So what are the key factors in viral videos?

Unruly conducted an analysis of 100,000 consumer data points to reveal the biggest factors behind viral success. They found two common drivers behind the most viral of video campaigns:

1) Psychological response
2) Social motivation

The higher a video ranks in these two categories, the more likely people are to share it. This creates word of mouth advertising, which is the most effective way to make a video go viral.

Let’s explore how to incorporate these points into your video campaign.

First is psychological response, or the emotional response felt by the viewer. Ideally, the content of the video should evoke multiple positive emotions in the viewer. The more these positive emotions resonate with the viewer, the higher the likelihood that they will share it.

Next is social motivation. Unruly has identified 10 motivations for video sharing, and the best campaigns should utilize as many as possible. The 10 motivators identified by Unruly are:

  • Opinion Seeking – “I want to see what my friends think.”
  • Shared Passion – “It lets me connect with my friends about a shared interest.”
  • Social in Real Life – “It will help me socialize with my friends offline.”
  • Social Utility – “This could be useful to my friends.”
  • Kudos: Coolhunter – “I want to be the first to tell my friends.”
  • Kudos: Authority – “I want to demonstrate my knowledge.”
  • Zeitgeist – “It’s about a current trend or event.”
  • Conversation Starting – “I want to start an online conversation.”
  • Self-Expression – “It says something about me.”
  • Social Good – “It’s for a good cause, and I want to help.”

Unruly sites two other factors in helping videos go viral: timing and ‘super sharers.’

Companies should consider what day of the week they want to launch and also front-load the campaign to achieve high numbers of shares within the first two days. Companies should also reach out to ‘super sharers,’ or people who share videos almost every day.

Now that we understand the reasoning behind viral campaigns, let’s look at some of the most popular videos from 2016:

Always – Like a Girl Emojis

This ad campaign has had almost 20 million views on YouTube since being posted in March. With equality, particularly women’s equality, being a main point in the national dialogue this year, it is easy to see why this video resonated with so many viewers. Viewers may experience humor, happiness, warmth, or passion while watching this ad. All of these positive emotional responses serve as motivation to share the video with friends. As for social motivation, sharers could be using many of the motivators such as opinion seeking, self-expression, or shared passion.


Mountain Dew – PuppyMonkeyBaby

Some of the biggest and best commercials usually air during the Superbowl, and this year was no exception. This video has over 27 million views on YouTube. But, this video doesn’t create the same warm and loving feelings seen in the last video. Mountain Dew incorporated elements of humor and surprise instead. The main motivator behind sharing this ad would most likely be conversation starting or opinion seeking. Although it does not utilize the warm and loving emotions we often see in ads, it got people talking and was certainly successful for Mountain Dew.


P&G – Thank You, Mom

This ad, which aired during the 2016 Summer Olympics, has over 22 million views on YouTube. One of the reasons it is so popular is because it is relatable for so many people. It depicts the special relationship children have with their mothers, which evokes feelings of love, happiness, nostalgia, and comfort. One of the main motivators here could be self-expression. The mother-child relationship is a fundamental one, and sharing this ad can be a way of sharing this about yourself.

It’s easy to see why these video campaigns were some of the most viral of 2016. Being aware of the emotional response viewers will have and the reasons why they share videos will help you in crafting the next viral video.


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This post was written by Maven Communications

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