An Insider Look at How a Video Blows Up

Before you read any further, watch the video below.


I first saw this video on my Facebook wall, since I was friends with both of these clowns in high school. It already had thousands of views when I saw it, but a week later, it had gone certifiably viral. A couple weeks after that, Bobbe (the golfer) received an email from CNN with the subject line “You’re Famous” and a link to their video on CNN in the message body. As of September 5, 2013, the video has 887,330 views and Mick and Bobbe have been featured on Right This Minute, CNN, ESPN, MSN, and the Huffington Post.  

Their video’s success, and my somewhat inside perspective on its ascension, got me thinking about how exactly a video goes viral, and what it’s like to be its creator, so I interviewed Bobbe about his experience and did a little research about viral videos in general. 

The term “emotional reaction” comes up a lot when you look into how to make a viral video. Psychology Today found that people are more likely to spread a video on the internet if they have a strong emotional response — positive or negative. They connected the desire to spread a video to a psychological process called “emotional contagion,” wherein certain emotional reactions spread, like a virus, convincing others that the “socially appropriate response” is to engage with the content. (A bit jargony, but my interpretation is basically that you watch a funny video, tell others it’s funny, they feel comfortable with laughing, and spread it similarly). 

Wired had similar findings, claiming that the body enters into a state of “high arousal” (not sexual) when viewing an emotionally charged video. It’s the same thing that happens when you watch a horror movie, or read a love poem from your boyfriend (if he’s any good at poems). “Emotional” might not be the first word you’d use to describe Mick and Bobbe’s video, but you probably did go through several emotions: anticipation (as he approaches the pond), shock (as he falls in), and glee as you process what just happened and listen to Mick cackling behind the camera (by the way, Bobbe said that in all their years of bromance, he’d never heard Mick laugh like that).

Other viral tips: the New York Times found it’s important to get viewers in the first 15 seconds of a video — Mick and Bobbe accomplish this by implying that Bobbe is either going to drunkenly pull of a trick shot, or fall into a pond. Mashable also found that Facebook accounts for 75% of online shares of video clips — more than email and Twitter combined — which explains why I first saw the video on my Facebook wall.

In a recent Skype call with Bobbe, he told me the video saw most of its views in the first three days, plateauing around 600,000. This is consistent with Hubspot’s findings that most videos “see about 75% or 80% of views in the first three to five days.” So if you are looking to monetize or promote your website, make sure to have the necessary links/advertisements in place when you post the video, because you never know when it will blow up, and your window is small.

Clearly there is no formula for making a viral video and attempts to do so inevitably feel forced, but they do tend to share certain characteristics, such as emotional engagement and a hook right at the beginning. Additionally, you can influence, to an extent, where your video is shared, and be prepared to capitalize on its popularity (in terms of money or increased page hits on your website).  

Like their golf video? Find more at Mick and Bobbe’s website: http://mickandbobbe.com/

Also, Mick and Bobbe (who are Australian and Swedish) are currently crossing the United States in a Ford Mustang. Follow the adventure here: http://mickandbobbe.com/video-2013-usa-coast-to-coast-list/

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Jack Fischl

Jack is a co-founder at Keteka.com, a marketplace where travelers can book unique, authentic tours and activities with validated local guides. He has lived in 6 countries, traveled to over 20, and currently lives in Santiago, Chile. He is also a contributor at Quartz and has contributed to Mic since its inception.

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