This past year would probably seem like an odd one if you were to only base it off of 2012's most popular viral videos. Even just the year's most popular video — the music video by Korean pop star Psy, "Gangnam Style," which recently surpassed one billion views on YouTube (News - Alert) — is an oddity in and of itself, featuring a horse dance, plenty of pop video spoofing and explosions.
However, when factoring in some of the other top trends of 2012 on YouTube — Felix Baumgartner's supersonic freefall, a man shooting his daughter's laptop in an open field and, of course, the KONY 2012 short documentary — it gets even stranger.
But, with the 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, this has become par for the course. However, what's really odd is how these videos become viral hits.
According to YouTube trends manager Kevin Allocca, there is no easy answer as there are companies that spend millions of dollars trying to make a viral hit — with little success. Some would say that the real secret to unlocking YouTube viral success is to look not at what viral hits do, but rather what they don't.
This takes some lateral thinking. For example, brevity may seem essential, but it's not: four of the top ten global viral videos are five minutes or longer, with one last a whole half hour. Furthermore, as Gangnam Style has demonstrated, viewers don't even necessarily have to understand what's being said in a video for it to be a success.
Simply put, there is no 'secret' to viral success, just as there's no secret to a hit song — something which has also been studied extensively.
Of course, this hasn't stopped companies from trying to find a way to grab users' attention. For example, Facebook recently stated it plans to launch a new video advertising initiative in April 2013 that will embed video ads that play automatically into users' news feeds. But, based on user backlash, forcing an audience to pay attention is not necessarily the best way to get attention.
Facebook (News - Alert) has yet to decide if its auto-play ads will play muted or not, and the videos are said to be capped at 15 seconds.
Edited by Carlos Olivera