Feb 12, 2016

Case Study: Star Wars - The Force Theme

In this blog post, we’ll be doing a case study of “Star Wars - The Force Theme”, one of my recent videos. This video has gained a total of 138,000 views since January 9, and while I still don’t claim to be an expert of making viral videos, I will do my best to offer some tips that might increase the chances of a video going viral. Just to reiterate before I move on though, there is no guarantee whatsoever that these tips will work. There isn’t even a guarantee that these tips will make a minimal impact. These are just the steps that I took in an effort to make my video go viral—we will never know which tips helped and which tips didn’t.

Tip #1: Research

The first thing I did before making the video was google “how to make a viral video”. While it seemed dumb even to myself at the time since I didn’t believe there was a “recipe for success”, I knew that there was nothing I could lose from doing a little research. Out of all the posts I read, this one helped the most.

Though I don’t agree with all the tips Karen wrote about, and though I believe there is not enough evidence to conclude that her video “going viral was not an accident” (as she confidently claimed), I do believe she has some good advice to follow. The main takeaway from Karen’s post for me wasn’t a small trick like “release on Monday or Tuesday”, but was instead “don’t be ‘too good’ for marketing”—in other words, at the very least, come up with a plan. So I continued doing some research and came up with a plan.

Note: research includes just talking to people and asking for advice. Or, even checking out a book from the library (gasp)!

Tip #2: Pick a topic related to a trend (if possible)

While this is going to be difficult due the the internet’s unpredictability, I was lucky enough to be able to piggyback the huge trending topic of Star Wars. One great tool to use for this is Google Trends.

A quick search of “star wars” and “star wars violin” shows the relatively nice timing of my video.

Tip #3: Make a good video

Make sure you’ve done the best you absolutely can.

Tip #4: Ask people to help in an organized fashion

In the past, I rarely asked people to help me share my video. I thought it was annoying for the other people (it probably still is), but more importantly, I didn’t think it’d really help. Even if I asked a hundred people to share my video, how many people would actually re-share it? And how many people would share the re-share? Not many, right? I still don’t know the answer to these questions, but I decided to ask people for help this time, because you never know what might happen. Much more importantly, I asked people in an organized fashion. After finding friends who were willing to help (thank you so much if you’re reading this!), I created a Facebook group so that I could ask everyone for help in a standardized way. More detail on this Facebook group will follow.

Tip #5: Submit to websites

This was likely the most important part of the process when combined with tip #4. After finding out the power of submitting to websites from research, I realized that getting the Facebook group to help with this process would increase the chances of success. I ended up asking the group to help me submit the video to the Star Wars subreddit, 9GAG, and Imgur (I only knew of a few websites at the time—theoretically, the more websites, the better). The video made it to the front page of the Star Wars subreddit for a day or so, and this was when my video started reaching a few thousand views. It was in no way going viral, but it gave me hope since I was using a plan that was at least helping a little bit. I did some more research and found more websites, and since I didn’t want to keep spamming the group, I asked a couple of friends to also help me submit the video to other relevant websites: Laughing Squid, theForce.net, some Star Wars Tumblr blogs, and some Star Wars Facebook pages. Again, I could’ve and should’ve went for a longer list of websites, but now you get the idea. Nothing happened for a while, but a few weeks later, Laughing Squid posted my video. Suddenly, within days, the video was featured on Mashable, the Today Show, New York Daily News, Wired, The Nerdist, and Yahoo! The takeaway from this chain reaction of posts is that you really just need one relatively major website to post your video—then, the quality of your video will determine whether other news sources will follow and post your video. Thus, getting multiple people to submit your video to multiple websites will give you the best chance of it getting posted somewhere.


I’ve tried my best to summarize the process into 4 steps: research, pick a good topic, make a good video, ask people to help in an organized fashion, and start submitting to websites. There are other steps that I could include (maybe in another post) that would increase the chances of the video going viral, but I think I’ve covered the most important basic steps. Why do I keep emphasizing that this process is simply chance-increasing and not definitely the reason the video went viral? Because theoretically, I could’ve just made the video, submitted it to Laughing Squid myself, and it might’ve also went viral. Ultimately, we’ll never know. However, I hope you had fun reading this post.

Jan 17, 2016


Welcome to my blog, "Navigating Youtube with a Violin"! In this introductory post, I'll be explaining what this blog is all about.

My name is Jeffrey, and I've been posting violin videos on Youtube since 2011. While my videos have not gone viral or anything, I've gained some valuable experience with filming, recording, and editing. However, something I've noticed over the years is that the most viewed videos on YouTube often aren't the highest quality videos. Many violin videos that had millions of views were somehow poorly filmed, out of tune, and completely unedited. How could this be? For a long time, I couldn't wrap my head around it. I viewed it as unfair, and struggled to understand why some competitor channels were suddenly gaining subscribers at an exponential rate.

But after I took a relatively long break from YouTube and came back, I started to see all the other factors involved in reaching more people on YouTube. How did it suddenly make sense to me? It happened when I saw a similar "unfair" trend within my own channel. Looking at my old videos, I noticed that my audio-only violin cover of Clocks by Coldplay was receiving more views than all but one other video on my channel. How was this possible? I had dozens of other videos that had taken countless hours to film and edit, yet this audio-only cover that only took a few hours to make was doing far better in terms of views. I clicked the analytics on the video, and saw that most of my views were coming from YouTube search. Terms like "clocks violin", "clocks violin cover", "clocks coldplay violin", and countless others. Intrigued, I searched "clocks violin" to see if my video would pop up on google. Surely enough, it was there. Why? I was one of the first few people to make a violin cover of Clocks, and thus accumulated many views from people's searches. After my video was highly viewed and rated, I was also able to stay up there in the search even after other people made violin covers of Clocks years later. Hence, Clocks became my most viewed video.

So to summarize, why did Clocks receive so many views despite there being no video footage at all? Because I was one of the first violin covers of Clocks.

Once I realized this, I started seeing more and more factors (aside from video/audio quality) that would affect the number of views of a video. Here are just a few off the top of my head (the terms on the parentheses are any of my videos that my relate to the factor— if they don't make sense, they will make sense in the future as I make blog posts about them):

1. Video publishing date (Clocks)
2. Relationship to Trends (John Cena, Star Wars)
3. Popularity of original (Silent Night vs Fireworks)
4. Number of shares/up-votes on Facebook/Reddit/Imgur/Tumblr (Star Wars)
5. Relationship to other popular videos (Kiss the Rain and Sungha Jung Version)

Basically, after years of video-making, I finally forced myself to accept the reality— the quality of a video affects its number of views, but also the day the video was published, the relevancy the video has to trends and other videos, the number of times the video is shared on social media, and the popularity of the video topic. I had ignored marketing for years, and thus my channel never got really big.

Now, in 2016 however, I've faced the truth and am starting to make videos again. In my most recent Star Wars video, I raised the quality of production, but also tried to stick it to a trend, publish it early, and ask friends to share it abundantly on social media. So far, it's been working. In the first week since uploading, the video has received nearly 9,000 views. This has been my best video on my channel by far.

So back to the point— why am I writing about all this? I think the main purpose of this blog is to help you understand how YouTube really works. I'm still no expert on how to make a viral video, but my experience has helped me to at least gain a better than average understanding of YouTube. If you are a relatively new YouTuber, I hope this blog will help avoid some of the mistakes I made and help save you some time. For the rest of you, I hope you find this blog interesting and hope you'll end up with some more knowledge and understanding after each post.