Debunking Viral Myths – What Videos Really Share

by Thomas MORADPOUR on January 24, 2011 · 4 comments

Anyone interested in the intersection of Advertising and Social should go spend some time on the Most Contagious Content Ranking site.

A collaboration between Unruly Media and Contagious, this site ranks viral videos and branded content worldwide, based on the amount of times it has been posted on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Don’t confuse this with the number of views – what this great site measures is the number of times content has been shared, which is the strongest indication of its appeal and viral power.

Of course, views are what advertisers and content producers are ultimately after – but content that gets shared is significantly more powerful than content that is just broadcasted. I’m not saying that because it’s free for the author – it’s more powerful because it’s brokered by a source you trust more than the author himself: most likely by friend or family. It matters.

Spend some time on this site, you won’t regret it. Here’s a few things you’ll learn.


That’s how many times Eminem’s ‘Love The way You Lie‘ has been shared, the highest on record so far for a single piece of content.
In total, the video has been viewed a total of 294 million times, roughly 50 views for every share. Without suggesting a direct causation between the two metrics, this is a significant ratio.

Eminem’s hit is leaps ahead of the 3.8 million shares of its closest challenger (‘Waka Waka‘ by Shakira), and 2.5 million of #3… yet another Eminem track, ‘Not Afraid’. As a side note, Eminem seems to be quite the sharing superstar, ahead of the two names I would have expected to see come on top: Bieber (#6 with 2.4 million) and Lady Gaga (#8 with close to 2 million).

No doubt this 6 milion shares record will be challenged in 2011, as Facebook and other social networks continue to make online video mainstream. But right now, that’s how much a top video gets shared trough Facebook, Twitter and blogs.


Actually, let me rephrase that last statement.
That’s how much a top video gets shared… on Facebook.

Going through the video ranking, things get more interesting as you can dig deeper into where shares come from. And fact is, shares come almost exclusively from Facebook, lightyears ahead of Tweets and blogs. Still according to Unruly Media, 46 year’s worth of YouTube videos are watched every day on Facebook!

Facebook is truly the kind of video social sharing.


The most striking fact here, is how sharing charts are overwhelmingly dominated by music, despite all the hype for viral content, Old Spice men and shooting bears included.

In the “All Time” top, you’ll need to scroll down to #36 to find the first non-musical entry: ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ (993,819 shares).
In fact, out of the top 100 most shared videos ever, 95 are music videos, only 5 are not.

And it doesn’t look like this is changing in 2011 – in the last 30 days ranking, a meagre 7 videos are not music videos. Quite the pattern there.


Exactly three ads feature in the top 100 most viral videos ‘of all times’.

The best performer is Evian Roller babies, my great friend Michael Aidan’s masterpiece of a campaign, which comes in at rank #70 with 635,375 shares. If I wanted to push it, I’d argue that this spot is actually still a music video – with choreographed babies dancing on rollers to the beat of Rappers Delight (great track!!!).

Also placing, the other two are clearly not music pieces – there’s Nike ‘Write The Future’ brilliant football campaign during FIFA WC 2010, and DC Shoes founder Ken Block’s ‘Gymkhana 3′ (insane show of driving skills, a must watch).

And that’s it!

Quite fortunately, despite being less that 5% of the global viral Top 100, adverts get their own ranking.
This helps understand a bit more what works for branded content, and who the strong players are - Evian, Nike, DC Shoes are on the podium (of course). Followed closely by brands such as Old Spice (spoofs included), Heineken, Axe, Bud, Pepsi (yay!)…


That takes me to my final observation – what strikes me is how low the bar is to make it into the top “viral ads”.

  • 45,000 shares… and you’re in the all-time-best ranking (vs half a million for the overall video ranking).
  • 10,000 shares… you’re in the ranking for the year ( vs 370,000).

Weekly is even easier – this week, two out of my three brand new International Pepsi Max ads broke into the global Top 100, with respectively 182 and 107 shares. Not a lot, don’t you think?

While I certainly hope my ads will rise far above and make it to the Hall of Fame, the fact remains that they made it through because most ads don’t even get 100 shares.

And that’s the learning.

Related Posts:

  • Heidi Cohen

    Tom–Great point about what’s shared and where. In this context, shares are like Frederick F. Reichheld’s “The One Number You Need to Grow” (Harvard Business Review). In Reichheld’s case, it was customer referrals. In the social media sphere, shares equal referrals. Most of the top videos are entertainment which is why we watch tv and movies. For marketers, the point is that your branded content must fulfill consumers’ needs and entertainment is high on that list.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen

    • Anonymous

      Fully agree – entertainment is a great trojan horse for marketers.
      Thanks Heidi for your build!

  • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    Hi Tom

    I love this stuff and am going to check the site out after this.

    Curious about the Facebook numbers. They are recording just clicks right? Meaning I post the link and then someone clicks share to their wall? I see a lot of videos posted on Facebook. I fit the average Facebook user who only watches about 4 per month or less.

    As for actually views when it comes to music I am 43. I know some 20 year old’s who You Tube is their music station. They search for songs they like and play the video over and over. Since you are on the Brand side are you more interested in uniques or gross total of views?


  • Pingback: The Worst Viral Marketing Of All Times

Previous post:

Next post: