How To Go Viral: 10 Online Video Tips From TED Exec June Cohen

There’s no secret formula when it comes to getting a video to go viral, but according to TED Media executive producer June Cohen there are a number of things that you can do to better your chances of viral video success. In a talk she gave at the Vimeo Festival in New York City earlier this month, as reported by Troy Dreier of OnlineVideo.net, Cohen offered up a number of tips for getting online videos to go viral. Here I dissect ten of Cohen’s tips, with a bit of my own added insight.

There’s no secret formula when it comes to getting a video to go viral, but according to TED Media executive producer June Cohen there are a number of things that you can do to better your chances of viral video success.

In a talk she gave at the Vimeo Festival in New York City earlier this month, as reported by Troy Dreier of OnlineVideo.net, Cohen offered up a number of tips for getting online videos to go viral.  Here I dissect ten of Cohen’s tips, with a bit of my own added insight.  Check out Dreier’s article for more.

Quality Counts

Dreier reports that June Cohen’s first tip was to “think like a filmmaker.”  He writes that TED “borrowed film techniques such as dramatic lighting, multiple camera shots, and quality sound” in order to create more professional-looking, viewer-friendly content.

I’d like to add that you don’t have to go out and spend tons of money on multiple cameras and a lighting kit or anything like that.  The point is simply to put some thought into how you can do the best with what you’ve got in terms of quality and format.

Grab The Viewers Attention In The First 15 Seconds

Cohen stressed the importance of starting with a bang.  She says that “No one online cares” about introductions.  Dreier writes, “A dull intro gives your restless online viewers time to be distracted” and, as we know, it only takes one click for a distracted viewer to stop watching your video and move onto something else.

In the YouTube Partner Playbook, YouTube tells video creators that they should strive to hook viewers within the first 15 seconds.  If your video isn’t compelling from the start then viewers simply won’t watch.

Appeal To Viewers’ Emotions

Viewers are compelled to watch and share content that appeals to their emotions.  If a video makes you cry (tears of joy, especially) or laugh out loud, you’ll be more likely to want to share the video (and the emotions attached to it) with others.

Inspire Your Viewers

Similar to the idea of appealing to viewers’ emotions, if you inspire your viewers to take action, be better people, create something, etc., then they will be inspired to share your video (and the inspiration that goes along with it) with others.

Tell A Story

One of the best ways to emote and inspire is through telling stories.  A video that tells a story is hard not to connect with.  This is especially true when the story about a person or character that the viewer can sympathize with.

Dreier writes, “All great media is based on a great story, said Cohen.  One reason TED videos do so well is they tap into the tradition of great human storytelling.  An excellent speaker is hypnotizing.”

Be Timely & Relevant With Tent Pole Programming

Topical programming, also known as tent pole programming—content related to current topics in the news, pop culture, holidays, etc.—is a great way to facilitate viral spread.  Create and post video content while topics are hot and lots of people are searching for them to maximize discoverability and views.

Use Enticing Titles and Thumbnails

Cohen stressed the importance of a great title, sharing a clip from a TED talk from Ric Elias called ‘3 things I learned while my plane crashed.’

It’s important to remember that, even if you have a fantastic video, the viewer won’t click play if the title and thumbnail don’t entice them.  For this reason it is important to put the time into coming up with a really catchy title and choosing the best thumbnail possible.  Sometimes you aren’t able to upload your own thumbnail image (for instance, on YouTube only certain partners are given this opportunity).  However, you should take a look at the thumbnails that were automatically created for you and choose the best, most eye-catching one.

And just as an aside, here’s Ric Elias’ TED Talk.  Not only does it have a catchy title, but it’s well worth your time.

Distribute to multiple sources

Dreier writes, “If you want your videos to be seen by as many people as possible, distribute them to multiple free sites and encourage sharing,”  Using a service like Tubemogul’s OneLoad makes it easy to upload your video once and distribute it to video sites across the web.

Enable Sharing

If you want your video to go viral it’s important to help viewers help you distribute your video by allowing embedding and offering prominent share buttons.

Engage influencers

Finally, Cohen recommends engaging “super spreaders” or influencers.  Bloggers and online personalities with large followings on sites like Twitter and Facebook are incredibly important when it comes to getting the viral ball rolling.

Many of the most popular YouTube videos were virtually unseen until someone big decided to share them.  For instance, the original Double Rainbow video, one of the most popular viral videos of 2010, only went viral after Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about it.

Still interested in more tips from June Cohen?  Check out Troy Dreier’s post at OnlineVideo.net.

Image credit: Icons Jewelry via Shutterstock.com

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.