Going Viral

First, I can’t start a post on Father’s Day without first saying – Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there this afternoon.

The Dad Life video is one that caught my attention about two years ago, a year after it was uploaded, as I was looking for some funny Father’s Day related online videos. Two years later and I still find the video funny and want to share it with you.

As far as my own father’s day plans:

  • Enjoy some Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts my son and wife went and retrieved for me early this morning.
  • Visit my Dad later early this afternoon for brunch.
  • Take my son to the driving range and help him perfect his golf swing so he can take care of me in my later years (only partially kidding).
  • Lastly, grill some steaks and assorted food items for the family later this evening.

Now, for the real focus of this week’s blog:

Going Viral!

The ability to share a video online with your friends and family through social networks plays a role, but in the end the video needs to be of sufficient quality to draw people in to click the play button based largely off of the title, length of the video, and description content. Once the play button has been pressed, the video has to produce and display qualities that would encourage the initial viewer to share the video with his or her friends and family, and so on and so forth.

Traditional media research on the subject of viral videos highlights the role of tastemakers and opinion leaders to push a video to viral status. A number of viral video television shows have highlighted internet videos, such as Tosh.O on Comedy Central, Ridiculousness on MTV, and even VH1’s Best Week Ever series all highlighted videos that had already gone viral or videos that, due to their inclusion in the show, will go viral. I, somewhat religiously, watch Tosh.O and I am still surprised at the number of videos he highlights that I have not seen as I consider myself a fairly frequent viewer of YouTube videos. After an episode ends, I’ll rush to the Tosh.O website and get the run-down of all the videos he featured that night and I’ll watch the originals that I had not seen before.

Without Tosh filling the role of the tastemaker and spotlighting some of the lesser known viral videos, I would have missed out on some pretty hilarious stuff…such as…

Oddly enough, almost three years ago, I heard about this video from a co-worker. I wasn’t really all that interested at the time cause he didn’t make it sound all that funny but about a week later I found myself watching Tosh.O and sure enough – Zombie Kid was featured. And sure enough…it was absolutely hilarious to see this kid react in a way that was truly unexpected, catching the anchor off guard. I suppose the old saying kids say the darnest things still holds true in the new millennium.

A study conducted in 2011 by an undergraduate communications student out of Elon University makes an attempt to quantitatively evaluate some of the top twenty viral videos of 2011 – as ranked by Time Magazine. Using nine different coding elements, title length, run-time, element of laughter, element of surprise, element of irony, minority presence, presence of musical qualities, youth, talent, and a qualitative comments section for the observers to provide additional insight into their feelings / reactions to the video, the research found some interesting characteristics of the twenty videos.

The findings acknowledged that a majority of the videos had a title that was three words or less, had run-times of less than three minutes, and had some sort of musical quality. Reinforcing that potential viewers are more apt to watch a video if it can be digested quickly and if there is a musical texture to the video to provide substantive audio support to the video itself.

Returning to Zombie Kid…

Based off of the findings of the above cited research from Elon, Zombie Kid incorporates youth, an element of surprise, an element of irony, and short run-time. Four out of nine elements that can define a “viral video.” The youth being the young boy with Zombie paint, the element of surprise being the on-scene reporter’s reaction to the boy’s statement, an element of irony due to the unexpected response of the Zombie Kid, and the less than three minute run-time (specifically 18 seconds).

What does all of this mean for folks attempting to gain online notoriety by producing a viral video?

Incorporate as many of the nine elements as possible. Use social networking to spread your video to family and friends, people you know you can trust to view the video – as well as spreading it to their friends. There is little doubt that the world is filled with many creative people and when a video is successful in touching the emotional string of humor, the video can go a long way. Eventually, if you’re lucky, a tastemaker may see your video and give it that springboard to online fame you wish for.

Good luck and Happy Father’s Day!

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