Video Essentials

Why Some Videos Go Viral: YouTube Explains

YouTube now receives 60 hours of uploaded video every minute. If you want your company’s videos to stand out, you’ve got a lot of competition.

So why do some lucky videos take off and become cultural touchstones? Addressing that topic was Kevin Allocca, trend manager for YouTube, during the recent TEDYouth conference in New York City. Allocca identified three crucial characteristics of viral hits.

The Role of Tastemakers

Certain people can ignite a firestorm of attention when they single out a video. Allocca pointed out how the famous Double Rainbow video only because a viral sensation after late night host Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about it.

“Tastemakers like Jimmy Kimmel introduce us to new and interesting things and bring them to a larger audience,” said Allocca. Tosh.0 and various blogs helped Rebecca Black’s Friday video take off. If you want to break through, focus on getting the right people’s attention first.

Communities of Participation

A video doesn’t go viral simply because millions of people want to watch it. The video needs to inspire creativity in others, leading them to parody or remix it, or create a video response. Online video isn’t a passive format, like television.

“Unlike the one-way entertainment of the 20th century, this community participation is how we become a part of the phenomenon — either by spreading it or by doing something new with it,” said Allocca.

Fans don’t just enjoy a viral video — they participate in it.


To get people’s attention, you need to give them something they haven’t seen before.

“In a world where over two days of video get uploaded every minute, only that which is truly unique and unexpected can stand out,” said Allocca.

The result is that YouTube isn’t simply an online video library, but an important change in our culture. Succeeding in viral video means harnessing that change and understanding how people connect with the videos they love.

“What does it mean? Tastemakers, creative participating communities, complete unexpectedness: these are characteristics of a new kind of media and a new kind of culture where anyone has access and the audience defines the popularity,” stated Allocca.

To watch the full presentation — it’s only seven minutes long — watch the video below.


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