Last updated on June 13th, 2023

How to Create a Viral Video for Your Boring Product

Natasha Hoke
Natasha Hoke
How to Create a Viral Video for Your Boring Product

I think you’ll agree that most startups with seemingly regular products don’t
go around making truly great viral videos. We see some companies like Dollar
Shave Club
nailing it but those
are rare right? We’re not only going to list the best advice we found on
creating viral videos but prove to you that you can do it by creating viral
videos for our own boring product using that advice.

We’re Upscope, a company with a boring product based in London

Upscope is the sort of software that makes people sleep at parties when
you describe it.

They’ll say shit like ‘That sounds interesting’.

No, no it does not sound interesting Peter, you’re just saying words to fill
the silence of disappointment, I see it behind your dead eyes.

HelloScreen is what screen sharing for support and sales
should be, instant, no downloads nonsense.

That’s important Peter, it makes a difference. Wipe that smirk off your face.
You won’t be smiling when someone screenshares with your grandma to cut you
out of her will.

To prove Peter wrong, we’re going to learn about creating viral videos and
we’re going to make some.

Key summary of what we’ll cover below

  1. The viral videos we made using the advice on this page.

  2. Why we can all succeed in making viral videos.

  3. Understand step 4 in the creative process or lose.

  4. Where do you effortlessly get top viral video ideas?

  5. How do you find good headlines for those videos?

  6. What are the key elements of a viral video?

  7. How do you distribute your viral video?

  8. The REAL reason why beginners FAIL at creating viral videos.

If you read nothing else, make sure you read point 8 about beginners. It’s
something we love and our gift to you.

1. The videos we made using the advice from this page

We’ve absorbed the advice, noticed the patterns and team Upscope are right now
creating our own viral videos to promote our own boring software.

We’ll add them below soon.

There will be more than one mainly because some of our team members think they
can make better viral videos than the others. Game on.

Attempt 1, version 1.

Everyone's worked with THIS person

— Upscope (@upscope_io) February 20,

2. Why we can all succeed in making viral videos.

You want the traffic and you want the brand recognition it can create for you,
especially now that 10 competitors pop-up in a year after you’ve launched.
Brand matters but can you create one?

Here’s the important thing.

Most people who make viral videos are not viral video experts.

As Kevin Allocca says, anything we do can become completely
including things you do… yes you

Do you need a budget to create viral videos? Definitely not.

Even companies with little or no marketing budget can create viral videos
and win via social media. **If your
product is an amazing hot sauce.. someone can literally upload an Instagram
post, tagging you’re hot sauce company and rambling on about how much they
love that sauce… People are going to see that. They wanna try that hot sauce!!

How do you create a viral video for your boring product?

You begin by researching popular ideas and finding the right headline. Your
video must tell a story that evokes both negative and positive emotions and
surprises the viewer. Finally, it must help the user feel a connection to
others and that’s what makes them want to share it.

We cover each of these points below.

3. Understand the creative process or fail

The Creative

  1. This is awesome

  2. This is tricky

  3. This is shit

  4. I am shit

  5. This might be ok

  6. This is awesome

Never stop at step 4. Keep going. Repeat.

Below we have a few more mindset related points that are needed before you
read the rest.

Ask the right question to begin with

Instead of asking what will make my video viral? You should ask, What will
make people want to share

Think like a street magician and not a stage magician

While a David Copperfield type magician has an engaged audience to tell a
story to, you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention, so
think like a street
. Hit the
audience with quick snippets that keep them wanting more.

It’s ok to plug your brand but come at an angle

You’ll hear opposing views. While some say that viral videos should not be
directly promotional
but raise brand
awareness, others state that actionable videos are essential.

I’m certain you can make an actionable video viral if done well, I also think
it’s tempting to shove in your ‘Sale’ and that puts people off.

In our own video creation exercise we are definitely the former. We’re making
entertaining videos that raise brand awareness. They won’t be a list of
features but they will still plug the brand.

Are you scared to be in your video? It’s better if you’re in it.

Viewers like it when the people behind a brand advocate for
. It gives a video a
human touch. CEOs, founders etc. We know they’re all busy, but if they’ve
taken the time out of their day to appear in their own video, it means that
they have found the time.

4. Where do you effortlessly get great viral video ideas?

Think like a
wishes to get the most views of their next piece.

Find what already works

You can find ideas for viral
by analysing
what’s already working for giant publishers, newspapers and magazines.

Enter a newspapers domain into a tool like Ahrefs and go
to the ‘Top content’ report and then sort by links. Reverse engineer one of
those links for your video.

Use Google Trends and Buzzsumo

Find video ideas by seeing what’s
globally or what is being
shared on social media. You can see global search trends on Google

You can see what’s being shared the most on social networks by entering a
topic related to your space into Buzzsumo which tracks
those shares.

Lets say your viral video idea is on the subject of Bitcoin. If you see
someone trending with ‘38 ways to invest in Bitcoin’ then do a video with ‘78
ways to invest in Bitcoin’.

See what journalists tweet and send them the opposite

You can see in the email below that Patrick is helping a journalist spread
ideas they’d find interesting and it’s a very simple formula.

Hey John,

I noticed you shared this article (insert article) by Sam from TechCrunch.
That article broke down how Google Analytics screwed online marketing. I have
a similar article that’s coming up, but mine talks about: “How Google
Analytics Helped Marketing.”



Don’t ignore your silly ideas, they can be the great ones.

It’s also important to pay attention to what might seem like silly ideas.

How many videos have we seen thing where someone does a normal task but in an
amusing or different way?

There’s a lot to be said for natural vulnerability and silliness. The milk
and cereal videos for example
It was not mean’t to be a product placement but it certainly did a good job of
it and they were just singing about milk and cereal.

Everyone liked milk and cereal at one point right? It’s a universal pleasure.

5. Headlines matter and people spend a lot of time on them

Here’s an example of why great video titles matter for viral
by Karen X Cheng. Look
at the progression from bad to great.

Here’s a bad title: My Journey of Dance, a Year of Movement

Better: I Learned to Dance in a Year

Even better: Girl Learns to Dance in a Year

Best: Girl Learns to Dance in a Year (TIME LAPSE)

As mentioned before, Buzzsumo is a also great source of good titles.

You can see which titles work but be careful as some are working simply
because the sharer is that important. Elon Musk would not need to write a a
really catchy title to get his article shared.

Curiosity based headlines work because of the ‘Information gap’

Ever heard of Bucket Brigades? It’s a hack that copywriters have been using
It’s a simple sentence that makes the reader want to read on. For example
they’ll add ‘bottom line?’ at some point on a page and it tugs at your
attention to get you to read the next line after.

Bottom line?

People fall for bucket brigades because it opens up an information gap in the
brain. A gap you wish to fill. That’s why curiosity based headlines work.

Upworthy have legendary headlines you can copy

Look at how many Upworthy, that viral beast, headlines
leave an information gap and makes you curious about every article.

It’s a company that’s legendary for the work they put into their headlines
including sprints where each person comes up with 25 headlines and they
ruthlessly narrow down to the very best. They’re a good source of inspiration.

Finally, keep in mind that 8/10 might read your headline. But only 2/10 read
your article
. If you want
to generate more social shares, it is all about the headline.

How do you get their attention in the first few seconds after the

Lets say you don’t have some way of capturing their attention visually by
spending 1 million pounds on an amazing epic studio set.

Maybe you can use a common situation that everyone has been in.

You know, like the first day at work. It’s awkward right? We can all relate.
Someone being shown to their desk by a manager who leaves and then the phone
rings. Panic!

If you’re still stuck then remember the ‘The APP formula for
It’s made of Agree, Promise and Preview.

The Agree step says to start by making a statement everyone agrees with like:
“I think you’ll agree that most startups with seemingly regular software don’t
think they can make truly great viral videos”. It’s how we began this article.

People know that this will be something that they can relate to.

6. What are the key elements of a viral video?

While researching the creation of viral videos you’ll repeatedly see the words
‘storytelling, emotion, connection and surprise’

Yes. SECS. Just made that order up. Just now.

Storytelling ties it together.

Don’t watch this video unless you want to be crying at your desk.

Seriously. No matter how macho you think you are, you will be in tears.

Who is cutting onions in this room?

Something’s in my eye, it must be onion flecks.

No, no, I’m ok. I’m just rubbing my face against my jumper to get the onion
flecks out. I need to pee, back in a minute.

That video tells a story.

It follows the tale of a man who was unequivocally generous throughout his
life and repaid it when it mattered most.

People you know are more believable than adverts.

We’ve all seen those viral videos and we don’t need to elaborate on them, we
need to talk about videos that promote your brand.

Tell the story of your brand in a way that resonates with humanity

“Anytime you spend energy unlocking the boring out of your brand, it’s
always well worth it.”

The following is what Jonathan Perelman of Buzzfeed said on telling the story
of your brand

Think about telling the story of your brand in a different way, in a way
that resonates with people, with humans.

“Prius is a hybrid car right? Hybrids weren’t seen as very cool when this
first came out. So what about the 20 coolest hybrid animals?

How about telling the story about the 20 most scenic drives in America? You
know what’s interesting about all those drives they’re a long way between gas
stations. You know that means? You should have a hybrid car.”


We can all agree with Karen Cheng when she says

the difference between liking and
poking at the right emotions: Awe, anger, amusement — high arousal emotions’.

Emotions that work and emotions that don’t

Some emotions spread better than others.

Emotions that spread: awe,
excitement, amusement, anger, anxiety.

Emotions that don’t: contentment, sadness.

Ego reflects the image we have of ourselves

Mada Sadhete says the 3 steps to app

include referrals, ego and emotion. The ego part is something we all know to
be true but don’t talk about. It’s the simple fact that we are more likely to
share things when it reflects the image we have of ourselves.

Fear of missing out leads us to tell friends

The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) can play an important part in motivating
someone to share. You send it to others because you don’t want them to miss
out and coming back to ego, you want to show how funny you are to spot this.

Anger makes us share it with our tribe

Anger erupts when there are strongly opposing views and fits with ego. We take
one side of an argument which reflects what we identify with. We send it to
the rest of our tribe.

Do they have to be all positive feelings?

According to Kelsey Libert, shareable content needs ‘emotional

and so a mix of both positive and negative emotions and surprise.

All the great stories we’ve read involve a range of emotions and story telling
is central to making content viral.

Younger people may be a little de-sensitized. So consider interactives,
flipbooks, videos and more emerging media types in the planning phase.


Connections with people really matter. A great piece of content has to
connect people
The key is connecting with someone and them connecting with others. This how
ideas spread.

When you look at a piece of media, your goal is to make people say: “I want
to tell someone else about this”.

Identity and nostalgia are powerful
In what way does a video relate to you? Perhaps it’s something from your
childhood, something that’s your guilty pleasure, this is my culture etc.

If it makes you remember your childhood then you’ll want to share it with
others the same age or from your childhood, so they don’t miss out on those
same shared memories.

Surprise is the most common trait of viral videos

The element of surprise is common to almost every viral video. Why?

Lets go all psychological for a moment.

The more random something is, the higher the synaptic
meaning the more joy you feel.

When a discovery is made, our reward centre goes haywire and wants more, great
ideas and content spark curiosity.

Also, we like surprises. We’re bored. We’ve seen it all. Surprise us!

7. How to distribute your viral video?

Making a great video will help it spread but distributing it is part of the

Get those taste makers and influencers who care about that topic to spread it
to their user base.

We’ve got an entire series of articles on that! The content distribution
series of strategies and tactics the masters use to get
That’s right.

One quick note on timing.

Timing can be an important advantage to making videos go
. ‘If you
release something great related to Star Wars, three days before a new Star
Wars film is released, it is guaranteed to get lots of views.’

Also, tap into pop-culture. A catchy song works well. If you’re in the UK then
you know exactly what tune I’m talking about when I say ‘We buy any car’.

8. The real reason why beginners fail

We all know that failure leads to success. You learn faster by failing.

Do you know the real reason why most beginners fail and why some other newbies
make it work and go viral?

Beginners half-ass it

Yep. I do this. You do this. Most of us do this. As Tristan found out while
learning to kite

If you don’t pull hard, your kite moves slowly and gives you less power.
It’s not rocket science, yet 99% of beginners only pulled half way. When
it was my turn, I shut my brain off, and did exactly what the pros were doing.
I pulled hard, and waited for my kite to get low before pulling back. I was
out of the water speeding on my first try.


With these viral videos, we’re going for it.

We’re diving in.

Join us.

Go for it like a pro would.

Your mind comes up with lots of crap. Dump those thoughts in the clown box. No
tricks needed, pass on that rubbish.

Next step? Watch some viral videos on Youtube. Pick viral videos related
to your subject area. That is such an easy source of ideas and motivation.

See you on the other side.



Now, as Beyonce once never said, “If you like it then you shudda put a clap
on it”

Put a clap on it.

Natasha Hoke
Natasha Hoke

Natasha Hoke was Upscope's head of marketing.