Viral video: A DIY guide

Want 15 minutes of fame? Try 90 seconds. Here are the essential components of a great viral video, regardless of length.

Now that YouTube officially supports 15-minute videos, Andy Warhol's dictum that we'd all be famous for 15 minutes has proven more than a little prescient. Viral video is nothing to scoff at. There's more than just page-view bragging rights at stake--there's real money to be made. (Get popular enough, and YouTube will cut you in on ad revenue.)

Of course, making a Web video that really clicks with the digerati isn't easy. We're here to help, having ferreted out the top themes that make a video go viral. It isn't rocket science. It's art, luck, and, usually, a lot of simple stupidity.

Here are the essential components of a successful viral video.

Singing

YouTube was made for short clips, and the pinnacle of that genre is the music video. More than one big-name musical act got their start here through viral video, and you can too. The catch is this: Unless you're a professional (if you don't already know whether you are a professional, we assure you, you're not), the worse you sing, the more popular you're likely to be. Lyrics are important. By that we mean they must be absolutely horrible.

Don't forget to move away from the mic to breathe in.

Dancing

Seriously, my mother is still sending me "Evolution of Dance" four years after Judson Laipply originated it.

People love dancing. Just look at the popularity of Dancing with the Stars. Yes, most people tune in to watch the biggest train wrecks of the celebrity C-list derail, but they're also dancing.

Better than simply busting a move, of course, is dancing in an unexpected place. Breakdancing in line at the supermarket? Good. Arranging a "Thriller" jam at grandpa's funeral? Even better.

The only problem with the dance video? Dancing is hard. Check The Learning Annex for lessons near you.

Injury

Did you know that America's Funniest Home Videos is still on the air? Season 21 starts later this month, and that show is nothing but nut shots. Why are injuries so popular? It takes so little talent to pull one off. Anyone can fall down a flight of stairs, try to jump a motorcycle over a house, or skateboard into a Dumpster. Just be spectacular, whatever you do. See also: Jackass.

Animals

The zoo is your friend, but be patient. Although all of God's creatures are prone to hilarious behavior, rarely will they entertain on command. Train your camera on something that offers potential comedic value and hope for the best, such as a panda with seasonal allergies or a rodent with a proven penchant for the dramatic. Naturally your own pet can provide endless amounts of amusement, especially cats. The Japanese seemingly take endless pleasure in seeing cats get in and out of boxes, and your kitty can certainly do that with a little encouragement. Also consider what you have in your possession that your dog or cat's head could possibly get stuck in.

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Christopher Null

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