Top 3 Reasons Videos Go Viral on YouTube [Video]

“On YouTube no one has to green-light your idea,” said YouTube trends manager Kevin Allocca at the TEDYouth conference in November. But only a small percentage of the videos uploaded to the video sharing site get the millions of views that lead to fame and advertising dollars. In this video Allocca defines the three factors that make a video go viral:

“Tastemakers, creative participating communities, complete unexpectedness — these are characteristics of a new kind of media and a new kind of culture where anyone has access and the audience defines the popularity,” Allocca said.


Paul Vasquez, aka Hungrybear9562, had no intention of becoming a YouTube star when he posted the “Double Rainbow” video in January 2010: he just liked rainbows. But the video went viral when comedian Jimmy Kimmel tweeted on July 3, “my friend Todd has declared this ‘funniest video in the world’ – he might very well be right”

Tastemakers like Kimmel can spread memes online the way Oprah can sell books with her book club. Not every video is going to get a celebrity endorsement for free, but tastemakers can also be regular people with a strong influence among their friends. This is why influence-measuring sites like Klout are so attractive to brands.

Creative Participating Communities

Tweets, shares, and comments aren’t the only ways the YouTube community shows its appreciation for a good video. “Because we don’t just enjoy now,” said Allocca, “we participate.” One hit often inspires another, which is why there are now 10,000 parodies of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” on YouTube, including a parody for every day of the week.

More recently the “Sh*t Girls Say” video caught fire with numerous remakes including ‘Sh*t Gay Guys Say’ to ‘Sh*t White Girls Say…To Black Girls’, and ‘Sh*t Single Girls Say.’ Once it was clear that the videos were a hit, the meme took on a commercial edge. Vitrue, a user-generated video company, created the “Sh*t Community Managers Say” video to promote their Community Manager of the Year Award, while The Knot, a popular wedding magazine, jumped in with “Sh*t Brides Say.”


Said Allocca, “In a world where over two days of video get uploaded every minute, only that which is truly unique and unexpected can stand out in the way that [viral videos] have.” And finding it is as rare as spotting a double rainbow.

Image by holbox via Shutterstock

Publish date: March 6, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT