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How to Make a Viral Video

Want to become a star but don’t care for the Hollywood drama? Every day, people watch about 2 billion videos on YouTube and upload hundreds of thousands more. In fact, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. These viral videos can get more viewers than the latest episode of Gossip Girl and, even better, you don’t need to be Blake Lively to catch the camera’s eye. 
The content posted to YouTube is what people are passing around in emails, posting on Facebook walls during class, and even getting television time on new entertainment shows like Tosh.0.  
So in an effort to give proper respect to the videos that never get to be seen on your flat screen TV or local theater, Her Campus has put together a list of some of our favorite YouTube videos as part of a guide on how you too can become a YouTube sensation. 
Trick # 1: Expose yourself (or someone else) in a vulnerable state 

The best example of this is the video that spawned the catch phrase, “Is this real life?” In 2009 a father posted a post-trip-to-the-dentist video of his “zonked out” son. The video, now commonly known as David After Dentist, has had over 73 million views and has even led to a $100,000 business of merchandise and parodies. Videos like this just prove it is always a good idea to keep the camera rolling even if your conscience might be telling you it is time to hit the power-off button.  
Other YouTube sensations of people in (hilarious) vulnerable states:

Trick # 2: Become a cliché 

Saturday Night Live writers have this lesson down to a science, and some YouTube viewers have it figured out as well; there is nothing funnier than an over-the-top caricature of a cliché. The difference between YouTube and SNL: on SNL the actors know they are just acting, but on YouTube these people behave like this in real life (we assume). A perfect YouTube sensation that follows this trick is the video commonly known as The Bed Intruder Song. A local news story interview about a robbery remixed into a rap, this video has become such a hit that you can even download the audio track on iTunes. The main characters of the video are over the top, and the editing of the video highlights their finest moments. 
Other YouTube sensations of over the top character clichés:

Trick # 3: Sing or dance… very badly 

Without videos of random people dancing, lip-synching, and singing badly, YouTube would probably fail to still exist. Whether it is Doglover, or any other person who feels the need to share their “talents” via the World Wide Web, the self-recorded videos of people singing to their computer screen never fail to entertain. The real question is whether people are laughing with these YouTube “stars”… or at them? If you find yourself easily embarrassed, this might not be the way to find your YouTube stardom, but if you want to be easily entertained it is probably time you Googled some of these hits. 
Other YouTube sensations of people singing/dancing/lip-synching:  

 Trick # 4: Do something insanely original or creative 

Doing something creative that no one’s ever seen before takes your YouTube stardom to a whole new level, one that may actually involve some skill or true talent. On YouTube there are no conventional rules. Budgets are not a factor, and Hollywood critics don’t get to dictate what’s good and what’s not. Some amateur entertainers have used this to their advantage. The Evolution of Dance was once the most popular video on YouTube. And professionals have followed suit as well, like when Ok Go (remember that video with the treadmills?) produced their latest music video, White Knuckles. 
Other YouTube sensations of original productions:

Trick # 5: Create an ongoing storyline

What if your favorite television show aired a new episode daily and delivered it straight to your computer? It’s pretty appealing. Maybe that is why YouTube users who post videos with ongoing storylines are so popular. The best example of this is lonelygirl15, a fictional show about the life of a 15 year-old girl. 

Other YouTube sensations of videos with ongoing storylines:

 Trick # 6: Bank on babies 

Babies have a universal appeal. Their fat checks and innocent smiles just scream for attention. So maybe that is why videos of babies on YouTube sometimes can make it big. Simple mundane posts such as the “Hahaha” ba get over 147 million hits by simply showing a baby laughing. The YouTube sensation Charlie Bit My Finger, has over 251 million hits. 
Other YouTube sensations of babies: 

And when all else fails, make a video about anything related to Justin Beiber: 
At last count Justin Beiber’s “Baby” music video had 392,172,125 views and according to an article by Red  Write Web it is adding over 1 million views every day.  
Technical hints: 

  1.  Keep it Short. We all have ADD when it comes to YouTube. If you do not capture a viewer’s attention in the first 15 seconds, more likely than not they will just move on to the next video. Throw something at a viewer immediately and they might stay around to watch for a few minutes. 
  2.  Steady your hand. No one likes watching a Blair Witch Project-esque creation. Shaky camera work just causes motion sickness. Even if you are simply using a camera phone or digital camera to shoot a video, you can still stabilize your shot by placing the camera against your body or on a nearby surface. An easy trick like this may not make you a film school expert, but it will give your viewers a chance to watch your video instead of the room spinning. 
  3.  Let there be light! Have more than one light source while shooting your video. This will help make sure you lose distracting shadows and keep all your subjects in quality light. 
  4.  Utilize the tools of YouTube. Make sure the title of your video catches the eye and isn’t the same as 2,000 other videos already posted. Tag it with lots of appealing keywords and a variety of related subjects. The more attention you can bring to your video, the more views it will get and the closer you will be to becoming a YouTube sensation. 

What are your favorite YouTube videos? Tell us about them and post the link the Comments section! 
YouTube Fact Sheet, http://www.youtube.com/t/fact_sheet 
To 10 YouTube Videos of All Time, http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/top_10_youtube_videos_of_all_time.php 
Viral Video, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viral_video 








Amanda Klohmann is a senior at the University of Missouri, class of 2011, studying Convergence Journalism with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Born in St. Louis, Missouri Amanda is attending college only a few hours from home, but loves to travel and get out of the Midwest. Amanda spent last summer living in New York City interning with Sports Illustrated Kids and last winter break studying in Europe touring media companies. Amanda's friends call her el Presidente (as a joke) because she is the current president of Delta Gamma Sorority and Mizzou Womens Club Soccer. She loves working out, tailgating for football games, tweeting and always making a scene with her friends in her small college town.
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