How do you create Internet-viral work? The short answer is: no, you don’t create viral work; you create work that’ll go viral. (And no, I’m not talking about cat and dog videos here!)
Here’s the long answer:
Up until before I released my Time-lapse New York video, I hadn’t had any work that went viral, so I really didn’t have a say on this topic. Before I published the video, I knew what I had to do was to focus on production and post-production (PP). I had an idea, which I knew wasn’t original at all. I’ve seen so many time-lapse videos before, and some were even shot in New York, but not all of them were produced well, and they weren’t easily shared across the Internet.
I set out to do things differently.
I knew I needed to spend a great time in PP to make sure my content is at least up to my standard. I could have finished processing the entire video in less than 4 hours; I decided to spend 18 hours on it. I had to learn new software to deflicker the video segments, spend a lot more time to process every still image of the each segment, and pick a good song that would go perfectly with the video’s flow, its look and feel, etc…
I also paid attention to what my viewers would like to see. I picked all the iconic places in New York, so that for someone who’s been there before, they can relate to the locations and say, “I’ve been there before!” For someone who hasn’t been there before, the time-lapse video should give you a very good idea of what the [lovely] city is like. I knew my video wasn’t going to be any better than Josh “Mindrelic” Owen and his Manhattan in Motion video, but I wanted it to be pretty darn close.
Coincidentally, this video “Why videos go viral” below by Kevin Alloca came out right after I released my video, and it turns out that I hit all the points.
Basically, if you want your work to go viral, you’ll need three things: tastemakers, communities of participation, and unexpectedness.
First, make sure your work is executed well. It doesn’t have to be the most awesome and/or unique idea; it just needs to be organized and produced well. There are a lot of ideas out there; chances are yours aren’t as unique as you think they are. Heck, some of them have already been done. Ever since the Interwebs was invented, no one’s idea is original anymore.
Having your work well executed and share-worthy is a necessary first step, but you’ll probably need a tastemarker to get the ball rolling. Just like how nuclear bombs need to be detonated to get the nuclear reactions started, this is what causes the “viral” chain reaction to begin. Viral photos, videos, and stories are often published long before tastemakers cause them to go viral. In my case, since I follow a bunch of time-lapse video veterans like Tom Lowe, Josh ‘mindrelic’ Owen, Randy Halverson “dakotalapse”, Joe Capra, Terje Sorgjerd, Dustin Farrell, Alex Cherney, etc… I tweeted a few of them the link to my video on Vimeo. Thanks to Tom Lowe who actually took the time to check out the video, ‘liked’ it, and tweeted it, everything sort of snowballed after that.
As for the community participation element, it helped that CBSNews somehow picked up my video and shared it on their site. BOOM! On my website, there are all the “share” and ‘like’ buttons for anyone to click on. If you want your friends and colleague to check it out, just hit the corresponding button. One thing you need to expect is that internet users are lazy; their attention span is usually less than a few seconds. If you make them click more than they have to, or take more step than necessary, they won’t do it.
I didn’t expect the video to go viral at all. I wanted it to, but it practically went viral all by itself.
TL;DR: the bottom line is to do what you love, and do it the way you want it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Focus on the good content, the production, and your target audience. Your audience might not speak up most of the time, but they’re following you. Don’t disappoint them.
Last, but not least, make sure to tweet a few popular people – ones who have a reputable voice on the Interwebs, the social sites. With just a little of luck, your awesome content might go viral before you even know it.
Freddie Wong wrote up a very good and inspirational article on his website regarding content. You can check it out HERE.
Good luck, and have fun while you’re being creative. In case you haven’t seen my Timelapse New York video, you can check it out right here (I know you’re too lazy to click the link above).