How to Make a Viral Video

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher, and today I’m here with Justin Parker and Jimmy Craig of Methodloft, and today we are talking about how to make viral videos. Justin and Jimmy’s videos have received 50 million views on YouTube. They’ve worked with KFC, Ford, and Pizza Hut, and they’ve been featured on “The Today Show,” and the “Huffington Post.”

Welcome, Justin and Jimmy.

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy Craig:  Thanks for having us.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin Parker:  That’s quite an intro, thank you.


What is a viral video?

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  You guys do a lot of viral video work for your clients that you work with. What is a viral video? Give us the background.

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  A viral video is basically a video that gets shared exponentially.

Justin Parker McDougall Interactive
Justin:  That’s basically the long and short of it.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  We’ve all seen these videos on YouTube or elsewhere online…

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  Of course.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  …and just all of a sudden you come into the office the next day and everybody is like, “Did you see this video?” Everybody is like, “Yeah. I saw that,” because it gets shared socially or whatever, and it gets legs of its own.

You share it to a few people, and then those people share it with other people, those people share it with other people. Before you know it, everybody in the country has seen your video — that type of thing.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  Exactly.


How can a video go viral?

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  How can you make a viral video, and how do you make it more likely that that video will go viral?

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  There are a few things. I guess there isn’t one particular type of content that goes viral. Sometimes it will be a hidden camera video of…like a guy falling down a flight of stairs, or something, or maybe it’s a video that highlights something very important that’s happening in society in general, or it could be a cute cat video.

It could be positive. There’s a huge range of videos that can go viral, so there isn’t one specific formula to stick to. It’s just, is it shareable? At the end of the day, that’s the number one component to make something go viral. Then it’s trying to figure out what viral video do you want to make?

What sensibilities do you want to share? Even though maybe a hidden camera video of pulling a prank on somebody is going to go viral that doesn’t fit the identity of who you are, or what your brand is. I would say those…

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  If your company is trying to get across the point that you guys are super honest, or something like that, maybe telling…like you said, doing a prank video where you are lying, or something, that just doesn’t fit with the style that you want be known as a company.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  Everyone has this idea of a viral video as something zany and whacky. It doesn’t have to be the case. I’m trying to think — what’s a viral video that doesn’t fit that mold?

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  Was it the Dove campaign, when women describe themselves to a sketch artist? Please say it was Dove. Right?

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  I know. I’m sure it was Dove.

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  I think it was, but that’s something that an ad campaign, basically that was compelling and shareable, and it was serious.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  It can be a feel good thing that makes people, or even some video that makes people think about the state of the world today, or something like that. Like a campaign for, say, hunger or something like that.

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  I think that when a lot of people think of viral videos, they think of something that’s like, not necessarily a placed hidden camera, but something spontaneous that someone just happened to capture on film. That’s a lot of what you see online.

But at the same time when a brand goes to create a viral video, sometimes they can fake it and pretend something really happened, or they can do some guerrilla campaign. For the most part it’s a different world when it’s more of a contrived, planned viral video. Again like Justin said, it’s just there are several different paths to go down.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  Something else that’s important is making sure that you have a clickable title. That’s a big part of it. That’s just common sense I guess, but sometimes you don’t think to do that, something that’s going to catch people’s eye as they are going through a YouTube feed, or a Facebook feed, or whatever.


Brainstorming process for a viral video

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  If you are sitting down with a company and you are saying, “OK, look, we want to do a viral video. What is it that we can do?” What’s that brainstorming process, like you said, to try to find an idea that fits in with that branding of that company?

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  When we work with a company, when they approach us, they have an idea of our sensibilities, so obviously our first foot forward is something in vain of…like the type of comedy that we do. It’s usually just meeting in between adjusting our idea to also fit in the campaign that they want to do, because usually it’s to push a specific product or something like that.

Unless it’s just a straight up branding video, most companies have some agenda that needs to be squeezed into it, or basically making their video and just putting our suit on it.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  It’s like anything else. Our job is to be aware of what’s going viral all the time, to keep our finger on the pulse of social media and all that. If you are constantly just sitting in that area, you just start to think like that. You start to get programmed to think, “what is a good idea”, and what might not be a good idea.

That’s why everybody thinks they have a viral video, and they might go viral. Totally, very possibly, any video could go viral. We are not going to tell somebody what’s good and bad. It’s just we feel that because we are exposed to it, and we are researching it all the time that we are just wired to make that content more so than maybe someone else would be.


Kick-starting a viral video

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  Say you’ve gone ahead and you’ve come up with an idea. You’ve recorded a video that you are hoping will go viral. How do you go about sharing that video to get things started, and kick-start that viral video, if you will? You mentioned having a good clickable title as being a good start. What else can you so to help share that?

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  Be proactive about it. Reach out to people that post similar content to the content you created, whether that be a blog, a publication, or other video sharing sites.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  You need two ingredients to go viral — you need the content and then you need the spark of sharing it. If you just make a video and upload it to YouTube that sometimes might not be enough. We’ve made videos that we’ve uploaded – and this is before, this is a while back — and we weren’t proactive about sharing it.

Then we were like, “I guess that video just didn’t do well,” and then a year later for whatever reason it will just get on the right site, or also get shared — and then over a million views in three days. Definitely reaching out, being proactive about sharing is definitely important, even outside of your own Facebook and Twitter.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  All right, good advice. Justin and Jimmy, thanks for speaking with me today.

Justin Parker McDougall InteractiveJustin:  Thanks.

Jimmy Craig McDougall InteractiveJimmy:  Thanks for having us.

John Maher McDougall InteractiveJohn:  For more information on digital marketing, visit and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. See you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.


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