Why Do YouTube Videos Go Viral?

Brent Coker, a marketing professor from the University of Melbourne, claims to have uncovered the 4 key elements for making a viral video.

Here they are:

1) Congruency
2) Emotive strength
3) Network involvement
4) Paired meme synergy

If you were hoping for an easy-to-follow recipe - you might be disappointed... or at least in need of a bit of explanation...

Here is how marketer Jeff Bullas explains these 4 elements of a viral video:

1) Congruency = "The themes of a video must be congruent with people’s pre-existing knowledge..."
2) Emotive strength = "Creating strong emotions is essential if you want to ensure you are giving your video the best chance of becoming viral and the more extreme the emotions, the better."
3) Network involvement = "Videos must be relevant to a large network of people and the larger the better, some examples of large networks are college students or office workers."
4) Paired meme synergy = Brent Coker came up with a list (awkwardly named, see the table below) of concepts that might contribute to a video becoming a meme. Brent Coker claims "that videos only go viral if they have the right combinations of these concepts."

According to Brent Coker's research: ”[S]ome combinations [of these concepts into one video] appear to work better together than others.” For example, Brent Coker suggests a successful video might have a combination of the three following meme elements:

Voyeur – which is when a video appears to be someone’s mobile phone footage
Eyes Surprise — unexpectedness
Simulation Trigger – which is when the viewer imagines themselves being friends [with the people in the video] and sharing the same ideals

Here's an example of a video that has gone viral using at least three of the "meme synergy" elements identified by Brent Coker (in this case Voyeur, Eyes Surprise and Simulation Trigger):

For more on viral videos - what else scholars and marketers have found to be common elements to a video that will spread - you can also check out this podcast of Brent Coker describing his research to the Australian Broadcasting Company and this link to a subsequent article by Jeff Bullas.

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