How to make a viral video in 5 easy steps (and then win $1000)


[See contest to make $1000 at the end of this post.]

I feel like the concept of a “viral video” has died and gone to corporate purgatory. I don’t really see people gather around youtube looking at the best examples of creativity. Its all now, “How quickly can Pepsi make a video that 20mm people watch”. Maybe I’m an old man or something but its almost no fun watching youtube anymore. Too much garbage. No curation.

Two things make a video viral:
A) the video itself gets lots of views as it passed around via word of mouth, emails, etc.
B) the video generates lots of spinoff videos, i.e. videos that make fun of the initial video, tweak it in some creative way, move it forward creatively, etc. The idea itself becomes viral and not just the video.

A great example stems from Chris Bliss’s video where he’s juggling to a Beatles song. The song is “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End” which is the last song on their last album (known for its last lyric “the love you take is equal to the love you make”. The video first popped up in 2006 and within 40 days had 20,000,000 views.

[Tip #1 to making a viral video: piggyback off of an idea that has already withstood the test of time, for instance the Beatles song in this video. As well as the fact that good juggling is always entertaining].

Apparently when the video came out it caused quite a stir among jugglers who weren’t impressed by Bliss’s use of just three balls and no fancy technical tricks. So, for instance, there’s this “Chris Bliss Diss” video by juggler Jason Garfield which uses five balls and a variety of tricks.

[Tip #2: Take a prior viral video (which contains tip #1 and then went viral) and directly challenge it].

This video also immediately went viral, racking up a few million views. I appreciate the technical virtuousity but I prefer (slightly) the Chris Bliss video only because he makes it more like a dance rather than just a technical feat. I like how his hands move throughout the song. Its like romance versus pornography. One thing I like in the Diss video is that he directly lifts the song from the Bliss video so you get all the audience reaction, which is funny considering Garfinkel is in an empty gym.

Interesting to note that Garfield is also quite possibly a better juggling trainer than performer. He trained the Galchenko siblings, perhaps the best jugglers inthe world. Here’s a video of nine year old Vova Galchenko (note also his sister doing cartwheels). The video was originally shot in 1997 and Vova didn’t begin training with Garfield until 2004.

[Tip #3: Take a kid with an amazing talent, throw in a great song, and you get a viral video].
[Tip #4: Train the above kid, do a new video with him each year to see him grow].

Now here’s a video of Vova and sister, Olga, 10 years later. I like Olga’s quote, “we are genetically engineered to be the best jugglers in the world.”

So to bring it full circle, rapper Fatboy Slim then challenged the internet to do a juggling video “like that chris bliss one” to his song “that old pair of jeans”. Here’s the Vova Galchenko version:

[Tip #5: Make a great song, then crowdsource a contest to make the best video. If enough people respond, at least one of the videos should go viral. Particularly if the above tips work.]

And here’s another example of the Fatboy Slim contest. Only this time its a very talented hula hooper:

So lets see if this works.

[Note: I’m not selling anything, promoting anything, etc. I sincerely want to give $1000 to someone who can make me a new favorite video.]

Here’s the contest:
A) Take any popular song.
B) Take any talent
C) Or take any other viral video and tweak the ideas.
D) Use any or all of the tips above.

Make a cool video and put it on youtube. Submit the video (via a link in the comments below. If you see this post anywhere else then go to find this post, and submit the link in the comments below) by February 1. I’ll give $1000 to the best video. Throw in the links to your videos in the comments section of this post. I’ll use other comments to help me decide the winner. I reserve the right to have no winner if none of the videos get more than 100,000 views within a month of the contest ending. But if a video has less than 100,000 views and is clearly excellent (and other commenters love it) then we’ll have a winner.

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  • Aaron

    Great post James. Have you seen this?

    • James Altucher

      Ha, thats hilarious.

  • Stocks on Wall Street

    Successful viral campaigns on YouTube are great for generating traffic for many sites. Worth the investment.

  • Sooz

    How did you know that I could juggle?
    Hey, that Hula girl is pretty talented. I thought that being able to keep one hoop circling around the waist was tricky talent! Geesh, at one point in vid she ten or something. I wonder where it was taped..perhaps
    My kids have whipped together some pretty funny/creative stuff.. None of which involved talent except their goofiness.
    Have a great day!!

    • Sooz

      I just returned home after juggling ten different things at once… None of which involved balls or bowling
      Now..I’m going to the garage this very minute and dust off the hula~hoop..None of which will be recorded on video(for the sake of humility)!
      You have to believe me when I say..,”I’m the winner here”..:)

      • Sooz

        my wishes are..
        to donate all winning(aka..angel to the ‘Cold Spring Express’

  • pjc

    James – have you shared those juggling videos with your kids? My kids were obsessed with the “Bliss/Diss/Fatboy” triplet of juggling videos for a while.

    The animosity between Garfield and Bliss is sad. People in these sub-cultures seem strangely unable to grasp how popularity for one of their colleagues is good for the entire culture. It would be great for Garfield, Bliss, and anyone else trying to make a living from this weird hobby if juggling were to somehow become mainstream (in the same way that Yoga has become mainstream). Yet these yahoos make fun of each other for not being nerdy enough. Clueless and sad.

    • Sooz

      Don’t be sad, pjc.
      There are many(including juggler’s and hula~hooper’s) that have made a living off the web.
      KUDO’s to them and everyone else(neg.) that brings attention them.

  • Dominic

    …and sometimes you just need an overload of cuteness for a video to become viral like this:

  • Exprossi

    I’m making a text video that explains that my friend is giving $1000 away if it gets 100,000 views. Send your email with every view and there will be a lottery to give half the money away….easiest $500 I’ll ever make.

    • James Altucher

      thats brilliant! do it.

    • James Altucher

      thats brilliant! do it.

  • pdmoney
  • Stockerblog

    Who is the green stock rapper?

  • brad blume

    What about this one, a day late and a dollar short….

  • Bparrish2

    It’s alittle past the due date, but I found this and thought it would fit in nicely on this post.

    It’s a rap by some kid on problems he faces.

  • Ben Nesvig

    These are great tips. One of my goals in life is to create a video that surpasses 100,000 views. I’ve been hoping that one of the stop-motion videos I’ve made would, but no luck yet.