Viral videos have been a popular form of online content since the early days of the internet, but it’s only in recent decades that people have been able to build entire careers around popular video content.
Making money with viral videos is by no means easy, but there are several steps you can take to maximize the chances of your content’s success, improve its capacity for monetisation, and harness the potential for your earnings.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how viral videos build their success, and what you’ll need to know when you’re trying to make money from viral videos.
What Are Viral Videos?
Viral videos are any examples of online video content that experience an immediate surge in popularity shortly after they’re published. The success of most viral videos doesn’t come from traditional marketing techniques and promotion, but through widespread sharing by the people who first view them.
This quick dissemination of the video passing from one person to another through online word-of-mouth marketing has been compared to the spread of a contagious virus, hence the name “viral video”.
Understanding the Monetization Potential of Viral Videos
There was a time when viral videos had no monetization potential whatsoever, other than the occasional promotional collaborations from big brands. Today, viral videos have huge potential to make their owners money, which can be accomplished in a verity of different ways:
- Advertising, the most common form of monetization, where platforms like YouTube allow advertisers to pay for space at the beginning or middle of videos.
- Brand partnerships, where a brand finds a content creator whose audience aligns with theirs, and pays them directly to promote their product or service as part of their video.
- Merchandise sales, where creators sell original products to their fanbase.
- Exclusive paid content, distributed through platforms like Patreon. Typically, viral content acts as a promotional touchpoint that allows creators to funnel viewers towards paid exclusive content.
Steps to Make Money with Viral Videos
Figuring out how to make money with viral videos isn’t easy, and most creators who achieve it do so after a long period of trial and error while they develop their online presence.
Analysing past examples of viral content, however, we can map out several essential steps content creators can take to maximize their chances of viral video monetization.
Step 1: Creating Engaging and Shareable Content
The first, and most difficult step in how to make money with viral videos, is creating content that’s highly sharable and has the potential to go viral. Based on content that’s been successful in the past, this requires a multifaceted approach.
Humour is one of the most universal traits shared by many viral videos. Many of the earliest viral videos were completely unstaged, but there are plenty of scripted videos that manage to reach viral status through the creators’ understanding of comedic timing, cultural references, and the audience’s sense of humor.
Effective storytelling is another great way to help maximize the appeal of your video content and make it as engaging as possible. Well-structured narrative arcs, original and thought-provoking commentary on news stories, or funny and relatable anecdotes, are all established methods for making your content more compelling from a storytelling perspective.
Having some kind of emotional appeal is another effective way you can maximize the chances of your content going viral. Some of the common ways this manifests is through interesting human interest stories, cute animal videos, or exhilarating extreme sports footage.
Step 2: Building a Strong Online Presence
While early YouTube creators had the advantage of breaking into a relatively young media format, YouTube is now the world’s biggest video sharing platform, and home to countless content creators all vying for their share of an even larger pool of users.
Some of the techniques you can use to build a strong online presence on YouTube include:
- Using concise and attention-grabbing titles for your YouTube videos, optimized for popular search terms, to help encourage visibility and clicks.
- Encouraging your audience to subscribe in your content to build a community and increase exposure for every new piece of content you publish.
- Branding your YouTube channel page to communicate a distinct identity that appeals to your target audience.
- Using video tags to your advantage to maximize exposure.
Step 3: Promoting Your Videos
Simply publishing video content and waiting for it to be discovered isn’t going to bring in any serious success. The more people who see your video from the outset, the more likely they’ll be to share this content with their friends and family, and push your content over the line into viral territory.
Sharing your videos across various social media platforms is often an effective way of promoting your content to a larger pool of users. Bear in mind that you may need to reformat your long-form content into something that’s better suited to the various platforms you’re planning to promote it on, for example by cutting its run time and adding dynamic subtitles for Instagram or TikTok.
Collaborating with other content creators in your category can also be an effective way of promoting your content, providing you and the partner a mutually beneficial arrangement where you expose each other’s videos to the other’s audience.
As you publish your videos, it’s also important to interact directly with your audience, by responding to comments, running Q&As, and otherwise fostering a sense of community. This will help people stay engaged, and make viewers more likely to share your content.
Step 4: Monetizing Your Videos
Once you’ve achieved some engagement from your videos and noticed them starting to get shared, you’ll be ready to start actually monetising your videos.
As we mentioned earlier, there are several ways that you can make money with viral videos through YouTube’s platform, including:
- YouTube ads, the most traditional form of monetization, which involves advertisers paying for space before or during your videos to promote their content. This is mostly automated by YouTube’s own ad platform, and content creators receive an invitation to join the program when they reach a certain views threshold.
- Paid sponsorships, which are arranged privately between you and a sponsor. Brands may reach out to you through your public social channels with an offer for paid sponsorship, but creators looking to make money with viral videos can also solicit sponsorships themselves. To do this, you’ll need to craft a pitch to potential sponsors who you share an audience with, showing your content and YouTube analytics figures to frame your channel as a good investment.
- Affiliate marketing platforms, where you send traffic to a sponsor’s website from your videos through an affiliate link, and earn commission for each click. Though this monetisation system generally doesn’t pay as well as sponsorship deals, they’re often far more accessible, with many affiliate programs having designated application processes for content creators.
- Channel membership, a relatively new system where dedicated fans can enter a monthly paid subscription to support your channel and gain access to special perks, such as live private chats, exclusive videos, and product discounts.
- Merchandise, where you sell products like t-shirts, mugs, and other physical products branded using your channel’s assets. You can sell merchandise directly through YouTube’s platform once you have 10,000 or more subscribers, but many creators sell their products through their own online stores before hitting this milestone, and use their videos to promote it.
Tips for Maximizing Earnings from Viral Videos
Once you’ve seen enough success from your videos to start with monetization, there are still various steps you can take to improve on this model and maximise your earnings.
Here are a few ways to make sure you’re getting the best possible return on your efforts as you make money with viral videos:
- Diversify your revenue streams. While monetization through YouTube’s partner program is easy to set up and manage, you shouldn’t be neglecting other potential sources of income. Be sure to explore the potential in affiliate programs, merchandise, live events, and other potential revenue streams to maximize your profits.
- Engage with your audience. As with any content-sharing platform, the best YouTube creators maintain their success by building a loyal community around their online persona. You can do this by continuously engaging with your audience with each video you post, maintaining two-way communication, and showing your audience that you’re dedicated to making content they love.
- Continuously improve and experiment. YouTube moves fast, and just because you have a runaway success with one or two videos doesn’t mean that you should centre your entire YouTube strategy around it. As you work on planning and publishing content, remember to explore new possibilities, keep on top of trends, and try new topics, formats, and production styles to carry on improving your content.
The rewards of monetising viral videos can be great, but achieving this requires a strategic outlook, a creative mindset, and lots of determination. We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of what it takes to create and monetize viral videos, and how you can turn your own content ideas into a profitable online venture.