Because I wanted to keep the magic behind my viral video to myself. Because of my ego. Because I would have loved to brag that I just sat back and it took off on its own. But that’s not what happened.
If you put all this effort into your video, why would you rely on luck for the last leg? Swallow your pride. Give your work a fighting chance. Put together a marketing plan. This article will show you how.
Here’s how my video, Girl Learns to Dance in a Year went viral:
- First, I posted to Facebook/Twitter, and submitted it to social news sites like Reddit and Hacker News. I personally asked many of my friends to share it. I tweeted it at well-known dancers. I emailed bloggers who had covered other viral dance videos.
- Of all the things I tried, Reddit paid off. It got to the top of the GetMotivated subreddit. I did this by following the advice in this article.
- Bloggers who had seen it on Reddit the day before started publishing articles about it. First Kottke. Then blogs like Mashable, Jezebel, and Huffington Post.
- Blogs drove a ton of traffic. Each blog is a giant marketing engine with millions of readers and twitter followers. It’s in their interest to get the article as many views as possible, because each view is an ad they can serve up. Understand how the money flows. It’s all about clicks and advertising dollars.
- It made the YouTube frontpage. I’m not sure how it got there, but I suspect the blogs were sending it so much traffic that YouTube’s algorithms picked up on it.
Try many things. You only need one of them to pay off in order for your video to go viral. For me, that thing was Reddit. Your thing might be different. Your goal is to get major blogs to write you up, because their marketing power is ridiculous.
I chose Tuesday because people are busy catching up with email on Monday. I got lucky with the timing because there wasn’t any major breaking news that day. Releasing on a slow news day will help you.
My YouTube description was full of links to possible sponsors — to the Lululemon and American Apparel clothes I was wearing. To the Lift app I used to track my dancing. To the BART train station I danced at. To the music I danced to. They’re all things I genuinely believe in, so I was happy to send traffic their way.
You can get your friends to share. But only the strength of the content can get their friends to share. If you are serious about making good content, read Made to Stick.
Some emotions spread better than others. Emotions that spread: awe, excitement, amusement, anger, anxiety. Emotions that don’t: contentment, sadness.
Girl Learns to Dance in a Year went viral because it wasn’t just another dance video with cool moves and cool camera angles. It wasn’t about how good the dancing was. It was about how awkward I was when I started, and how I got better with practice.
And it’s not just a story about dancing. It’s about having a dream and not knowing how to get there — but starting anyway.
The first thing people do when they play a video is check to see how long it is. It helps them decide whether to watch it. 10 minutes: forget it. 2 minutes: I’ll give it a shot. 30 seconds: Heck, might as well.
I made a compromise. I believe that grown women should not be referred to as girls. Then I named the video Girl Learns to Dance in a Year. It rolls off the tongue better than Woman Learns to Dance in a Year. I had decided I could live with that compromise.
People will criticize your work. This is good because it gets them talking. There are lots of comments about how I’m a terrible dancer, or how I got worse on Day 365. People left racist and sexist comments. They even debated the definition of time lapse. Try not to let all this get to you. Controversy is good.
Viral videos have a short shelf life. You have 15 minutes of fame, and your job is to open as many doors as possible in those 15 minutes. Create as many opportunities as you can. Ironically, the week I released the video, I barely danced at all. I didn’t go out and celebrate. I went home and responded to as many emails and tweets as I could.
Know where you want to direct your traffic. I linked to my blog, website, and Twitter from the video. They were all ready to go. One thing I messed up was I didn’t have an email signup form ready on the Dance In A Year website. I’ve fixed that now, lesson learned. Be prepared.
I wanted people to see the video because it represents what I believe in.
When you watch a professional perform, you’re seeing them at their moment of glory. It’s intimidating because you don’t see how you could ever get to where they are. You don’t see the moment they started, when they were a beginner just like you. I wanted people to see the beginning.
The best response to the video has been all the people who reached out to me, newly inspired to learn. Learn dance. Learn guitar, Korean, beatboxing, drawing, parkour. That brings me a lot more fulfillment than the video view count numbers.
After hearing from so many people, I’m now working on a site for people to make their own learning time-lapse projects: 100. I’m really excited to see other people level themselves up in all sorts of skills.