What makes videos go viral?

Lots of views does not necessarily mean “viral”

Wondering what makes videos go viral”?

Engaging talks like the one below do speak some truth, but they don’t tell you the whole truth.

Well, the whole truth is that “virality” is all about the relationship between views and shares.

Some videos with millions of views are not viral at all, and some of the most viral hits have only a couple hundred thousand views!

“Distribution” is the main driver of views and shares, which means some form of paid seeding in nearly every case.

The gentleman in the above video hints at this with his “tastemakers” explanation, however there are very few examples of this on YouTube.

Almost all viral hits are seeded with some form of paid boosting

It may seem cheesy that a site which sells YouTube views is saying this, however we can assure you it is the absolute truth.

It’s all about Views vs Shares

The average views-to-share ratio is 24 to 1. So it takes 24 people to see your video, in order for 1 person to share it.

How to send a YouTube video viral

The most successful viral videos have ratios as good as 8 views to 1 share, which is still probably not as good as you might have thought.

So what does “viral” mean and what makes videos go viral?

“Viral” means the extent to which the video improves its views-to-shares above the 24 to 1 expected average.

Some videos with only 200,000 views are technically more “viral” than some with 20,000,000 views simply because of the better views-to-shares ratio.

What’s the single biggest predictor of video success?

1st place goes to…

Believe it or not, the biggest predictor of success is distribution.

The great majority of successful YouTube videos have used some form of paid seeding, especially in the first week following their release.


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25% of a video’s shares occur within the first 3 days, so if you miss that initial opportunity then you may have missed to chance to go maximise your video’s “virality”.

Essentially, the more people you push your video in front of, especially in the first three days to one week, the more people share it and the best chance it has to go viral.

Video Views International - YouTube views

No videos are able to start from a tiny base of viewers and spread like the way a biological virus does, despite what people might believe.

Once you have a sizable distribution base, then the other factors determine how strong your views-to-shares ratio gets.

Viral videos result from distribution to a large base of people, which multiplies to an even larger base of people due to the high-state emotional arousal, as well as the creative quality of the video.

So, sadly, in order to get a video to go viral, to a great extent you need to send it viral first.

If your video has truly got what it takes, then once enough people see it, you’ll get views and shares many times over and above what you invested in getting the video out there ‘on the digital stage’.

So what are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th biggest predictors of “viral” success?

2nd place goes to…

Second place goes to emotion.

Specifically, high arousal (Ha) emotions which are positive in nature, create the most prolific sharing and engagement behaviour.

Studies focusing on the highest achieving videos on YouTube have concluded that 90% of increased sharing of those videos (ie the shares over and above that expected by distribution) was due to creative use of high arousal positive emotion.

How to increase YouTube video views

3rd place goes to…

Third is the creative quality of the video itself – which is a little bit tied into 2nd placed emotion mentioned above.

Another big point to note is sound – if your audio is bad, then as far as most people are concerned, so is your video. Many people overlook this and wonder why their visually awesome video fails.

4th goes to…

Fourth is on-page social proof, which comes from the number of views the video has, as well as how high the video ranks in YouTube video results.

Having a properly tagged, titled and optimised video which is consistently found by viewers who are interested in the topic is vital.

Once the video is optimised for success, all that’s required is to circulate that video to enough people to get the snowball rolling.

This does not mean purchasing fake video views and video likes. Only real, high-retention human video views will be effective at maximising a video’s virality and overall success.

What makes videos go viral


CLICK HERE for an easy-to-read and very helpful research study on the common things that big viral videos share.

The main factors that were common amongst Time Magazine’s Top 20 viral videos were; short title length (3 words or less), short run-time (less than 3minutes), an element of laughter, and an element of irony,

Give it some feeling. Keep it short. Optimise it. Make it look popular.

The final two things people check before they click is “How many people have watched it?” and “How much of my time will it take to watch it?”.

If you can make a two-minute version of your video that summarises everything, maybe that’s the video you should be making.

Finally – before you launch the video – think critically about your video, interrogate yourself about your video asking:

“Why should people watch it?”
“Why would they want to share it?”
“Does this video do anything for people emotionally, in a personal or professional sense?”

And be clever enough to wait one more day to think things over, and humble and industrious enough to re-edit the video one last time.

You will always be glad you did.

We hope this information proves useful for you, and wish you all the best with your online video ambitions!

If you’d like more info on how to optimise your YouTube video, see our section called Increase YouTube views FREE here.

HQ Team

Hope it helps!

All Video Views customers get free video optimisation tips (along with some free views for loyalty!), and their questions answered quickly.

Get in touch any time via our Contact Form or directly via email at support@videoviews.international

Thumbs up,
The Video Views Team

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