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Virality on YouTube

Updated: Nov 15, 2018

If You've been wondering, what makes YouTube videos go viral, you might have stumbled at the right blog. Viral YouTube videos have been a quite unexplored field of research, so I decided to look deeper into it. The paper link, attached below, includes the full research, provided at no cost. The blog will provide an overview of the research and highlights of the analysis/findings.


Before delving into the topic, it is important to note that it was motivated by Malcolm Gladwell's book the Tipping Point. In the book Gladwell describes three keys for vitality in different areas, such as information disease etc:

  1. The Law of the Few- how the actors who spread the information affect its virality.

  2. The Stickiness- characteristics of message to “stick” to a consumer and carry on to other consumers.

  3. Context- the nature of the environment in which the content was spread

These attributes are the key for exploring virality on YouTube as well.


Keeping these elements in mind I formulated a mix that might be suitable for YouTube and shaped it as research Hypotheses.


H1- High online popularity of publishers and participants of a commercial YouTube video make the video more likely to go viral.

H2- The genre of the video, influences the virality of a YouTube video.

H3- A common attribute of viral YouTube videos is that they are not longer than 5 minutes.

H4- Viral YouTube videos challenge status-quo and include” flashy” elements such as exposure to luxury, money and symbols of affluence are more likely to go viral.

H5- There is a predominant type of negative response that is characteristic to viral YouTube videos.

H6- Number of average responses to comments influences virality.

Note: H2, H5 and H6 are tested only by using descriptive statistics, due to large scope of data collection.

Interesting side note: for the comment content analysis section the two videos of primary focus were Despacito, and Marvel's Trailer for the Avengers.

Short Summary

It might sound very obvious, but if you want to create viral YouTube videos you might need to look into the participants and the publishers of the video and ensure that they already have social following.

The genre of the video is important too, something that is likely to be replayed, such as music, or comedy would be preferred. The most viral videos in terms of trends and number of views are in the category of entertainment.

Descriptively speaking, most of the viral videos are shorter than 5 minutes, so try to stick to that.

Response rates to the top comments do NOT seem to be significantly different between viral and non viral videos.

Types of negative comments, primary types of negative comments associated with viral videos are related to video content & audience feeling.

Also looking at the quantity distribution, videos with flashy elements as defined by the paper, seem to be an attribute which is common to the viral videos.


This was a short summary, but the full research is more interesting and has more details and includes.

If you are interested in reading the full research, you can access it as a drive document here

Also, don't forget to follow me on LinkedIn for more social media analysis.

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