What makes a viral video?

What makes an engaging video? Why does one video go viral and another doesn’t?

The answer to that is both simple and complex: simple to answer, but complex to understand and produce. Videos go viral for one main reason: people value the content enough that they want to share it and talk about it with everyone they know. But while it’s easy to describe the taste of an engaging video, the recipe isn’t as easy.

The first key is having relevant content. If your video isn’t pertinent to your audience, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to care about what they’re watching. And this is usually the easier part of the equation. If you know your audience, you generally have a pretty good idea of what’s important to them.

The second key is having an interesting way to present your content. This is often the harder part of the equation. We live in a culture where content comes at you every minute from every direction and it’s always changing or being replaced by something new, so getting attention isn’t always easy. So let’s look at three types of successful videos and see how they’ve generated enough interest from their audience to go viral.


Often these videos aren’t relevant to anything at all, but we want to share them with others simply because they make us laugh. Using humor is the easiest way to engage your audience, but since humor is so subjective, this category is also the most difficult to utilize well.

Here’s an example of a humorous video that went viral in a hurry. When I first watched this video at about 10 am, it had 3,000 views. By 1 pm, it was at three million.

By taking a humorous look at subjects that aren’t always funny, we can keep our audience interested in our content longer.


These videos show the viewer something they find so amazing that they need to watch it over and over again. Often that’s because these videos are fresh and something no one’s seen before, like the following example:

This category is generally harder to apply, but can also be done through amazing stories, not just amazing visuals. Amazing real life stories can touch us on a deeply human level because we all like to believe that life can be more than it is, so seeing examples that open our mind to greater possibilities can deeply impact us.


These videos also touch us on a deeply human level, but in a different way. They often leave us with a desire to act upon what we’ve seen, to change something about ourselves or the world around us, like the example below.

This category can usually have the most impact on our audience, because it holds the most power. If someone needs to change their behavior, getting them to feel empowered about it can have a more lasting effect than a simple instructional video that outlines steps of what to do.

Pair Style with Content

So what makes a video engaging? The biggest key is creating a video that people will want to talk about by presenting it in an interesting way. Using humor, awe, or inspiration can make an otherwise unpalatable video fun and full of flavor.

But if you can pair that interesting style with relevant content, you’ve got a video that will jump out from all the others. If your video is both relevant and interesting, you’ve got a delicious cake covered in flavorful icing, instead of just a lot of one or the other.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, because just knowing about these video “food groups” doesn’t necessarily make it easy to cook with them. Because as we’ve said, the exact recipe for a successful video isn’t always easy to determine. But just like in cooking, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Brad Childs

Brad Childs

Brad Childs is brass Media’s Video Producer. Prior to joining brass in 2013, he did a wide range of freelance videography, including marketing videos for new and small businesses, ... Web: www.brassmedia.com Details