How to Get Your First Viral YouTube Video: The Blueprint

Going viral on YouTube isn't just about luck; it's a skill to be learned. Find out how you can maximize the chance of going viral with your content!

Contrary to popular belief, going viral is a skill that can be learned. That's what YouTube sensation MrBeast claims in this famous interview with Lex Fridman.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: That doesn't apply to small YouTube channels, especially those lacking millions of subscribers.

But what if we told you it absolutely can work? What if we told you that viral YouTube videos aren't all that mysterious?

Read more: 3 Ways to Discover Viral YouTube Video Ideas

What Is a Viral Video?

Viral videos gain popularity through internet sharing, typically on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X. In fact, Harvard Business Review reported that videos reach their viral peak faster when shared within the first 48 hours. Videos are considered 'viral' when they reach 2 million views (or more) in just a few days.

What Causes a Video to Go Viral?

Let's return to the HBR article to answer this question. In the post, HBR shares interesting data from Unruly, a marketing technology company that has studied 430 billion video views. The findings suggested that super sharers — a small group of people who share videos in the first 48 hours — kick start the viral process.

But why do they do this? Unruly noticed 10 motivators for sharing videos online.

Source: Harvard Business Review

  1. Seeing what friends and family think about it
  2. Bonding over shared interests
  3. Kickstarting offline conversations
  4. Starting online conversations
  5. Sharing useful information with friends
  6. Being the first to share something cool
  7. Demonstrating knowledge of a subject
  8. Doing social good
  9. Engaging with trends
  10. Self-expression

What a Viral Video Looks Like

Viral videos evoke strong emotions which compel viewers to share them within their own networks. These videos have the potential to reach a massive audience within hours or even minutes of being posted!

But viral content doesn't need to have a specific 'look' to attract views. Oftentimes, this is what a viral video looks like on YouTube:

The important thing to notice here is the sheer difference between views and subscribers related to this video. This disparity means that the audience chose to watch the video for its content and not just the person behind it.

How to Make a YouTube Video Go Viral

Creating a viral video takes more than luck, as YouTube educator Sean Cannell has explained. It's more like cooking. Some ingredients are nice to have, but you can only mimic a dish when you have the main ingredients.

  • Strong topic: Choose a topic that resonates with your target audience.
  • Great title and thumbnail: Make them compelling enough to click.
  • Engaging hook: The first 8-10 seconds should grab the viewer's attention.
  • Interesting storyline: Keep viewers engaged throughout the video.
  • Emotional value: The viewer leaves the video feeling transformed.

Strategies for Making Your Videos Go Viral

Strategy 1: Creating Compelling, Shareable Videos

The first step to creating a viral video is to ensure that it is compelling and shareable. People are more likely to share content that evokes strong emotions, etc such as laughter, awe, or surprise. So, try to be entertaining, informative, or thought-provoking while keeping the video short and concise to maintain viewers' attention.

What this typically comes down to is telling a good story. Make viewers feel giggly, happy, or sad, but no matter what, make them feel something. You can even surprise them with plot twists and cliffhangers.

Strategy 2: Leverage Social Media

Social media platforms play a crucial role in making videos go viral. With billions of users worldwide, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer a vast audience for your videos to be seen and shared.

To leverage social media platforms effectively, consider the following tips:

  • Choose the right platform: Different social media platforms cater to different demographics and content types. Research your target audience and select the platforms that align with their preferences.
  • Use hashtags: Hashtags can help increase the discoverability of your videos on social media. Research popular hashtags related to your industry or topic and include them in your video posts.
  • Engage with your audience: Responding to comments, messages, and mentions on social media shows that you value your audience's feedback and want them to engage with your content.

Strategy 3: Optimize Videos with SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key aspect of virality. Optimizing your videos for search engines can increase their visibility and improve their chances of going viral. If you've been putting a lot of effort into your videos, but they aren't seeing the big numbers, you could be lacking in SEO.

To optimize your video SEO, consider the following tips:

  • Use relevant keywords: Research keywords related to your industry or topic and include them in your video titles, descriptions, and tags.
  • Write detailed descriptions: Provide a comprehensive description of your video that includes relevant keywords, so search engines understand your content.
  • Add captions and subtitles: Captions and subtitles make your videos accessible to a wider audience, including those who are hearing impaired or watching without sound.
  • Create an engaging thumbnail: Design an eye-catching thumbnail that accurately represents the content of your video (thumbnails are shown on search pages).

Strategy 4: Analyze Performance and Apply New Insights

The final strategy for making your videos go viral is analyzing their performance and iterating on future content. By analyzing data such as views, engagement rates, and shares, you learn what works and what doesn't.

To analyze and iterate effectively, consider the following tips:

  • Use YouTube analytics: YouTube has a data studio that tracks views, watch time, engagement rate, and audience demographics.
  • Identify trends: Look for patterns or trends in your successful videos by carefully observing performance data.
  • Experiment and adapt: Adapt your content based on what performs well and discard strategies that don't produce results.

Insights From Our Viral YouTube Video

Quite recently, one of our videos went viral on YouTube and is currently sitting at 1 million views. In it, we cover the rise of superstar bodybuilder Sam Sulek and how he's grown his channel exponentially in 2023.

Our in-house expert, John, explained how he made it happen in a separate video (above), and here's what you need to know:

Identifying Potential: Our viral adventure began with Sam Sulek, a rising YouTube sensation. We saw a potential story in his rising subscriber count and the authenticity trend that's been sweeping YouTube since the pandemic. Combining a trending topic with our audience's desire (YouTube growth) helped us produce an interesting video.

The Art of Packaging: As we know already, a video's success often hinges on its title and thumbnail. They're like the cover of a book, enticing viewers to dive in. We used the ICE method (Imagery, Curiosity, Expectation) to craft ours. Remember, your title and thumbnail should not only grab attention but also set the right expectations.

Meeting Viewer Expectations: Have you ever clicked on a video and realized it's not what the title and thumbnail suggest? Annoying, right? We made sure our content aligned with what our thumbnail and title promised. It's all about respecting your audience and delivering what you've promised.

Adapting and Improving: Our first cut for the video wasn't perfect. We had to re-edit to better match our title and thumbnail, but we didn't stop. Here's a golden nugget for you: Don't be afraid to revise. Your first draft doesn't have to be your final. Be open to feedback and willing to make changes.

Don't Give Up: Initially, our video didn't do great. But then, the YouTube algorithm picked it up, and the views skyrocketed. So, focus on creating content that engages. Even if your video doesn't take off immediately, don't lose hope.

Check the video above to get a deeper understanding of how we made it all happen. And while you're at it, swing by the description box to get a free template for making viral YouTube videos!

Going Viral Is a Skill

It’s important to understand that identifying your unique voice as a creator leads to virality. Authenticity is the soul of what makes a video viral; it's what makes people relate to your content and share it with others. So, be yourself and let your unique personality shine through.

Creating a viral video might seem like finding a needle in a haystack, but it's not an impossible task. So, fellow creators, take heart. Your viral moment could be just around the corner, waiting for you to seize it!