At YoungEntrepreneur.com, we regularly bring you stories about innovative startups and their wide-eyed founders. But even we were in awe of 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who last summer constructed a makeshift arcade out of cardboard in his father's auto-parts store in Los Angeles.
He started off catering to the shop's visitors. Now, though, his business has become the main attraction, with excited children and television crews filing through daily, all clamoring for a turn. A $1 ticket gets you four spins at one of five arcade games and a $2 ticket gets you 500 spins. The industrious lad also sells $15 T-shirts -- like the one he wears -- that display "Caine's Arcade" on the back.
That attention has turned into big bucks for young Monroy. It's not clear how much money he's made from ticket and T-shirt sales, but in donations alone, Monroy has already raised more than $178,000 through his website, CainesArcade.com. Those funds are devoted to paying for his college education, he says.
His current popularity is largely owed to an 11-minute video that features the young dynamo, which caught flames on the web in the last few days. So far, that video has been viewed more than 5 million times on Vimeo and more than 2.4 million times on YouTube since it went live last week. And more than 25,000 people recommended it on Facebook.
While we're duly impressed by Monroy's success, one has to wonder about the viral nature of videos. And no doubt entrepreneurs are curious how they can similarly bottle some video lightning. To see how, we reached out to Sarah Wood and Scott Button, the husband and wife co-founders of Unruly Media , a London-based social video advertising platform that helps companies distribute videos on the web.
Here are their five best tips:
Look for inspiration. Before you even pick up a video camera, spend some serious time watching web videos. Look for viral phenoms like Chuck Testa's taxidermy video and the Dollar Shave Club's razor video. "If you're genuinely interested in creating a sensation, you have to look at videos that have already done so," says Wood. And take notes, she adds.
Create awesome content. Obviously, this is easier said than done. But the kind of video you aim to produce should reflect your target audience. For instance, if you cater to mature women who live in the Northeast, there's a good chance you won't want to produce a hilarious four-minute segment about deodorant. But you may want to offer educational tips on how to dress at a daughter's wedding for instance. The key is to trigger intense feelings. "Content should be extremely funny or extremely moving or extremely useful or extremely entertaining," says Wood. "Ideally you'll elicit a physical reaction from the viewer. They'll be moved to tears or laughter or feel the hairs stand up on the back of their neck."
Make it portable. Post your content to platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, and ensure that your settings promote sharing -- that is, allow people to upload at will and leave comments too.
Choose the right platforms. Choosing which social-media channels to post your videos to will also depend on your target audience. In addition to YouTube or Vimeo, consider which social networks will supply an audience that will be most likely to view your content and share it. LinkedIn for instance is often a safe bet for business-to-business videos. Twitter is good for time-sensitive viewing, while Facebook caters to a more general audience.
Advertise. Not every video will need to have advertising muscle behind it, but typically before a video can go viral it must first get promoted. Simply posting a video on Facebook and expecting people at large to see it likely won't happen. In fact, your followers may not even see it. For something to show up in Facebook users' feeds, Button explains, it has to be trending. "You can put stuff on YouTube, but only if it's taking off is it going to trend and if it trends it'll reach a wider audience." So unless this happens organically, you may need to pay to pump out your video. Companies like Unruly can help you, as can Sharethrough or the Video Advertising Platform.
What viral-video making tips would you add to this list? Leave a comment and let us know.