Going Viral: Moving beyond the “One Hit” Wonder

What does a dog who loves bacon, a mom with a Chewbacca mask, and a frog with a dark side all have in common? Over 10 million views or shares across various social media platforms. And all of them became viral.


But what is viral? Viral videos has become a buzz word that can be subjective depending on the viewer. Does the amount of views make a video viral? Does how quickly the video spreads matter? Or does the amount of time for popularity matter? It’s important to see why certain videos hit that “viral” status and what we can do to make our own posts go viral.

According to Josh Elman, viral videos aren’t just a small selection of videos that magically go viral. There are methods that can put your videos or products on the right track to that viral status.

“Many successful companies have done distinct things to help make their products go viral, all in completely different ways,” Elman said. “So I thought it would be helpful to try to classify the disparate approaches.”

Elman emphasizes the five different types of “virality” that exist:

  1. Word-of-mouth virality
  2. Incentivized word-of-mouth virality
  3. Demonstration virality
  4. Infectious virality
  5. Outbreak virality

The first four types really focus on products and the various ways you can spread awareness of services or products through friends and friends of friends. But the last virality, Outbreak, can be the epitome of what think of when we say viral videos. It’s the fun things that we share because they are popular, make us laugh or give us joy.

The first video really hones on this humorous side since this dog really can be relatable for anyone. The same goes for the hugely successful “Chewbacca Mom”. This was a woman who posted on Facebook Live about a Chewbacca mask that she absolutely loved. Her personality, laugh and humor really made her relatable to a mass audience, and eventually made her move to late night television.


To Chris Andersen, one of the core reasons that Chewbacca mom went viral was because someone from Disney saw the video and reblogged the video to their Star Wars page. Once that happened, her video went from thousands of views to millions of views. This is the concept of the long tail. The basics of the long tail is that something unique may start with a small, local audience. If that product or video is found by a influencer, then it can use the influencer’s popularity to gain even more views and go higher up on the tail.

If we want our own products to go viral, we need to see what people like about videos that go viral and apply it to our videos. It’s about differentiation in product but using the same processes to be successful. We should use humor and reliability to our audience as well as connecting with influencers who can bring our videos into a higher level on the long tail.