Notts County Ladies have gone viral on YouTube.  With more than 5 million YouTube views, Ellen White’s goal against Arsenal has achieved the kind of reach that many content publishers aspire to.

But why did this content goal viral when so many other videos don’t?

Let’s take a look at how videos go viral on YouTube using BT Sport’s footage of the Notts County Ladies vs Arsenal goal as a case study.

YouTube Viral Video Characteristics

Starting with a definition of “viral”

5 million views on YouTube is brilliant, but it isn’t the number of views that defines means “viral.”  Instead, viral is the sharing that takes place, spreading the content from BTSport’s direct audience, onward to their own friends and audiences, and continuing the spread with a ripple effect.

For content to go viral our direct audience has to click and share, and then it is their audience who also need to click and share.

Measuring the viral spread, this YouTube video had 6,616 “thumbs up” likes on YouTube contributing to the viral spread.   Even the 621 YouTube “thumbs down” also contribute to the viral spread. And each of the 741 YouTube comments are spreading the message out to new new audiences. In this example, we are using LinkTally to count the social sharing across social platforms.

Social Sharing of YouTube Video via LinkTally

But the virality isn’t limited to the YouTube platform where the video was published.  The viral spread lead to the content being picked up by other syndicating sites, including APlus which triggered even more dramatic social sharing

YouTube Viral Spread via APlus using LinkTally

The higher volume, higher velocity sharing happened on Facebook and Twitter, not YouTube. And also note that the dying Google+ platform played no part in the viral spread.

In addition to BT Sports YouTube video and the feature on APlus, the video was also picked up on the BBC Sport site, on USAToday, and the Huffington Post.

Great Content:  the basics

Football games and players may appear to be an obvious source of potentially viral content. But BTSport upload masses of YouTube content, and it was this particular video that went viral.

True, it is a beautiful goal, but that alone isn’t enough for it to viral.

The video demonstrates the absolute minimum of good viral content:

  1. It has an emotional connection:  it is likable, we enjoy it, and we want to share it with friends.
  2. It uses classic story telling techniques: we know who the main characters are (the two teams), we know what’s a stake (the goal), and we’re interested in the resolution
  3. Shorter is better. We know what is going on with the first few seconds, and the whole clip is just a minute long

The Winning Headline: “Fake argument leads to incredible free-kick”

This deceptively simple 7 word headline was the kick starter to the viral success, and demonstrates 5 characteristics of successful viral content:

  1. We know we’re going to have a hero taking this incredible free kick.  This is Ellen’s first ever game against her former club after a long period off, and she’s incredible.
  2. We love to hate the villain, the player who staged a fake argument. The twist to the story is the hero and villain are on the same team.
  3. We know what’s at stake, the result of the football match
  4. We know the resolution because we’ve been alerted to the fact the result is “incredible”
  5. And it is an inspiring headline that is uplifting and positive

Further variations of this headline appear on other social sharing sites, also using the Hero | What’s at Stake | Resolution| Uplifting model:

Brilliant Soccer Players Fake Argument, Trick Opponents And Score Goal

Sneaky Notts County Ladies free-kick baffles Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal Ladies Taken For A Ride With Cheeky Notts County Free Kick

The Framing

A great video isn’t enough to go viral.  The video has to be surrounded by the right text to “frame” the message.  This framing text is important to start the viral sharing process, but more importantly travels with the content as it gets shared virally by the audience of our audience, giving context and compelling

  1. We’ve got the great headline, “Fake argument leads to incredible free-kick”
  2. We also have great share text that includes the inspiring message, as well as a question: “Arsenal Ladies are outdone by a training ground free-kick from Notts County. Have you seen this before?”  As the video was subsequently shared the share text was edited by others to “This must have taken some practice” and “Well done, ladies
  3. The share image clearly shows the players on the pitch in the midst of the free-kick action, celebrating their success

 It’s All in the Timing

BT Sport where filming at the right time and the right place to capture the perfect moment.  Could they have planned for this in their marketing plan or content marketing schedule?  Of course not, this is an example of recognising great content that arises on the spur of the moment and capitalising on it

Furthermore, in terms of timing the match happened on a quiet evening without other football news, and then ran viral over the Easter Bank Holiday.

The Key Influencers

One huge advantage that most of us mere mortals don’t have is the power of the BT Sport brand.  This content was published by a powerful online channel and this clearly will give it a huge advantage.

But we all know it isn’t just content from major publishers that goes viral.  The key to viral success is when a social influencer or thought leader shares the content.

Not all social media users are equal, so the benefit to Notts County of superstar Ashton Kutcher sharing the Notts County content with his 17 million fans on Facebook was a further viral spread of 11,734 likes and 2,403 shares

Ashton Shares Viral YouTube Video - Notts County

The next day the video was also shared by rapper Lil Wayne to his 51 million Facebook fans, triggering a further 4,369 shares

LilWayne shares viral YouTube Video - Notts County

Key Lesson for Going Viral on YouTube

  1.  You have to have perfect content to start with, and this, of course, is your greatest challenge. Likeable, inspiring, informative, emotional, but above all else, sharable content.
  2. Write a perfect headline and share text to frame your content
  3. Timing will play an important factor: recency, topicality
  4. Reaching your key influencers who will trigger the viral spread: have a promotional plan to reach out to the most influential social shapers.

If you need help with your don't hesitate to contact us.

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