Almost two years ago my family and I spent a week at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu. Each morning my nephew Brodie would go out to the rocks along the beach and search for crabs and other marine life. Brodie is a very funny kid. He’s confident, outgoing, and the perfect host for a Steve Irwin-like outdoor short featuring Hawaii’s finest crabs. Most of the things he said in the video were of his own creation.

Now 15 months later the video has hit over 1MM views on YouTube! Watch the video below:

A lot of this is common-sense, but considering how frequently I get asked about how to make a video go VIRAL (said with a Ben Stiller voice), I’ve decided to breakdown what to do if you want a world-wide sensation out of your YouTube video.

1. Keep the content to  less than 3-minutes (1-2mins is even better): The YouTube attention span usually runs out after about 45-60 seconds. You can go longer than that if it’s worth watching, but see here for the original Crabman video which was nearly 6-mins long. It never took off.

2. Create a highly searchable title: The best thing that happened to the Crabman video was when it started hitting the first page of Google for search terms like “world’s biggest crabs” and “world’s largest crabs”. It got anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 views per day.  Find something that you can own. but something that people will also search. “Twilight Spoof” is probably taken but “Twilight Spoof – Rise of the Manwolf” is totally ownable.

3. Relevant Video Replies: The value of these have certainly changed with the redesign that went live a few weeks ago, but it’s still worth trying. The video got huge value out of leveraging similar-themed video traffic. Some worked better than others. I probably replied to over 50 videos over the course of a year.

4. Optimize Search (Play with the metatags): In addition to a great title, you should constantly play with the tags. The title is def con 1 critical, but the tags are a close second. No one will find you if they can’t search you.

5. Get a Thumbnail: This makes some angry, but I feel it’s fair game b/c all YouTube Partners (like Sxephil and ShaneDawson) have access to upload any image they want for thumbnails. The rest of us have to find a way to insert images that drive click throughs. If people hate the content they’ll vote it into the ground and your video will be shutdown anyways.

6. Engage The Community: This is so overplayed so I won’t talk long on it. Just note if you’re not replying, friending, favoriting, and moderating…then you are failing. Don’t expect any major success without these basics. Also know that the YouTube community contains some of the most vile creatures on the planet. Don’t get offended when someone writes a comment on your video that would get them put in jail in the real world. Just delete it and move on.

7. ‘Going Viral’ Not That Vital: Most videos don’t ‘go viral’. But a lot of video do really well over a long period of time. The Crabman didn’t get more than a couple hundred views a day for the first 6-weeks, but with tweeks and adjustments it slowly started hitting 1k per day, then 2k, then 4k. In the past two weeks since the redesign it’s averaged about 7k views per day.

8. Keep At It: Of the +150 videos I’ve helped launch on YouTube, from CG videogame trailers, to TV commercials, to spoofs, to ‘viral videos‘, to my son’s baby footage, I’ve only seen about 5% hit 1MM views and 10%-15% get more than 500k views. It takes a special blend of the right content, plus the things listed above. In the case of the Crabman, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

PS – We’re headed back to Oahu in a couple of months. Look for a summer blockbuster sequel.

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