What Does "Viral Content" Mean? |

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What Does "Viral Content" Mean?

Posted by on June 4, 2008

what is viral marketing?There are a lot of people out there talking about creating viral videos, viral blogs, viral children (kidding), etc. Well what does viral really mean? I used to work at an agency that put up a video of a dog chewing on a stuffed animal polar bear, they called the video “dog versus polar bear,” (or something to that effect). The video has received around 450,000+ views, now would you cal this “viral?” perhaps. Think about this for a moment. If you go chop off your arm, film it, and then stick it on youtube with the title “Worst Pain Ever”, do you think you will get a lot of hits? What if you catch someone at work flipping out and destroying company property, let’s say you title the video “Man at Work Destroys Everything,” do you think that will get a lot of hits? The answer to both of these questions is usually yes, but are these videos viral?

A viral piece of content from a business standpoint should be much more than just a shocking event caught on video. I am going to refer to business viral content as “Biral” content from now on. Some of the key components that a “Biral” piece of content (from a business standpoint) should have are:

  • Be spreadable
  • Peak interest
  • Address a product/service/brand
  • Engage the audience
  • Be relevant

Essentially there are 2 types of viral content, user generated viral content and viral content from a business standpoint, or “Biral content”. From the standpoint of user generated content, “viral” simply means something that gets a lot of views, reads, clicks, etc. But from a business standpoint there needs to be something more, it needs to be “Biral”. There needs to be a reason to get the views, clicks, reads, etc. The reason for this is usually to increase brand awareness, product sales, new users, etc. Simply creating a video entitled “Dog versus Polar Bear,” is meaningless from a business standpoint.

These are 2 videos that I consider to be “viral” from a business standpoint, do you understand why?

Weezer Pork and Beans

Kobe Jumps Over a Car

These are 2 video that I consider to be “viral” from a user generated content standpoint.

Numa Numa Video

Star Wars Kid

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts, what do you consider to be viral content and do you think there is a difference between user generated viral content and business viral content?

Thanks for reading!

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  • http://www.vinayis.in/ Vinay

    Very Interesting article Jacob.. been following your write ups for late and I should I love reading them. Commenting on the point.. I go with what you say .. to me viral marketing/viral content means a campaign that uses word-by-mouth or something you would wanna share with your friends.. this directly/in-directly does promote the brand.

    The ability to promote such contents among people by highly utilizing the social network for its high speed reach (something like high speed virus infection!?) would be the viral marketing.

    Have a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v31qxrXsxv0 (Why every guy should buy their girlfriend Wii Fit?) !! Less than a week old and already 10 Millions+ video views.. this is a perfect example of viral content I would say.. it gives enough exposure for the brand/product! You can see the number of people who have dugg at Digg : http://digg.com/nintendo/Why_every_guy_should_buy_their_girlfriend_Wii_Fit which has crossed 10k+ in less than a week!!

    Going further, it seems like a internet marketing agency were behind making this video… while it looks like a normal user wanted to share in public.. the reality though is business oriented. It really looks like the marketing group were hired by Nintendo do this viral video and the team has done something simple and yet made it impressive!

    And an example for user generated viral content.. i don’t have much to show now.. but this would make some sense, have a look at http://www.rahulsood.com/2008/05/ugh-it-was-my-birthday.html !! Rahul got MacBook Air from his friends and he used it to cut the cake.. the MacBook air has already made enough noise but againg adding more to it is this viral content.. while the author doesn’t do it purposefully, it can be classified as Viral!

    The result..? TechCrunch made a mention about it at their site and soon it had a good round around the internet!

    And Yeap.. there is difference between user generated viral content (which is always a passion-towards-brand or interest) and which turns out to be a viral content & business viral content .. is easiest way to have a good reach among every growing social networkers!

    I hope I tried to give my point of view..!



  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    hi Vinay,

    You make some great points, thanks for sharing your point of view. I’m always amazed as to the different types of videos I see floating around the net. I think the recent weezer video is my favorite one as of late.

    thanks for taking the time to comment, and thanks for reading!

  • http://thefutureworkplace.com Jed

    If a video gets 450k views on YouTube, then it is viral.

    The definitions you project are yours alone. Viral means…viral. It spread like a virus. It got 450k views.

    If the business you mentioned claimed that they were creating a viral video about THEIR business, then, yes, I guess they failed.

    But you never said they made that claim. And I don’t see how you have the right to say what is and what is not viral for pieces that spread….virally.

  • Barry

    So… only something that promotes a brand can be viral? Then why is the Numa Numa video viral if some other video that got a lot of views isn’t?

  • http://thefutureworkplace.com Jed

    And while we’re at it, I hereby claim “miral” to be all viral videos about me.

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan


    the benefits of having a blog such as this one is that I do get to express my opinion, therefore with all due respect, I have the right to express my opinions. Viral can mean several things just as social media can mean several things.

    Also, you are correct, according to the definition I wrote in the post for “viral” the video you mentioned would be considered “viral” I should be a bit more careful when writing :) but thanks to comments like yours I can correct my mistakes

    haha very well all content about you is now “miral”


    i think the numa numa video is viral but not “biral.’ What weezer did was take several viral videos and turn them into one “biral” video.

    thanks for your comments and thanks for reading

  • http://thefutureworkplace.com Jed

    Maybe you should edit that initial description then to state the video WOULD be viral, but not “biral” so that people aren’t confused by your mistake? That way the comments will not focus on the mistake, but rather your biral concept.

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    hi barry,

    so i was a little curious about something so i did a little bit of checking. it turns out that you and jed have the same ip addresses ( then it turns out that in gmail i get an email saying i have a comment from Jed and from Bary, yet when I open then email that says its from Bary, the messages in gmail says “Jed to me.” Then I was still curious since the rather harsh/impolite comments came when mentioning an example from a previous position I once held. So I decided to cross check the C-classes for proximity against my old company website. It turns out that jed/barry are using GE-6-1-ur01.sffolsom.ca.sfba.comcast.net. My old company uses phoenix8-gw.deru.net and is located on Folsom street in San Francisco, but the interesting thing is that the ip addres then resolves to an ip address that is very very close by to the one that Barry/Jed is using.

    So I’m thinking that Jed = Barry and that jed/barry is most likely someone from my old company…or this can all be just some big coincidence

    either way thanks for reading, it’s flattering :)

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    oh and a very special thank to Jose Nunez for his technical skills, I suppose having a phd pays off :)

  • http://thefutureworkplace.com Jed

    I’m definitely not “Barry” and if you’re telling me I have the same IP address as “Barry” then that freaks me out, but it sounds like the send form you have also sent the “from” value as Barry and had content from me (Jed).

    Frankly, if I wanted to post two messages, I’d just to it as Jed. As you can see, I am fairly direct.

    Regardless, here is how you can prove to yourself that I am not from your old company.

    I did a traceroute to your site:

    1 ( 2.362 ms 1.521 ms 1.766 ms

    2 ( 8.331 ms 7.862 ms 7.951 ms

    3 ge-1-6-ur02.sffolsom.ca.sfba.comcast.net ( 8.068 ms 7.814 ms 8.902 ms

    4 te-8-1-ur01.sfpine.ca.sfba.comcast.net ( 7.040 ms 8.671 ms *

    5 te-9-3-ur02.sfpine.ca.sfba.comcast.net ( 7.313 ms 13.368 ms *

    6 te0-7-0-1-ar01.oakland.ca.sfba.comcast.net ( 9.428 ms 8.218 ms 8.046 ms


    I live in South Beach using a comcast line.

    You mentioned your old company uses Deru – who is in Arizona (Whois).

    I suggest you ask someone at your old company (who you trust to get this info from) to do a traceroute so you can test this out. You can probably just look at the first two hops (the router is usually the give away).

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    hi jed,

    i’m not too concerned. i have nothing against my old company nor do i have anything against you or barry. as far as i am concerned i value your readership (and barry’s) either way. the more people i interact with the better, i like it all.

  • http://thefutureworkplace.com Jed

    Nonetheless, you should ask someone from your old company to figure out their IP address and send it to you so you can monitor who is hitting your site.

    They can do this by visiting:


  • Mike

    OUTSTANDINGLY explained. Thank you. :)

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    Its useful right, even i am not good in using com. but i do learn a lot from it to improve my study research, Thx!

  • http://www.cleavagetime.com CleavageTime

    Thank you very much for this explanation. I was having trouble differentiating “viral content” from some content that's simply trendy/popular.

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  • Computerlady56

    Thank you for this… I heard this word Viral at least 3 times today on the news had no idea what they were talking about! NOW I do..

  • http://www.cafecupid.com Cafecupid

    Thank you for the valuable explanation of viral content. However it is not so easy to create a such content for businesses unless if you have a lots of money to spend on it. I see a lot of videos around like the guy trying to explain things but most of them are just a joke.

  • 7h2n5s4l3e

    The spelling is PIQUE interest, not PEAK interest.

  • Nave_love3

    Good tips… like the term “biral content”.  Thanks.

  • gale randall

    At the bottom of my fb pics it tells how many views. Key on that and it says so many are organic and so many viral. What do those terms mean

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