Making a Video Go Viral

I wonder what it would be like…
To go, overnight, from nameless victim of a serious crime to a household name. To wake up after a traumatising experience and find businesses at your doorstep clawing to have you. Or to receive offers for MILLIONS of dollars in deals and contracts.
Antoine Dodson can tell you that story, I'm sure.
I wonder how that feels.

Antoine Dodson, who once lived in “The Projects” could tell that story, I’m sure.

Antoine’s colourful interview on local news, after an intruder climbed into his sister’s room and attempted to rape her, turned into the most shared YouTube videos of all time. It took the previously unknown resident of Huntsville, Alabama to international stardom.
While the world observed from the sidelines—some with fascination, others in disbelief, many online Entrepreneurs looked for clues in Antoine’s viral video. One question was on their minds:

“How do I make my videos go viral like that?”

Creating a viral video is no easy matter.
That’s why when businesses heard about Antoine, they clambered over each other to sign him. His video commanded audience. Audience is valuable for commercial promotion.
A viral video is one that causes its viewers to want to share it. When enough people share it with their friends, and their friends with theirs, it becomes like a viral infection that spreads until saturation.
Opinions on what makes a video go viral vary.
Some believe that a video should be funny. Others say it must showcase extreme talent. Others believe a person should show raw “reality”.

All of these answers are correct, but they are also wrong.

There are countless funny videos, talent videos, and reality-type videos on YouTube, but only a handful have ever gone viral. One thing they all share in common, however is…

Surprising Contrast

Before we continue, let’s exclude from our analysis any video that draws on existing celebrity such as Music Videos and Movie Trailers. Let’s focus on simple things the online entrepreneur can easily repeat for their own profit.
Surprising contrast makes humour and comedy. Jokes rely on this phenomenon and are retold from one person to another, much like a viral video is shared.
When we see two things that don’t normally belong together, and someone finds a way to make them belong, the reaction it creates is one of surprise. For example, Big guy with a little voice; small girl with big voice – Do you remember the little girl who sang opera on YouTube and how quickly her videos spread? Or the “big-boned” Taiwanese boy, Lin Yu Chun, whose flawless singing of Whitney Houston songs won him international YouTube fame?
Surprising contrast is common in viral video.

Some claim that Antoine doesn’t deserve credit for his viral video.

A YouTube group named The Gregory Brothers may have played a critical role.
Independent of Antoine Dodson, the Gregory Brothers create viral YouTube videos all the time. Bed Intruder, the actual video that became viral for Antoine, is actually a Music Video created by the Gregory Brothers.
The Gregory Brothers were working at the time on a series called Auto-Tune the News. The series relied on an Auto-Tuner device attached to their television, which allowed them to take anyone speaking and make them sound like they are singing. Video footage from the news along with modified audio was recorded to VHS and turned into comical Music Videos for the entertainment of their YouTube channel subscribers.

Why do the Gregory Brothers’ YouTube videos go viral?

Because they make UN-Serious out of the Serious.
For example, President Obama might be speaking about the stimulus plan on television; after auto-tuning, he’s singing about his stimulus plan.
A newscaster is relating a serious story about a storm; after auto-tuning she’s singing about it.
The brothers also add surprising contrast to news footage and produce Music Videos to go with the sound. So the news is not the news any more, rather a series of auto-tuned Music Videos.
Everything is done cheaply and the videos look tacked together with various green-screen effects. However, it’s all surprisingly humorous to see the President giving a sung interview on a couch while a beautiful girl lies seductively behind him caressing his hair.
The serious is turned into unexpectedly un-serious. Viewers share videos after watching because of the unusualness of things that do not belong together, somehow, creatively being made to belong.
That’s what makes the Gregory Brothers’ videos so viral.

Was Antoine Dodson Lucky?

Until Dodson’s Bed Intruder Music Video, the Gregory Brothers hadn’t made anything quite as viral. Bed Intruder is one of their most successful videos and it sold over 100,000 copies on iTunes as of August 2010.
Still, the question remains, was Dodson just lucky that his interview was chosen by the brothers? Does credit belong only to the Gregory Brothers?
Anyone who watched the original news footage will tell you “No”.
There was something comical about Antoine’s interview, despite the news report being about a very serious and sad event in his life. I remember empathising with the Dodson family too; but there was something ironic about the manner in which Antoine’s interview unfolded.
Like most news stories about traumatising experiences, the news reporter took on a very serious and sombre tone.

Antoine’s response was strangely contrasting with his flamboyancy and use of street vernacular.

A young African American boy wearing a bandana around big hair, rhythmically speaks while retelling the same story in his own words. He follows up with some loose threats at the criminal, taunting him for his stupidity at leaving evidence behind.
The delivery simply throws one off from the seriousness of it all.

Could this interview footage have gone viral by itself?

It did.
In fact, residents called in to complain to the news station saying that they didn’t think it reflected well on their neighbourhood to allow people like Dodson to be interviewed on the news. They did not feel the interview represented them.
You may notice, however:

  • the interview itself contained Street Vernacular which unexpectedly contrasted against the more formal language used by the Caucasian news interviewer.
  • the serious situation of the crime and sombre mood was contrasted with the nearly musical rhythm of Dodson’s speech.
  • the threats and taunts Antoine made were contrasted surprisingly with flamboyancy.

The interview was worthy of sharing.
So worthy, in fact, that it sparked second and third stories on national news stations relating the varied reactions of people to the initial interview!

Total Effect

The Gregory Brothers would have made a video that went viral anyway. They had an existing fan base of channel viewers and almost any video they made would have got a high viewership.
Antoine Dodson’s interview also would have gone viral anyway. It had all the elements that made it worthy of conversation, discussion, and sharing.
Together, two viral forces were joined into something much more powerful and viral than any video before.
Today, Bed Intruder is one of the most viral videos of all time. Antoine Dodson became a multi-millionaire and has started numerous businesses as a result. Not surprisingly one of his new business ventures includes a dictionary of his own street vernacular!


Why don’t you work on creating videos that have a chance of going viral using the surprising contrast technique? Here’s a simple way to get started:

How to Create Your Own Viral Videos for Business & Profit

Step 1. Start out by taking a day off to do something fun.
Step 2. When you get home, on the LEFT side of a sheet of paper, write 10 words to represent memorable things from the day’s activities.
Step 3. On the  RIGHT side of the sheet of paper write down 10 words that describe your business.
Step 4. Pick one word from the left side and one word from the right that have no relation with one another whatsoever. Join them together.
Step 5. Repeat step 4 for the rest of the words so that each word on the left is joined with one unrelated word on the right.
Step 6. Find ways to exaggerate in video the opposing words so they are even more different.
Step 7. Plan and shoot a 5-minute video that creates strange combinations that fit together.

You should continually experiment with contrasting ideas. Finding the right combination and balance of contrast to “go viral” will take several tries.
All the same, contrast entertains, and surprise engages audience. So regardless of whether or not your videos go viral, with surprising contrast they will always be interesting and fun!

Jim Yaghi

Jim Yaghi

Foremost Home Business traffic expert, Jim Yaghi is a Computer Scientist and Mathematician who used to build search engines for a living. At 16 he created a mildly popular social network and has been an online entrepreneur for over 15 years. In 2006 he rose to the #1 Affiliate rank in many Home Business programs (most notably Magnetic Sponsoring). Today he's best known for hatching the first industry-wide viral campaign to reach all major social networks, for hosting a top-10 Internet radio show for entrepreneurs, and for shattering industry sales records with his best-selling, easy-to-follow online marketing courses PPC Domination, PPC Supremacy, and Traffic KickStart.


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