What Qualifies as a Viral Video?

When people think of viral videos, they think of really big hits that were seen by millions or maybe even hundreds of millions. So what qualifies as going viral anyway? Is it millions or hundreds of millions of views? Is it even measured by a sheer view count?

YouTube celebrity Kevin Nalts took a crack at this question in 2011 and said more than 5 million views in a 3-7 day period equals virality. That is one way to think about it, but I don’t think you can define it just by views.

Over the weekend, our team read Ben Winkler’s statement “You cannot make a video viral. Anyone who says they can is lying. The best you can do is improve the odds.” Ben Winkler serves as OMD’s Chief Digital Officer and typically buys 2-3 million views to help catalyze growth for OMD’s client videos.

I agree with Ben that nobody can make a video go viral. However, his statement raises the question of how a viral video is defined.

For example, OMD may purchase three million views for a client and earn an additional two million views within 3-7 days. In a scenario like that, the video has gone viral by Kevin Nalts’ definition and the agency actually helped make it happen—it induced virality by making a large enough purchase.

As as company, we don’t define “viral” by a certain view count in a certain period of days. We define viral as the maximization of earned media, so we run ad campaigns that drive the most social engagement per ad buy. Our audience targeting finds brand influencers to whom we serve the video, knowing they are most prone to sharing the video content.

There’s a huge future in viral marketing and the genesis of it is happening now. Brands are interested in word-of-mouth and how it manifests online as earned media, which is super powerful when it comes to driving purchasing decisions. We’ve approached the problem by building a solution that serves web and mobile video that can make programmatic buying decisions to drive earned media.

Our customers are most interested in making sure their video content reaches the audience that is most likely to socially engage with it. In our world, the definition of viral is serving content to the correct audience and the brand advocates that propagate the spread of that content.

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