10 Lessons From My First Viral Video

Creating a video and having it go viral is surely every marketer’s dream. Last month, it happened for me. The outcomes — ranging from monetization to brand awareness — were surprising, eye-opening and beyond my wildest dreams. Since you, too, may hope someday to have a video you’ve created go viral, I offer 10 lessons …

Creating a video and having it go viral is surely every marketer’s dream. Last month, it happened for me. The outcomes — ranging from monetization to brand awareness — were surprising, eye-opening and beyond my wildest dreams. Since you, too, may hope someday to have a video you’ve created go viral, I offer 10 lessons that I have learned with this viral video experience.

Regular readers know that I do the marketing work for an internationally acclaimed chorus that has appeared throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The performers, including myself, are all volunteers. We sing for the love of singing, bringing richness and emotionally touching people’s lives.

It’s been my dream, for years, that someday we’d have a video go viral. Instinctively, I knew it wouldn’t be a polished, professionally produced video, but rather, a video showing a side of the chorus that the public generally doesn’t see.

A confluence of factors set the stage. One of the chorus’s most beloved songs is “Hallelujah,” written by the great singer, songwriter, musician, poet, novelist and painter, Leonard Cohen. He passed away on Nov. 10.

As we had planned to rehearse “Hallelujah” for an upcoming Christmas Show that evening, word spread of his passing. I realized that honoring Cohen by singing “Hallelujah” would be a moment to acknowledge this great modern-day composer. We had experimented with Facebook Live Streaming in recent weeks, with very positive audience response and a few thousand views. So we decided to live stream this unscripted moment to our thousands of Facebook fans, as we remembered Cohen and sang his song to honor him.

In a moment of spontaneity, we gathered our thoughts and I asked one of our teenage performers to hold his iPhone for the live stream. In a hurry, he didn’t have his tripod, so he held his phone in the vertical orientation (natural when using any smartphone) instead of horizontal (which would have better filled the frame for most viewers). Our director, by his own admission, rambled in the early seconds of his introduction. And yet, through this less-than-ideal setup for a video, it has been viewed by millions.

We recorded it at about 10:00 p.m., toward the end of our rehearsal. By 8:00 a.m. the next morning, it had already been viewed 30,000 times. We were thrilled, but then the groundswell continued. The next milestone of about 100,000 views came at about 1:00 p.m. Then a half million by 10 a.m. the next morning. One million in just over 48 hours.

And now, just a month after it was recorded, it has been viewed more than 8.2 million times, with the post seen by about 19 million. The numbers continue to grow — even after 30 days.

Equally impressive: More than 184,000 people have shared the video, and about 52,000 have commented. The comments came from all 50 U.S. States, and dozens of countries. I’ve always felt it important to promptly respond to comments of an inquiring nature. We have kept up with them, but at 52,000 comments, it’s been a heavy lift to read and respond accordingly. Engagement breeds further engagement. You have to do the work.

Along the way, the media in Dallas-Fort Worth (where the chorus is based) picked up the story with interviews and mentions on a local TV station, the Dallas Morning News, a highly rated radio station, and smaller community newspapers.