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What do a dead terrorist, a bushy-browed singer and a bunch of goofy children have in common? My first guess was that one of America’s favorite dummies (with a horribly butchered name might I add), had hooked up with Britain’s Susan Boyle and started a rather bizarre but polite little family. The real answer is over 100 million views on YouTube in less than 500 days for the children, less than 165 days for Achmed and only nine days for Ol’ Susie.

YouTube has provided the world with a place where they have the potential to upload the next viral video with nothing but their camera phones. However, getting people to take an interest in the footage of your crusty cat is not always an easy task. This is probably because the only people that want to watch Snuggle Muffin pouting over her Fancy Feast are you and your great aunt Pearl.

There are many theories that revolve around the idea of viral videos that are based on a combination of random elements and a touch of luck. The reasons why people are motivated to share a video clip and the level of exposure that this content receives can be an elusive concept. However, while there may be a component of luck involved in viral video marketing, there are also some common factors at work in many of these eagerly clicked on videos.

Attention vs. Motivation

Most of our history with creating video has been focused on television and film. While movies and TV series need to capture our attention in order for us to continue watching them, this concept does not necessarily apply to the viral videos of the web. It’s true that they must grab your attention in order for you to start watching the video but people will not necessarily share the video if it simply holds their interest.

While people can watch television until their eyeballs are practically hanging out of their sockets, the popularity of a television show or movie is not dependant on the same sharing factors as a viral video. There are plenty of videos online that are watched all the way through and leave the viewer with no desire to share them even if they enjoyed the content. As far as viral videos are concerned, they succeed in not only from keeping peopling clicking their way out of the video, they spark the desire for people to pause from their activities and tell their friends about it.

The key element is to get people to want to share it, and once enough people start doing it, the video has the potential to snowball its way through the web. A great deal of time, energy and sometimes money goes into trying to make the next viral video. However, this can be extremely difficult to achieve and most people fail at these attempts. The question here is how do you get people to share?

Creating a Contagious Video

The internet has given everyone the ability to broadcast their ideas and opinions on a multitude of platforms. Social media websites and blogs provide us with a space to share different forms of content and, while information is highly sought after, the most sharable items appear to be composed of visual content such as images and videos. Examining the components in these types of content that promote sharing can be an integral aspect of crafting sharable online content.

If we start by observing the factors involved in the sharing process then we can lay the groundwork for a video that has a higher likelihood of going viral. Word of mouth is probably the oldest and one of the most effective means of promotion. One characteristic of shareable content is its ability to evoke emotion. We are more likely to share something that creates stimulating positive feelings like amusement or active negative emotions such as anger or fear.

People also tend to share things that make them look good and give them social stature for knowing about it. These types of content give the impression of being on top of new trends and are usually intelligent, shocking, inspirational or humorous. The content that is shared by others is believed to reflect on their taste and therefore will typically only be shared if they feel that it will have a positive influence on the way others view them.

With all this in mind, here are a few of the most viral videos that were uploaded to You Tube in 2013:

1. Music

PSY- Gentlemen

Video: 608,375,407

This South Korean singer, rapper, songwriter, dancer, record producer and television personality became internationally known for his hit single “Gangnam Style,” which exceeded 1 billion views on YouTube and is currently the most viewed video in the website’s history.

In 2013 Psy’s new video “Gentlemen” was released and as of December is the most viewed video on You Tube for this year. If we were to look to Psy for viral video inspiration then I would recommend attempting to amuse people with bizarre dance moves and epic hip thrusts that emphasize the beat of a garbled melody.

2. Humor

How Animals Eat Their Food

Views: 91,409,576

This video features two men sitting down for a nice meal of salad on paper plates and water-filled Sippy cups at their beautiful cardboard box table (outfitted with a lovely red tablecloth). As one of the guys attempts to eat in a civilized manner the other goes on to impersonate the eating styles of various animals. I’ll admit that I could not resist the urge to watch this video a second time.

3. TV Ads Commercials

Baby Evian Commercial


Views: 68,718,902

This Evian advertisement beat out the Geico Hump Day Camel commercial with something that will always trump a talking camel: dancing babies.

4. Cute/Encouraging

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

Views: 30,828,747

This video was dedicated to a young girl fighting cancer and features the wise “kid president” informing us of how we could have lost “Space Jam” and skipping out on the “path less traveled by” for the path to “awesome.”

5. Animals

Animals can be Jerks


Views: 27,714,738

This list wouldn’t be complete without an animal video and while many animals make us laugh by being cute it’s also quite entertaining to watch kangaroos kicking people at petting zoos and the like.


Although these highly-viewed videos belong to different categories on You Tube, they have one commonality: they are humourous. They use different means to amuse their audience and they all succeeded in motivating people to share their content with others.