When you see the viral videos like those crazy stunts by daredevils swinging in a canyon, insane slingshot weapons and countless others, you might wonder if -- and how -- these people are making a career out of it? With so many individuals maintaining a regular presence on the video-sharing site, it begs the question, "Can one can truly make a living off of content posted on YouTube?"
According to viral video guru Dallin Smith, the marketing manager with Consulting Virality, a company that works with viral regulars like daredevil cinematographer Devin Graham (Devin Super Tramp) and others to promote their content, the answer is, "Yes."
YouTube for the last eight years has opened a backdoor for many to enter the entertainment and information industry. But it's a little more complicated than just generating advertising revenue from videos that do well on the Google-owned site. It all goes back to creating content that has viral potential in the first place.
What Makes Something Go Viral?
In less than a decade, the word "viral" came to mean something other than a contagious sickness. When used in conversations today, it's more likely to mean a picture, story or video being shared rapidly across the Web.
When we asked Smith what makes something go "viral," he said there is one thing all viral content has in common -- emotion.
This compilation of images from Consulting Virality's Facebook page shows the various projects they helped work on and promote. Although all striking different notes, they would have have some sort of emotional connection for a specific audience that could help them go viral.
"There is not any one specific key ingredient to making a viral video. A lot of different channels capture different ideas and interests," the 27-year-old entrepreneur said. "If there's one thing that can tie it all together, it's an emotion."
Graham's channel, for example, features adrenalin-pumping stunt videos, many of which we've brought to readers on TheBlaze before. But other videos from different channels and individual YouTube users can target different emotions. There are those that pull at heart strings, those that get you thinking, some that answer questions and others that are just hilarious.
When a client approaches Consulting Virality -- a company founded in March 2012 by Cameron Manwaring and formally established under its current name in December -- Smith said the first question they ask is, "Why do you want a viral video?" It's important to start from the beginning, he said, in order to establish a truly "organic," emotion-based method to help something go viral.
By this Smith means content being spread and gaining popularity by on the Web by its own merit, not some system being paid to help it generate clicks.
Pay for clicks? Like the spoof video "Buyral," the service that showed how people wanting their video to go viral could buy clicks? Smith told us that while Buyral might have been a joke, paying for clicks is something that actually happens. The What's Next? Blog highlighted a few of these methods last year:
Brands and agencies pay to go viral – even though it’s against YouTube’s rules.
The majority of marketing and entertainment videos go viral with “seeding help” from companies with names like “Pimp My Views”, 500 views and View Tornado – who claim to be the cheapest on the Internet.
(Image: Pimp My Views website screenshot)
Consulting Virality works with YouTubers on viral campaigns.
"The goal is to take viral concepts and 1) create the videos and 2) be a [public relations] representative for viral content."
Watch this local news story featuring the new company:
How Viral Videos Are Changing the Industry
What's also interesting about the nature of viral videos, Smith said, is that it is allowing people to turn what they love doing into a livelihood.
"Most people just started posting videos just because they wanted to," Smith said. "Now it's about making what we love into our life."
We all know of Justin Beiber who got his start on YouTube and the South Korean rapper Psy whose song "Gangnam Style" became immensely popular and beat out Beiber's YouTube domination last year.
But there is so much more happening on YouTube sparking people's careers.
Take Scott Winn. Initially in film school thinking he wanted to be a cinematographer and director for feature films and TV, Winn just last year made a short comedic video showing cats flying in slow motion. It has been six months and the video has more than 3.5 million views on YouTube (1 million of those views came within one week):
Things snowballed for him from there.
"It totally changed my whole perspective and how I am doing everything," Winn said.
His new focus on making viral videos it isn't driving Winn away from his initial dream, though. He said it's bringing him closer to it, but in a different way.
Then there's the story of Lindsey Stirling. Smith explained to us that Stirling wanted to start a band where she with her violin was the lead performer. But this idea was rejected in traditional camps.
Then Devin Super Tramp uploaded this video of Stirling called Epic Violin Girl in 2011:
Stirling now has her own YouTube channel lindseystomp whose collective videos have a total of more than 275 million views. What's more, she has since topped iTunes and has gone on tours as the lead musician, selling out shows.
“Before I learned of the world of YouTube, I tried the traditional, non-social media route,” Stirling told Forbes in a feature last year. “I feel like I tried everything. I submitted videos and applications to talent agencies and TV shows, I drove to Vegas and visited agents, I was on America’s Got Talent, I played for free at venues in attempts to be “found” and yet all the experts in the entertainment industry told me that what I did was not marketable and that I had to join a group or do more traditional music.”
Lindsey Stirling (Photo: Wikimedia)
"I know record labels are scared because of people like Lindsey," Smith said.
But the traditional industry is adapting too. Take Simon Cowell's latest talent competition. "The You Generation"competition, which started last month and will go throughout the year, and is based entirely on YouTube videos. Watch how the competition works:
Overall, Smith said he envisions sites like YouTube and the viral phenomenon giving more people with great ideas opportunities they might otherwise not have had in the future.
To get more info about Consulting Virality check out its Facebook page and stay tuned for its official website coming in May.
This story has been updated for clarification.