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The Viral Video Manifesto: Why Everything You Know is Wrong and How to Do What Really Works

The Viral Video Manifesto: Why Everything You Know is Wrong and How to Do What Really Works

by Stephen Voltz, Fritz Grobe

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Creating the next YouTube blockbuster is easier than you think!

Includes more than 100 QR Codes linking to successful viral videos!

"These guys are the viral experts, and they show you the way in clear, concise language. This is the first recipe for virality that I buy." — KENT NICHOLS, cocreator of viral phenomenon AskANinja.com

One Saturday


Creating the next YouTube blockbuster is easier than you think!

Includes more than 100 QR Codes linking to successful viral videos!

"These guys are the viral experts, and they show you the way in clear, concise language. This is the first recipe for virality that I buy." — KENT NICHOLS, cocreator of viral phenomenon AskANinja.com

One Saturday morning in 2006, Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe dropped 500 Mentos mints into 100 bottles of Coke in front of a video camera. Their video went viral in a matter of hours, and before they knew it, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and NPR were calling.

Since then, more than 100 million people have watched The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments. Why? Because Voltz and Grobe did everything right. Now, in The
Viral Video Manifesto
, they explain how you can make a video guaranteed to pack a major punch by applying four core principles:

Be True . . . Don't fake it. Make it real.

Don't Waste My Time . . . Get down to business right away.

Be Unforgettable . . . Show us something we've never seen before.

It's All About Humanity . . . An emotional connection is the key to sharing.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Book Review
“This was an absolutely magically interactive prescription for everyone looking for a new outlet in the social media phenomena we are submersed within. Each page generally is equipped with not one but upwards of three QR codes per page, opening up a plethora of fun and engaging videos to further entice and inform the reader on the specific topic being covered. This utterly redefines the book industry and opens up even more avenues for the people not willing to fully convert to e-format (guilty).”

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2013Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-180338-0



Everything You Know Is Wrong

Most of what we all know about creating compelling video simply doesn't apply to viral video. Why not? Because what works in television does not work online. As Tim Street, vice president of mobile video at mDialog and creator of the viral video series French Maid TV, says, one of the problems with today's online content is that "we're taking things that look like a TV show or look like movies and putting them on the Internet."

Television is designed primarily to hook and hold viewers because, on television, as soon as the viewer flips the channel, the game is lost. So for 60 years, television has been getting better and better at keeping us from changing the channel—no matter what.

The production and editing techniques developed for television—quick cuts, multicamera shoots, odd camera angles, dolly shots, crane shots, news crawls at the bottom of the screen, and the like—do that beautifully. Over the years, television producers have developed a style that taps into the primitive, instinctive parts of our brains to hold our attention continuously, whether or not the content itself is compelling.

If you've ever seen a TV news reporter in a trench coat urgently "reporting live" from in front of a dark, deserted courthouse at 11:15 at night with a news crawl at the bottom of the screen alerting you that a "WINTER STORM MAY BE HEADING TO AREA," you know what we mean.

Television grabs us and keeps us watching for hours at a time so that, at the end of the day, even if we're drained and unsatisfied, television has done what it needs to do to be profitable: it has delivered our eyeballs to its advertisers.

But to go viral online, if all you do is hold our attention, you've failed.

In viral video, your job isn't to keep viewers from changing the channel. It's to get them to love what you've made so much that they want to stop what they're doing and tell their friends.

Viral video is about sharing.

That makes it different from every other kind of moving picture ever made.

From David After Dentist to Evolution of Dance, this new kind of video doesn't use cuts, creative camera angles, or other tricks to keep us passively watching. These videos have gotten millions of people actively excited, to the point where they have passed those videos on to millions of their friends with the message, "You've got to see this."

So how do you make that happen? How do you get people to share?

You can't force it, so there are no guarantees. But that doesn't mean there is no rhyme or reason. There are certain traits that viral videos have in common—traits that help make them contagious. And that's something you can control. You can make a video with contagious qualities.

Some viruses will be extremely contagious within a small group of people—90-minute videos of experts playing video games will spread like crazy in certain circles. Other viruses may be less intensely contagious, but they will infect vast numbers of people—Charlie Bit My Finger—Again! has been seen over 460 million times. You might have been able to fend off catching it until everyone you knew had watched it, but eventually most of us finally gave in.

Just as we do with infectious diseases, we build up resistance to some kinds of viral content but not others. Coke & Mentos is like an influenza that swept the world, and it has settled into a constant level of infection with recurring flu seasons. And like the common cold, there is no known cure for LOLCats. It will always be there.

To get at what traits make these things contagious, let's look at sharing in general. Word of mouth has always been powerful, and the Internet has given everyone a megaphone. Whether you're on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or the next new social network, the way things spread is the same. Understanding the mechanisms of sharing will continue to be crucial to creating successful online content, whatever the next trend may be.

Sharing is about emotion. Researchers Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, have studied why people share online, and they have found two key insights:

* We're more likely to share something that makes us feel good.

* We're more likely to share something that gets us fired up.

So negative emotions like sadness that make us passive are the worst because when we're down, we don't want to share. We just want to be left alone. Passive, positive emotions like contentment still don't stimulate sharing because, well, we're content.

Negative emotions like anger and fear make us more active, so we're more likely to tell people about what's making us ticked off or afraid than what's making us sad.

Best of all, however, are the things that are both exciting and positive—the stuff that gets us saying, "That was hysterical!" or "That was amazing!" To get people sharing, you need to get them actively engaged with strong, positive emotions.

And here is where the attention-holding tricks of television not only don't help but actually work against you. While edits, pans, zooms, and sound effects will get and hold our attention, they do so at a cost. Research by Robert Kubey at Rutgers, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at Claremont, and others has shown that these techniques make viewers more passive and they distract viewers from the content itself.

Many of the techniques used in television exploit a primal human reaction known as the orienting response, which is a reflexive reaction triggered when we see a sudden movement or hear a sudden noise. The orienting response makes us immediately turn our attention to the source of the sound or movement. That's a crucial reflex to have if there may be a tiger hiding in the jungle or a cobra lurking in the grass. But it can also be exploited.

Like a sudden movement above us in the trees, those TV edits, pans, zooms, and sound effects also trigger our orienting response. Our brains immediately need to know, "What was that movement? What was that sound?" It's a sure way to get our attention. And on television, these little reflex triggers are often coming at us several times per second, so our orienting response will not let us turn away. And that's when we pay a cost.

Stimulating the orienting response like that has some side effects. Our heart rates slow. The alpha waves in our brains are blocked for a few seconds. TV viewers studied by Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi reported feeling relaxed and passive, and that passivity continued after they switched off the TV. Passivity is exactly what you want if you don't want viewers to change the channel. As Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi point out, on television, "viewing begets more viewing." Putting your audience in a passive mood is a problem, however, when your goal is to get viewers to take the active step of telling their friends about what they've just seen.

To go viral, you have to get your audience actively engaged, not passively watching. Television techniques that make us lethargic and passive work directly against that.

We humans also have, unfortunately, limited mental resources, and if you trigger our orienting response, our involuntary, "What was that?" reaction depletes some of those limited mental resources. Though you will have successfully gotten our attention, researchers like Annie Lang at Indiana University have shown that you've also reduced the mental resources we have available to process everything else we're taking in.

In other words, the edits, the zooms, and the sound effects that dr

Excerpted from THE VIRAL VIDEO MANIFESTO by STEPHEN VOLTZ, FRITZ GROBE. Copyright © 2013 by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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Meet the Author

Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe are the creators of the viral video studio EepyBird. The recipients of four Webby Awards and two Emmy nominations, they have been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and on the cover of Advertising Age.

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