Internet All-Stars 2013

Bringing you interviews with social media experts from around the world

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Learn how to get 25 million hits on Youtube with a handful of videos

November 25 2013 - Xelleration Social

Meet Rob Bliss, the creator of videos like the Lip Dub Grand Rapids and Veteran Makeover. Both videos have garned over 20 million hits between just these two videos. We had the opportunity to interview him via email and he was able to give us some insight into how he made videos that went viral.

What social media sites have had the best response for a video to go viral? Where do users mostly come from to Youtube? Facebook, Reddit, Twitter?


Reddit is hands down the biggest launchpad for viral videos, guaranteed. Many of my videos have launched because of that website, and the latest veteran transformation video is no different. It really is the front page of the internet. Everyone from television producers to news websites like Gawker are watching Reddit 24/7 and frequently pull stories off of Reddit.
I don't think users come from any one place in particular to YouTube. Frequently with viral videos, I've seen this progression:


Reddit Influential online media companies (Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed)
The social media savvy general public/national news organizations
the public at large.

It's very much so like a food chain.

Reddit is hands down the biggest launchpad for viral videos, guaranteed.

Rob Bliss

Which day is the best to release a viral video?

I like Monday-Thursday, but it depends on the situation. For example our veteran video was tying in with Veteran's Day, which falls on Monday. We launched it on Reddit on Thursday, which hit the sweet spot of being relevant for Veteran's Day but having enough time to build momentum leading up to the holiday.
Normally I would prefer a release on Monday or Tuesday to give the video time to reach national news organizations like Good Morning America. A Thursday release might be too close to Friday, leaving it to die out over the weekend.


Data shows that Monday or Tuesday is the best time to release new content, especially around 8am EST. Do you use different strategies for releasing of content, tweets?

I fully agree that those are the best times. Sometimes I like to do a soft release to just my own Facebook/Twitter friends to get a sense of how they respond to it, which is important for how I'll be positioning the video.


For users who want to make a viral video, what advice would you have for them?

I cannot stress this enough: You must make an emotional connection with the viewer.
The stronger their response, the stronger your chances of the video going viral. It doesn't matter if it's making them laugh, cry, smile, get angry, you have to emotionally connect. Start with an idea that is going to do just that and use that as the foundation, never losing sight of that goal. The quality of your camera, your pretty looking scenes, etc. none of that matters nearly as much. After that, I would caution directors to keep it short, and keep the appeal broad. Be aware of national trends, think more about what your video is adding to the world (and why people would want to share it) than thinking only of yourself and your desire for success. And lastly, think about the story. My biggest successes always had great stories behind them, which is likely why they received the most news coverage. If someone wrote a news story about your video, would you want to read about it?

News organizations tell your story not because they like you, but because they think their viewers will, so give them good reason to believe it's worth their time.


You must make an emotional connection with the viewer.

How to go viral

Two videos that I'm particularly proud of would be: Grand Rapids Lip Dub

The Grand Rapids Lip Dub

In 2011, Grand Rapids was named a "dying city" by Newsweek magazine. This video was in response to that article, showing just how lively this city was. Filmed start to finish with no editing, multiple cameras, etc. this video was an organizational monstrosity. We had a crew of around 50 people participating, a $40,000 budget (with most everyone volunteering), and had over half a year of planning to make it all possible. I believe that this video had great success outside of the quality of the video because of the national trends at play:

    :America was recovering from a major recession
    :A lot of people are pessimistic about the future of the United States,
    :and here comes this story about heartland america fighting back against an "elitist" news organization and everyone else who doesn't believe in the American Dream.

There's so much meat on that story, and it tells a story and comments on an entire nation without ever having to say a word.


Veteran Makeover 2013

We wanted to fundraise for a local non-profit and this one in particular has been a solid community member for over half a century.
We also saw an opportunity in timing with Veteran's Day to do a piece that could run parallel to that national story. Once Degage Ministries and I connected, they helped find the perfect partner of someone who would be passionate about making this project possible, trying to better themselves, and was a homeless veteran.

I spent days with Jim setting him up with meetings with the video partners, and just learning more about his life. It was incredible learning about the lives of these people, and the enormous challenges.
For example, he thought he left his backpack at a gas station, and it was going to take him 2.5 hours to get there and back and find out.

I looked up the gas station on my phone, and had the answer for him in two minutes without having to take a single step.

who doesn't believe in the American Dream.

Note: Rob further on went to say he didn't think a video would change Jim's life around, but it did bring attention to the plight of the challenges that homeless people face.

Next Steps

Rob has a proven track record and he has shared a few tidbits with us. Whether you're making a Vine or a social media video, there are certain strategies that go into making a viral video. There is quite a bit of planning and execution that goes into making a successful video.
We use a lean design methodology to plan and execute viral content and use data to see how our content is doing. From planning the message to targetting the right audience we take an analytical approach to social media. To find out more please contact us at info@xelleration.com.