If you want your homegrown video to go viral, you'd better have more than just good content. Find someone to endorse it, the more well known the better, according to research at Kansas State University.
"The content has to make people stay and want to watch it and pass it on to others," said Lindsey Elliott, a May 2013 master's graduate in journalism and mass communications. "But with billions of videos on YouTube, people won't see it if they don't know it's out there."
Elliott studied what makes a nonprofessional video go viral by looking at "I'm Farming and I Grow It," a musical parody of LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It." The video was created by Greg Peterson, a May 2013 Kansas State University graduate, and his younger siblings, of Assaria. The video touts the importance of farming. The family has followed up on its video success, most recently with its third video parody, "A Fresh Breath of Farm Air," a "Fresh Prince" parody.
Elliott did her research under Louise Benjamin, professor of journalism and mass communications. Elliott's model for a nonprofessional video to go viral shows it takes both content and the recommendation of an opinion leader. For "I'm Farming and I Grow It" it took Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas praising the video on his Facebook page. Posted June 25, 2012, the video has more than 8.5 million views on YouTube.
"A lot of people said they saw it mentioned on FOX News or 'Good Morning America,' but media wouldn't have gotten a hold of it if there weren't a lot of views to begin with," Elliott said.
Who the opinion leader is -- for instance a 77-year-old senator -- shapes the audience, too. "I'm Farming and I Grow It" had its largest following among those 45 to 65.
"The research shows that if it's good content, it doesn't have to have a young audience to go viral," Elliott said.
Good content may be subjective, but posted comments reveal a simple formula: make people happy.
"If a video makes you happy, you want to share it and make other people feel good, too," Elliott said.
Her research hints at what cat video viewers have long suspected: cute animals make for lots of views. Elliott said there's also room for further research to unify the use of the word "viral."
"Everybody has this idea that viral just means a lot of views," she said. "I would argue it has to hit a lot of different mediums and different groups of viewers and have longevity."
Elliott is a 2004 graduate of Salina High School South. She is the daughter of Michael and Kathy Elliott, Salina.
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