Videographer: Make Your First Viral Video Using One of These 7 Triggers

Today’s clickbait-driven audiences love a good viral video.

Whether you’re creating a video for a small business client or a big-name media outlet, one of your goals is to produce a shareable product—one that strikes a chord in viewers, inspiring them to share it far and wide with friends and strangers alike.

But how do you deliver a video with huge impact to gain a big audience as a small business? Truth is, you don’t need to be a big-name business to go viral; it all starts in the “trigger”—the hook that pulls heartstrings—and the execution. For inspiration, we look at some of the most viral videos from big brands and pull out seven triggers experts say makes people hit “share.”

Trigger #1: Funny

If you’re looking to create shareable content, it’s almost a no-brainer to suggest something funny. Who doesn’t love to share a good laugh? When planning a comedic video, determine your target demographic—for instance, a grandparent’s humor is decidedly different from a millennial’s funny bone. Then be sure that the comedy is on brand.

Swagger Wagon by Toyota:

Trigger #2: Shocking

You’ll be shocked by how effective jolting people can be when it comes to creating shareable content. An important thing to note if you want to go viral is to think of the “surprise” variety of shocking—if you’re going to post something controversial, it needs to make a larger point, not just sell a product. The pay-off is to make people gasp when they think a video is going to go one way, but takes a sharp turn the other.

“Slap Her” Children’s Reactions

Trigger #3: Incredible

What makes a video more shareable than when a candid moment has been captured on camera? Consider extraordinary sports feats and improbable talents mixed with creative cinematography. It can create unforgettable, one-of-a-kind videos. You can’t always plan these types of videos, but you can consider what conditions might inspire the kind of action you want to share.

Amazing Roger Federer Trickshot on Gillette Ad Shoot:

Trigger #4: Quirky

One of the most popular reasons for sharing a video is because it’s simply delightful. Quirky videos are the ones that make you chuckle to yourself because they’re unexpectedly earnest. They’re memorable because they require superb acting by the subject, yet a pleasant headscratcher for the viewer.

Trigger #5: Sweet and Cute

Babies. Animals. Baby animals. Anything that makes you go “Aww” is a clear trigger for sharing. In fact, this category might be the single greatest mood booster and time-waster the Internet provides. While most videographers would rather film a brick wall than wrangle babies or animals, if you want to go viral, you might have to hone those skills (or learn more about CGI).

Evian Roller Babies:

Trigger #6: Emotional

What do flash mobs, tissue commercials and reunions between military personnel and their faithful dogs have in common? They make us ugly cry. And that’s a good thing if you want it to go viral. Videos that elicit emotion are some of the most shared types of content on the web. Want to get a lot of shares? Make us sob.

Extra Gum: The Story of Sarah and Juan:

Trigger #6: Inspiring

The Internet and the media don’t always paint a positive picture of the world. That’s why when we watch something uplifting and inspirational, it makes us want to share that experience with others. Videos that celebrate the basic decency humanity offers are magnificent. Consider how they might inform the work you do.

Sing “Imagine” with your favorite stars and John Lennon:

Trigger #7: Timely

Remember “Let it Go,” the earworm from Disney’s Frozen? (Of course, you do.) The Internet is rife with musical parodies to dozens of renditions from charming little children. Some of these videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands—even millions—of times! Why? Some enterprising individuals captured the zeitgeist at precisely the right time. Pay attention to current events. When creating a storyboard, consider how you might parlay a cultural phenomenon into a viral video.

Dover Police DashCam Confessional (Shake it Off):

Bonus Tip: Using minimal time, make maximum impact

Remember our rapidly diminishing attention span. Unless highly motivated, most people will give a video 10-20 seconds before deciding if they’re going to invest any more of their precious time on it. If your video is upwards of five minutes, you better hope that the person who sent them the link with, “You have to see this!” is someone whose taste they trust implicitly. Otherwise, they’re clicking back.

If you want to hold the viewer’s attention, consider integrating one of the seven qualities right off the top. To make it shareable, be trigger-happy the whole way through.

about the author

Freelance Contributor Heather Hudson is an accomplished freelance writer and journalist based in Toronto. She writes for a number of publishing, corporate and agency clients who depend on her to deliver high-quality, on-brand content and journalism with a fresh perspective. Learn more about her work at