How to Create a Viral Video


Do you despair of ever being a YouTube phenomenon? Don’t think you could ever be the creator of an Internet smash hit? The Steven Spielberg of the next viral video?

Well, don’t despair! You (yes, you), too, can create a viral video for your health outreach needs as long as you keep the following list in mind:

1) The subject doesn’t really matter. In fact, it’s usually better if the topic seems to be totally incongruous with the delivery. Of course, exploit anything shocking, gross, funny, or weird if it is part of your message. But don’t fear if your topic is mundane. You can still create a viral video.

2) Opposites attract. By this I mean that it pays to set your message to content that your viewers would not normally associate with the message. It also helps if the star of the video (if there is a main star) looks semi or completely out of place doing whatever it is you have chosen for your video. The public doesn’t expect public health and medical professionals to be making ridiculous videos. Use this to your advantage!

3) Keeping in mind #2, pick some pop culture that your audience can relate to. This will be different for different groups. If you think you can croon like Frank Sinatra or bust a rhyme like Busta Rhymes, what are you waiting for? Music videos and parodies are the most popular type of viral video. But don’t worry if you can’t sing and if your rapping is terrible- this can be endearing. Alternatively, try a mini telenovela. Or you could create a superhero mascot who routinely saves the day in a short series of videos promoting your cause(s).

4) You can easily use the tools from this class to create the video (we’ve already made 3 videos!).

5) Blast it on social media, especially all the multimedia sites we researched from this week. It helps if you seem to be relate-able and not too defensive of the video. Some people will probably think it’s terrible, and may even tell you so. But some people may love it and share it with their friends and family. And if it is terrible? Embrace it! Did you try to create a viral video and fail? Post a video of outtakes. If you seem to be laughing about it, viewers will gladly join in laughing with you.



Durham Academy’s Health Announcement About Lice

(emailed to students and parents at the start of the 2014-15 school year)



(absolutely brilliant music video parodies about hospital life)


Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About

(President Obama’s viral Buzzfeed video on signing up for health insurance)


(has a whole section titled Viral Videos)

Ok, so I admit it is harder than this makes it sound. I spent a couple hours today trying to figure out how to make a rap using facts about air quality. But you know what? It was funny, and fun. Give yourself the space to experiment and see what happens. You never know what might happen; your video might go viral, or it might not. In the end, though, does it matter if your video goes viral? Not as long as you spread your message. As long as a few people watch the video you’ve accomplished your goal of outreach.

2 thoughts on “How to Create a Viral Video

  1. I laughed out loud at “rap using facts about air quality” — I would almost pay money to see that! But I like how you’ve segregated the videos into a well-spaced-out block, and those are fabulous examples. It gives people a starting place to work from and I think that will suffice for most people. Experimentation and relax and have fun is good advice; how many times I know I’ve worked on a project that came together very differently than planned but still very much to my satisfaction. My only thought is that the purple text is a little distracting, but style is as style does. 🙂

  2. This was great! All your tips are very important especially for organizations without big media budgets. Thanks for all the great examples and your attempt to do this yourself.

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