Going viral: More Internet users uploading video content in the hopes of making it big

The first episode of Convos with my 2 Year Old, posted in May, garnered almost one million views in its first day on YouTube. Screenshot/YouTube

TORONTO – Like many parents, Matthew Clarke has had many strange interactions with his two-year-old daughter.

After many “Kids Say the Darndest Things” moments, the Vancouver-based actor, writer and filmmaker began writing down some of his conversations with the toddler.

“I remember one day, sort of stepping back from one of these conversations and thinking, ‘This is a crazy conversation. If she were an adult, she’d be escorted out of the building right now, but because she’s three feet tall and adorable, nobody even blinks an eye,'” said Clarke.

That’s when Clarke teamed up with David Milchard to make a comedic series called Convos with my 2 Year Old, in which Milchard, a grown man, plays Clark’s daughter, reenacting these conversations.

What resulted was a viral sensation.

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The first episode of Convos with my 2 Year Old, posted in May, garnered almost one million views on its first day on YouTube. To date, the video has over 8 million views and Clarke’s channel has over 550,000 subscribers.

A study released Thursday by Pew Research has revealed that as our online video viewing habits grow, so has our desire to “go viral.”

The study found over the past four years, the percentage of adult Internet users who upload or post video online has doubled from 14 per cent in 2009 to 31 per cent today.

WATCH: Toddler’s birthday message for mom goes viral

Thirty-five per cent of adults who said they have posted a video online also said they uploaded the content with the hopes of it going viral – according to Pew Research that equates to 11 per cent of all adult Internet users.

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From musicians like Burlington, Ont.’s Walk Off the Earth (whose Gotye cover now has over 154 million views), to drunken moments caught on tape (like an Alberta man’s impressive a cappella rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody“), our online video viewing habits have proven just about anyone has a chance at becoming the next viral hit.

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But how exactly does one make a viral video?

Truth is, there is no science behind it.

“We really had very modest ambitions for the videos when we started on them,” said Clarke. “The idea of something being a ‘viral hit’ seems so abstract and out of your control.

“It seems crazy to approach a project with the hope of it going viral.”

Clarke admitted they didn’t have much of an attack plan when they uploaded the first episode of Convos with my 2 Year Old – they didn’t have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a plan on how to deal with the popularity of the channel.

The filmmaker credits his team, and their combined experiences in the film industry, for helping to make the web series stand out in one of YouTube’s most popular categories.

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“Beyond that, I think it’s just luck and timing. People really felt compelled to share what we did, it happened to touch a common nerve and we got a lot of coverage very quickly,” said Clarke.

But he cautioned users shouldn’t upload one video to YouTube with the hopes of becoming the next headline-grabbing YouTube star.

“The more you create, the more chance you have of getting lucky,” he explained, “and the better you get. The goal has to be to get better, to do the best work you can. Then your work will naturally stand out, and you’ll have the best chance of it going viral.

“Or just film a cute baby riding a cat around the house while someone gets hit in the groin by a football in the background. Either way.”

Toronto native Lewis Hilsenteger, creator of tech and gadget channel Unbox Therapy, saw gradual success in YouTube viewership over two and a half years, due in part to a focus on social media engagement with his audience.

The channel, where Hilsenteger reveals and reviews tech-related products, now garners about 1,000 new subscribers daily and is on its way to being one of the biggest Canadian-made channels on the platform.

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“A lot of people think if they make a great video it will get views and get out there,” Hilsenteger told Global News. “But in order to get out there you have to have a unique approach to distributing that content. You have to treat YouTube as a social network, rather than just a video content system, and treat your viewers as a network of friends.”

Hilsenteger noted there are specific advantages in having a channel related to technology and product reviews, because people are already searching for these products online – making it easier for his videos to organically appear in search results.

But, at just over 600,000 subscribers, Hilsenteger’s fan following is impressive.

“Some channels have the ability to go viral but don’t have the ability to hold views,” he said, noting that uploading almost every day is key to holding viewer interest.

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