What I Learned From My First Viral Video

On Friday I posted a video that went (baby) viral on LinkedIn.

As of this writing, it has:

  • 69,492 Views
  • 1,084 Likes
  • 924 Comments

My biggest takeaway from the experience is that the quality is one of many factors. Yesterday I posted about the fact that talent is a fraction of the equation in success, and it seems the same is true for content quality in the success of a video.

I also broke a few rules along the way, and the video still went viral.

Perhaps the most important factor was having a viral mechanism. The video was about how to follow up from sales conversations via email, and I offered to send the very same template I covered in the video to anyone who liked and commented on the post.

I also promoted the post to a few people who I follow, and who follow me. Getting engagement from people with bigger followings than me turns out to be a pretty critical link in the chain to move closer to virality.

I broke two rules: the timing of the post, and the length of the post. Longer videos tend not to get much love on LinkedIn, especially from people who aren’t famous (like me). The video I posted was 7+ minutes, but I assume that acknowledging this fact in the comments helped set an expectation. I also posted later in the day – around noon – which is typically not recommended.

I did a whole lot of things right, too. I included a headline on the video key frame; the copy of the post was good and had multiple calls to action; the production quality was quite high, though I’m not sure how important that is; and I’m pretty good at teaching and telling stories through video.

Here’s what I’ll say, in case you’re interested in my reflection: this video didn’t feel substantively different than my others. It didn’t feel special at all. In fact, I expected to get a normal range of 50-100 comments on it, so it surpassed my expectations by a factor of 10x-20x.

Luck must be a factor too. Once the virality engine gets going, LinkedIn has actually accelerated how many people are seeing the post. In the first four days, 45k total people had viewed the post. Today alone, it racked up another 25k views. I have no idea what will happen over the coming days, but I assume the momentum will slow and evenutally die.

I also bumped up on some limitations of LinkedIn as a platform. Delivering a file to 1k people on a platform engineered to not scale well has proven quite difficult. Even responding to comments is not possible at this scale because, after a certain point, the page is too slow to use.

Chances are I’ll stumble upon another viral video story, but for now, this is my experience with my first viral video.