The Viral Video Manifesto: How to Make Content Shareable

“I want this to go viral.”

If you are a client, you’ve said it. If you’re a marketer, you’ve heard it and (most likely) cringed. We want your content to go viral as badly as you do, but the public can be fickle and there are no guarantees.

Or are there?

The Viral Video Manifesto by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe (you may know them as EepyBird) offers a simple formula for making videos that will go viral. These guys know something about viral video—in only 48 hours, their Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment video went from filming in backwoods Maine to being featured on David Letterman—and these guys want to help you get your content shared.

Four rules to make your content viral

Other people are talking generally about what makes videos go viral. But The Viral Video Manifesto lays out four simple rules for creating awesome and viral-worthy content that anyone can follow.

  1. Be true
  2. Don’t waste our time
  3. Be unforgettable
  4. Ultimately, it’s all about humanity

The content of the book is broken down into easy-to-digest chunks complete with QR codes that link to some of the most popular viral videos of the last decade. It’s easy to follow along as Voltz and Grobe critique how well each video adheres to the four rules and provide suggestions for how each could be improved for maximum shareability.

What does this have to do with Internet marketing?

According to Ian Lurie, marketing is communicating true value and significance to your audience. The first step is making contact with potential customers.


Awesome and significant content, video or otherwise, is more likely to get shared. The more viral your content, the more potential customers you can make contact with.

“If the content is odd enough and strong enough, your chances of being picked up and pushed along by key influencers is pretty good.” – Stephen Voltz

Voltz and Grobe write, “Let your brand be human.” We know our clients spent a lot of time and money crafting a brand. This is important. But when it comes to getting your Internet content shared, allowing potential customers to relate to you on a human level will get you a lot more shares than strict adherence to brand messaging.

Is it really that easy?

Yes and no. Every person you involve in decision making about content needs to have the same vision for the project.

Voltz and Grobe use their own video as a cautionary tale about what happens when vision gets muddled. Because The Extreme Sticky Notes Experiments was slated to air on TV and the Internet, the powers that be insisted on including a narrative. The trouble is that the video takes more than a minute to get to the cool, shareable tricks. The vision that worked for a passive TV audience is exactly what caused Internet viewers to click away before they realized how awesome the tricks were going to be.

How can you make viral content?

Take it from Voltz and Grobe and “Be the content.” Voltz said in an interview, “We mostly work to develop ideas of our own to the point where we have something that can become contagious… [we] also try to keep an eye on what’s happening online because… there are great ideas out there that can give us inspiration.”

“We believe that anyone can create compelling content if they approach it right. The key is to find some unexplored idea or phenomenon and explore it so deeply that you find something that no one has ever seen before.” – Stephen Voltz

Step outside your own idea of what needs to happen in your video or blog post. Look at it with a fresh pair of eyes from the point of view of your audience:

  • Does it feel authentic?
  • Is it awesome from the very first second all the way to the end?
  • Is it unforgettable?
  • Does it relate on a human level?

If you answered no to any of these questions, go back and fix your content. It is that easy when you know what you are looking for.

This is a great for anyone who wants to understand what makes content (video and otherwise) shareable. We still won’t guarantee that your content will go viral, but following the intuitive and thoughtful suggestions in The Viral Video Manifesto will make it a lot more likely.

What about video search engine optimization?

The only criticism of this excellent book is that it could use an SEO addendum for the next edition. Voltz and Grobe don’t optimize their videos for search engines, but all great content deserves to show prominently in search results. Here are a few SEO thoughts for your next YouTube video:

  • Write a concise meta tag (only the first 150 characters show in search engines)
  • Use tags for discoverability, not SEO
  • Create transcripts if you have significant dialogue

Feeling inspired? We’d love to hear about your great video ideas in the comments.

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  1. Great information here Isla, this is what we need to promote and generate viral content in the online world. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be sure to utilize these tips!

  2. Hi Isla,
    You write that only the first 150 characters are shown in search engines, and that I know.
    But when we’re talking about a youtube video, is this simply the first 150 characters from the description you’ve written as you upload your youtube video to youtube?
    If so, I find it difficult to choose between adding a call-to-action with a link in the beginning (so people don’t have to click “show more” in order to see my link or call-to-action”) and writing a rich description for the search engine.
    If I add the link, the description for SEO purposes will be worse, but If I write for the search engine I will get less call-to-actions.
    Tricky, indeed….

    1. Tricky for sure, but perhaps your call to action can include your most important keyword. You could also look at the challenge as a great exercise in concision, which is something I’ve learned a lot about from fiction writers. Grace Paley can pack more meaning and keywords into a sentence than anyone on earth, and she never seems spammy. Don’t forget to use a link shortener, it’s a basic tip, but every character counts.

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