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Five ways to make your video go viral

Five ways to make your video go viral

Margaret Looney | December 12, 2012

Journalists and news organizations can't rely on dancing Gangnam Style to create videos worth sharing.

YouTube's Jessica Mason offered ideas about why some videos go viral in IJNet's latest live chat. She drew from her presentation at the recent Mashable Social Good Summit in New York on what storytellers can learn from cat videos.

YouTube also created a free .PDF guide called “YouTube for Good” to help video makers tell better stories. She offered techniques on everything from branding to metadata. Here are Mason's tips from the chat:

Stick to the storytelling basics

"Make sure your video is not just someone speaking to a camera," Mason said. "Create a video that is action-packed, surprising or original. Create something that people want to watch until the end because they want to know what happens."

Engage your audience

"You can always let your viewers know you want to interact with them by encouraging them to make response videos to your story or video," she said, citing the "It Gets Better Project" as a model for engagement.

"You can also ask them to take a certain action, visit a website, or leave you a comment or message," she said. "On YouTube, we find that creators who interact with their viewers through messages, comments and on social media are more likely to have highly engaged audiences and fan bases."

Create and share regularly to grow an audience

Mason said you can't add a video every few months and hope to keep your audience coming back.

"It helps if you are posting videos regularly, even weekly, so people know they can go to your channel for the latest news," she said. "It is also important to actively try and spread your video. Share it on social media and ask your friends to do the same. Don't upload a video once a year and let it sit on YouTube! Post regularly and share, share, share!"

Follow the cat video recipe for viral success

It's the global appeal of cat videos that make them most popular, Mason said. "You do not need a translator to understand them. Cat videos tell universal stories that render culture and language barriers irrelevant. Seventy percent of YouTube views come from outside the U.S. Try to tell universal stories that will appeal to international crowds."

Don't worry if it's not perfect

Mason suggested higher video and sound production values for documentary-style videos, but when the goal is to "catch an important moment as it is happening, your video will still do well even if the quality is less than perfect," she said.

"Sometimes when a story needs to be told, a camera phone is your only option," she said. "Some of the biggest news videos of the year, like the videos shot during Superstorm Sandy, did not have high production value, but they captured a story that needed to be told."

@margylooney