How to Make a YouTube Video Go Viral (with 8 Easy Tips)

Marketing Sep 4 16 minutes read

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    Know how to make a YouTube video viral?

    Even if you’ve had one or two videos go viral on the platform, cracking the code to virality isn’t easy.  

    A few things that help though: consistency in video production, reviewing your content to study its performance, and knowing your audience and their struggles inside out.

    Almost all videos that go viral reflect these features on YouTube. Take it from the 52 experts we talked to for this piece to learn how they make their YouTube videos go viral.

    Of these respondents, 46% are in the B2C services or products industry, 40% are agencies or consultants working with marketing, digital, media companies, and 14% are in the B2B services or product field.

    All in all, we’ve packaged everything that we learned into these two pointers:

    Dig in.

    What Types of Videos Go Viral on YouTube?

    Funny videos have the best chance to go viral, according to the respondents we talked to. This is followed by challenge videos and prank videos.

    What Types of Videos Go Viral on YouTube?

    These insights come from folks who have had their videos go viral. About 42% of our respondents shared they have 1 to 5 videos that have gone viral. And nearly 37% stated that they don’t have any videos gone viral.

    survey respondents profile

    However, it’s important to note here that everyone defines ‘virality’ differently. For the purpose of surveying our respondents for this piece, we defined viral videos as “videos that got millions of views in a few weeks.” However, when we asked companies to share their videos, only a couple met these criteria — telling us virality means different things to different people.

    8 Tips for Making Your YouTube Video Go Viral

    Now for the practical tips that can help you create viral videos on YouTube. Here’s a quick list of these tips, followed by the details:

    1. Post high-quality video content consistently
    2. Create videos on controversial topics
    3. Network to improve your chances of virality
    4. Tap into subject matter expertise and distribute your video
    5. Leverage trends to create more viral videos
    6. Tap into creating engaging bite-sized video content
    7. Create an enticing video thumbnail
    8. Look for inspiration outside of your niche

    1. Post high-quality video content consistently

    The foundational step to making your YouTube video viral is regularly posting videos on your channel. This works for a handful of reasons, including:

    • Consistent posting teaches you a lot about your audience, their preferences and struggles, and what content resonates with them.
    • Regularly sharing YouTube videos sets the right expectations with your target viewers. They start watching more from your channel because they know they’ll always find high-quality stuff coming from you (better audience retention).

    Related: 9 Ways to Improve Audience Retention on YouTube

    This tip comes from a creator too. In the words of Larisha Bernard of Make It Dairy Free, “The number one tip to gain traction fast on YouTube is to provide quality videos on a consistent basis. YouTube subscribers love when creators show up on a regular basis so it’s not a platform that you want to be inconsistent with.”

    So how regularly should you be posting on YouTube? Our research shows that the majority of YouTube creators (half of our respondents) post weekly.

    How regularly should you be posting on YouTube?

    This is the best cadence as compared to daily or monthly posting because a week means you’ve enough time to ideate, plan, shoot, and publish a good quality video. Plus, it’s also a more memorable YouTube posting frequency than a monthly cadence.

    Another key tip here is to “post on the same day and time to establish your audience,” Bernard advises. Essentially, it helps you grow your audience by setting the right expectations with them.

    “Beyond that, you want to follow YouTube’s own recommendations that you can find in the YouTube Studio backend and their own creator pages,” adds Bernard.

    The example viral video that Bernard shares follows YouTube’s recommendations:

    It has 1.2 million views (at the time of writing this). Here’s how:

    • The video’s picture and audio quality are superb. This makes it engaging to watch right away.
    • It speaks to its audience. Throughout the video, the presenter shares his experience with veganism, which resonates with the viewers since it comes from a person who has real experience in the subject.
    • The video shares quick tips. This way, it’s a no-fluff and straight-to-the-point video, which makes it interesting to watch. If anything, moving quickly from one tip to another encourages people to continue watching since it signals there’s a lot of value packed in the content.

    2. Create videos on controversial topics’s Matt Holmes shares what makes a video go viral on YouTube is a controversial topic.

    Holmes explains you should create a video on “a controversial topic that everyone thought they knew the truth!” In this video that Holmes shared, this principle is shown in action:

    The virality results? 92k+ views.

    The video also showcases a few more pointers that explain why it went viral. Let’s look at them:

    • It starts with a strong hook. Holmes starts the video by quickly answering what’s covered in the video “teach you how to get a smokin’ deal on your next used car purchase.” This instantly tells viewers what the video is about so the interested ones stay to watch till the end.
    • It jumps straight into the meaty bit. Right after Holmes answers the ‘what’s in it for me’ question in the hook, he jumps into step 1 — instead of wasting time.
    • The video quality speaks volumes of its authenticity. The video is shot from a phone, which tells viewers about its credibility (viewers can see Holmes is speaking from the location he’s buying/selling cars from.)

    And like the viral video above, this video also jumps from sharing value bites one after the other rather quickly. In doing so, the video encourages its viewers to continue watching.

    This helps significantly in making a video go viral. For instance, by signaling YouTube’s algorithm that viewers are not just clicking through to the video but also watching it for a long time (think: improved watch time). As a result, the algorithm pushes it further, increasing its reach on the platform.

    Related: How to Optimize & Improve Your Video Watch Time on YouTube

    3. Network to improve your chances of virality

    When asked about how to make YouTube video viral, John Frigo of Best Price Nutrition suggested there’s no proven recipe for it.

    “If people could make something go viral and crack that code we’d all be doing it,” Frigo writes.

    It’s why Frigo opines, “I don’t think it’s possible to ‘make a video go viral’,” At the same time, Frigo shares a handful of pointers that can possibly help your content gain traction fast.

    The first of Frigo’s points is the same as what we’ve covered above: being consistent. Not only does it get you in front of the right people, but it’ll also teach you a lot about your audience. This, in turn, assists you in creating better, more audience-relevant and engaging YouTube videos that have a good chance of going viral.

    As Frigo puts, “I think if you’re putting out quality content consistently, eventually luck will be on your side, your content will strike a chord with the right audience, and it could go viral.”

    To add to this, Frigo points out, “I think sometimes it’s just the right timing or the right person sees your content. For example, if Joe Rogan sees your video and shares it, it’s gonna blow up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that piece of content was that much more amazing than others you’ve done, it just happened to fall in front of him due to algorithms at the right time, and he decided to share it.”

    The takeaway from this is simple: engage with your audience and network with other creators. This helps because with other creators and viewers sharing your content as soon as it’s published, the odds of it reaching the right people (such as Joe Rogan in the example above) are high.

    Not to forget, when people engage with your content as soon as it goes live, the algorithm understands that it’s high-value and helps push it further thus helping you reach your target audience. All of this takes you a few steps closer to going viral on YouTube.

    This video, for example, is the type that’d get instant engagement. No wonder, it has 42.3k+ views: 

    So what’s different about it?

    • It starts with an emotionally engaging hook. The video opens with someone putting a smelling salt in front of another person and they react immediately to it. The real reaction instantly engages viewers, making them wonder what the video is about, so they continue watching.
    • The intro to the company and video is succinct. Where most brands go wrong is that they go on and on about their company in the videos they create. In this video though, the presenters introduce Best Price Nutrition in only a few seconds after showing a few clips of what’s covered in the video (read: after setting the stage). The video then proceeds into the meat of the matter, testing a new product.

    4. Tap into subject matter expertise and distribute your video

    “First, we brought in an expert to help with the content of our video. He was one of most knowledgeable for the topic we were talking about,” notes Jeff Moriarty from Moriarty’s Gem Art talking about how they made their video go viral on YouTube.

    This video that Moriarty talks about has over 6 million views:

    Here are a few factors that help its virality besides featuring an expert:

    • It uses engaging music to hold viewers’ attention. And instead of interrupting the viewing experience with a narrator’s voice, the video features easy-to-read subtitle text to educate about the gem being faceted.
    • It shows behind-the-scenes content. This type of content is always interesting to watch since it shows viewers how things are done, which taps into their curiosity to encourage them to continue watching.

    Yet another factor that Moriarty attributed to the success of this video — content distribution.

    “We shared the video on Reddit under sub Reddits that were related to the video we created.”

    In short, know where your audience is then share your YouTube videos on those platforms to get the content right in front of them.

    Related: 23 Content Distribution Tips & Channels For Increasing Website Traffic

    5. Leverage trends to create more viral videos

    “The clients I work with have videos that go viral when they create content that hits right as a trend is on the rise,” observes Branch & Bramble’s Sarah Walsh.

    “Trend forecasting, as well as understanding what your audience is looking for by doing long-tail keyword research, helps YouTube creators attract their audience and appear at the top of search results.”

    You’ll also want to spend some time on the platform and study viral videos. Eventually, you’ll start identifying trends. But there’s one thing you need to bear in mind for this: identifying and forecasting trends takes work. So you should be ready to put in some work before you start seeing results.

    6. Tap into creating engaging bite-sized video content

    “I made a Short video for YouTube, landing right on the boosted algorithm and using some high-ranking marketing keywords, the video was set viral,” shares Simon Brisk of Click Intelligence.

    “This year is all about short video clips,” Brisk notes. “TikTok has given other social media sites a run for their money which is why all of them are now giving a tough competition to the short-video platform. YouTube has introduced YouTube shorts as it’s short video feature and the algorithm is heavily promoting them.”

    Meaning: this is your chance to shine as the platform is paying lots of attention to the feature.

    “Longer videos are currently in the rest-mode on YouTube’s priority list, so if you want to make your YouTube video go viral, make YouTube Shorts,” Brisk suggests.  

    “Accompany them with high trending hashtags and add SEO-based researched keywords in the description. These practices help promote the video higher in the algorithm list, and your YouTube video trends.”

    You’ll also want to study what makes short videos successful — not just on YouTube but also on TikTok. The reason: studying these videos will help you understand human psychology. This will help you better videos on the whole. Plus, since these videos are short, you can study several at a time.

    Related: Best Short Video Apps: When to Choose TikTok, Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts

    7. Create an enticing video thumbnail

    A thumbnail is your video’s featured image. If it’s engaging enough, it encourages viewers to click to watch your video.

    Kris Bilski from Astor Film Productions talks about its importance in creating viral YouTube videos. “As a video production agency, we get businesses contacting us every week looking to create viral video campaigns, and there is no ‘One shoe fits all’ when it comes to being successful.

    However, that being said there are certain things that we do to help to increase the likelihood of this happening, and we aren’t the only ones doing it, in fact it can be seen by all of the largest YouTubers.

    Firstly, you need to pick a thumbnail that is engaging and aimed towards your target audience, something that media giant Netflix has recently picked up on.”

    “Netflix has begun changing the thumbnail it uses for various productions tailored towards the user and their preferences, such as more colors and silly faces for a younger audience,” Bilski explains.

    “Once you have passed this step we need to focus on engagement, or more importantly watch time. By adding many focus points early on in the video we manage to keep your audience interested and therefore encourage YouTube to show this video to other people, couple this with an emotional attachment and we’re on to a winner!”

    Two more tips to improve your video’s watch time:

    • Add subtitles to your videos. This makes them accessible to different people — for instance, those who are hard of hearing and those who prefer consuming videos on their phone, on mute.
    • Arrange videos in your playlists. Put together videos related to a topic in a playlist and add them as ‘watch next’ suggestions for viewers. This helps you keep viewers on your channel, boosting its credibility.

    Related: Improve YouTube Click-Through Rate (CTR) and Grow Your Channel with These 11 Pro Tips

    8. Look for inspiration outside of your niche

    Lastly, this one’s a hat tip to Jess Percival from Exposure Ninja.

    “At Exposure Ninja, we’ve taken the time to study viral creators like Mr. Beast to understand why people click on his videos, why they keep watching, and what he does to make his videos go viral,” Percival shares.

    “We’ve then adapted some of these approaches to fit our business and video topics. As a result, our thumbnails and titles have improved, as well as the pacing of our videos.”

    “Start now. You can start with just your phone camera and a free editing software. There are plenty of YouTube channels that can help you get started. Our favorites are VidIQ and Filmbooth. You can’t build the skills or confidence if you don’t start.”

    To add, Percival advises, “Your videos should always be entertaining. You don’t have to shout into the camera and wave your hands about, but if you’re doing a product demo in a monotone voice then it’s going to be difficult to get people to stick around.”

    Most of all, “Bring your passion for your business into your videos and use typography and graphics to add more visual interest to the videos.”

    Not to forget, use keyword research to your benefit. Search for terms in the YouTube search box, for example, to see which videos are ranking and how they’ve used the keyword. Also, watch those high-ranking videos on a given keyword to identify an angle that’ll help your video go viral on the same topic.

    As Percival puts it, “Make videos that people will search for. It’s unlikely that people will be searching for your brand name right away. They’ll be searching for advice, how-tos, and interesting content. If you’re already creating helpful blog content, you can use that as a ‘script’ for your video.”

    Related: 18 Tips for Writing YouTube Video Titles That Drive Views

    Monitor the Performance of Your YouTube Channel in One Place

    In a nutshell, there’s a lot that goes into making videos viral.

    From creating engaging hooks, video titles, and video thumbnails to ensuring you’re touching on trending or controversial topics, there are several factors that can give your videos a viral edge.

    But it all boils down to being consistent. Because it is what helps you:

    • Improve your skill
    • Understand your audience
    • Set audience expectations and retain them

    One another can’t-miss recommendation for you: take the time to reflect on your videos’ performance. Watch your video analytics — review how long it takes a video to pick up, potential reasons behind its failure or success, study how long people watch your video, etc.

    And the best way to study your YouTube analytics in one place? Create a Databox dashboard. Our dashboards feature all essential video metrics, such as impressions, watch time, views, comments, and more.

    By using a Databox dashboard, you wouldn’t need to go from video to video to check analytics. Instead, you get them all in one place and in a visually engaging, easy-to-read manner.

    Plus, you can also easily track your performance over a specified period and display data in the type of graph you prefer since the dashboards are fully customizable.

    The best part? Creating dashboards with Databox is super simple. You only need to plug in your YouTube channel with the software and it’ll pull together a dashboard where you can select the metrics you want to see on the screen.

    Hard to believe? Try Databox for free today and see for yourself.

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