I recently had a client send me a link to a New York Times article that featured a video we had launched a few weeks earlier.  Fantastic!  Getting media coverage was one of my client’s top goals.  Yet, rather than being super excited, he was happy but regretful that it was another organization that made the video mention happen.

Yes, the article was not a direct result of this client’s media strategy but it is time to celebrate, your video just went viral.

True, the number of click throughs from this particular New York Times article to the video itself may not be high as if the article was just about the video in question. The article was quite lengthy and on a somewhat complicated topic.

That doesn’t negate the fact that the video was featured.  And on top of that, it was featured without the efforts involved with doing a press release or media pitch.

So, when we talk about video, what does this term “viral” mean?

When we say a video goes viral, people automatically think of a silly video suddenly getting millions of hits.

However, in simple terms, a video goes viral when one or more “carriers” spread it to their audiences so your viewership grows beyond your own original reach.

By “carriers” I mean anyone on the internet sharing your video link or embedding it into their content.  These links generally include a few words or paragraphs about why people should watch the video.

The result.  Your video is getting more visibility and views organically, from others posting links to it.

Can you help your video go viral?

Yes!  Absolutely.  

There are several ways that you can help your video become more shareable and in turn go viral.

  1. Come up with a Good Title and Thumbnail

  2. Write a Blog Worthy Description

  3. Share your video with partners and ask them to share it with their audiences

  4. Reach out to Bloggers who write about your Topic

Come up with a Good Title and Thumbnail:

Whether you post your video on YouTube or another platform, be sure to give it a title and thumbnail image that invites curiosity.  

Look for future blog posts about this topic.  But get creative.  Use words that people are searching for.  And write something short and sweet that sparks interest but doesn't summarize your entire video so they are inspired to click and discover more.

Write a Blog Worthy Description:

In your YouTube or Vimeo description area, include information on why people should watch your video.  This could mean writing a brief paragraph about what inspired the video or including some statistics that are particularly surprising.

Often times bloggers will lift some of your description directly from your YouTube description section.  Having a good description helps save bloggers time and energy.  Plus you help guide the way your video is presented to other audiences.

Share Your Video with Partners.  Then ask them to share it with their audiences:

Yes, sometimes you have to ask people before they’ll share your video.  So let them know that you are happy to share.   

If the video is on a topic that your partners’ audiences are interested in, they will be happy to share your video.  And most likely so will their audience members.

Reach Out to Bloggers Who Write About Your Topic:

Let the people writing about your topic know about your video.  There are so many videos being launched every day, and if the blogger in question isn’t following you or is following but misses your post, they will may miss your video completely.

So reach out to them and send them a link and a note mentioning that you thought their audience might be interested in your video.  If they think the content is relevant, and you have a good title and good description, you’ve just made this bloggers life easier.

And readers of blogs are more likely to be in the mindset to click on video link than readers of longer form news content.

Bloggers, a personal story

I started a video series on Tips for Urban Biking for my independent documentary project, Mind the Gap.  When I launched the first few videos I was more interested in content creation than getting the videos seen.  

So when I got the first spike in viewership I was surprised.  

Then I was curious.  

It turned out I had two pieces of luck.

First, YouTube featured one of the first videos in my series.  Having the video featured got me a lot of views.

Second, a local San Francisco blogger wrote about one of the videos (in which she was featured) in her blog about San Francisco bike fashion, Velo Vogue.  

I had no idea that a blog about a topic that seemed so specific would generate so much interest.  See, her followers were not contained to San Francisco cyclists.  

Her followers included both people interested in fashion and cycling across the world, but also bicycle advocates across the world and many of her followers wrote their own blogs.

Her followers viewed the video and several of her blogger followers re-posted the video on their own blogs.  So my number of viewers increased significantly.

What is the value of the New York Times link?

The case of my client’s New York Times “mention” shows that the value of a “carrier” may go beyond number and may not even directly cause a great spike in numbers.

Getting your video linked in an article published in the New York Times is not trivial.  While it may not drive tons of views, it does give you credibility.

Editors of major news agencies have to vet their stories.  I don’t know this for sure, but my guess is that they also vet the video content they link out to in order to ensure their reputation.  

So getting a link in the NYT is a huge boost of credibility, especially for a politically charged topic.

So having that link can help when you are writing to bloggers. Mentioning the NYT mention helps bloggers feel more confident about sharing your video.

And the viral cycle continues.

It's About Value

In the end, does your video provide value to the end viewer.  Is it so valuable others want to watch and share it?  Does it provide information, entertainment or an emotional journey?

If it does, people will want to share your video and there are ways you can help them find it.

Have you found success with any of these techniques?  Inspired to see to try this out on existing content?  Share your goals and experiences below.