How Your Video Can Go Viral

By Bix  |  April 6, 2012  |  Audiences,Messaging,Social Media,Stories,Uncategorized

Full disclosure: The video I’m writing about was made by a small team, myself included, but I didn’t do it under the TakeTwo banner. Still, I’m writing about it for three reasons: 1) This experience has a bunch of great lessons for nonprofits. 2) We believe in transparency and I’ve already publicly shared my personal stake in this video, so why not? 3) I had a blast doing this – and you can too.

March 18 -24, 2012 was International Anti-Street Harassment Week, and a few of us decided to use the now-passé “Sh*t people say” meme to make a video about how men can intervene in street harassment. We called it Sh*t Men Say to Men Who Say Sh*t to Women on the Street. (More on the title below.)

The video came out on YouTube on March 19. By the next morning we had 57,100 views. Five days later, on March 24, we had over 200,000 views and climbing. During the week of March 19, the video was re-posted on more than 100 Tumblr blogs. On April 4, Ms. Magazine blog featured the video and in two days the post received 450 likes.

Okay, this video didn’t go viral the way Kony2012 did (and that’s all for the best), but it did get the kind of attention lots of nonprofits seek. Why?

  • Event As Hook: We made the video for Anti-Street Harassment Week, which was a natural “hook” – since people were organizing and participating in events around the world, we had a readymade interested audience. Lesson #1: events and campaigns work together like bread and butter, especially when they have offline and online components. 
  • Audience Outreach: The main reason the video got the views it did is because the team has a huge network of contacts in the field of violence against women. We Tweeted, posted on Facebook, e-mail blasted and shared on list-serves like our lives depended on it. Lesson #2: Make sure you have a solid distribution list and multiple channels to disseminate your message. Consider partnering with like-minded organizations to get the word out.
  • Message+Packaging = People Actually Want To Watch: This video resonated with people because the message was fresh and (fairly) humorous, the video itself was well-shot and edited (thanks to Fivel Rothberg) and it was short. Lessons 3, 4, and 5: Take the time and trouble to hone your message – it’s what will ultimately move people outside your family and friends circle to watch. Invest in quality equipment and work with people who know what they’re doing (more on this next week). And, keep it as short and simple as possible.

What we would do next time:

  • Pick A Current Meme: This is tough because the popularity of memes is impossible to predict. We were on the very tail end of the “Sh*t People Say” wave when we did our video. If we had done it during the peak we might have received more traction. Or it might have been lost in the shuffle.
  • Use A Short, Simple, Memorable Title: Titles determine whether people bother to click play. And in our case, the jury is out. Some people loved that the title is a riff, but many felt that it’s just too long. If you have a seed of doubt that your title is too long or unexciting, it is.
  • Enlist A Tastemaker: Kevin Allocca, Trends Manager at YouTube, has an incredible TEDTalk about why videos go viral. (Watch it.) One big reason: a celebrity spreads the word. We are still working on this, so if any one out there has a connection with Lady Gaga, let us know, would ya?

Next week, I’ll share what it took for us to make the video in dollars, time and effort. Stay tuned.

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