Not (entirely) an accident: Going viral requires preparation

Not (entirely) an accident: Going viral requires preparation

Getting a video to go viral on social media is like hitting in baseball: You need to be ready for every single pitch, understand that only a small percentage of swings will yield a base hit and accept that everything has to line up perfectly in order for you to hit a home run.

Newsrooms, like the batting box, are a place where you wait with the knowledge that something will be thrown in your direction. Digital producers need to develop an eye for those good pitches, swing when appropriate and then be ready to reset and go again.

Take as an example our Stay & Play video playlist on Facebook.

We add a few videos to that list every month, focused on content about fun and exciting events happening in the area. We want to celebrate local festivals, reveal the story behind big events and share ways people can get involved.

Content for these items comes from repurposed video, which was originally collected for WCVB’s traditional television stories or episodes of Chronicle. We apply unique graphics and music, designed specifically for social media.

Most of these videos are base hits, garnering tens of thousands of views on the Facebook platform. Occasionally we might hit a double or a triple.

Recently, however, we hit a grand slam — an international viral video that is a perfect example of preparing and executing as a team.

Work on our viral video about the annual greasy pole contest held at St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester began a year earlier, with the observation that a competitor had covered the event. We made a point of putting the event onto our calendar for this year and suggesting it for coverage across multiple platforms.

As with most at-bats, there was more than one swing at this pitch. Our live stream of the event was fine, but it wasn’t a smash.

But by empowering a junior member of the team, we were able to take another swing — and this time hit the home run.

After being published to Facebook on June 29, the hilarious video went viral and has accumulated more than 150 million views on that platform. Tens of millions came from within the United States, but it exploded again when the video jumped to India, where apparently they have a tradition of greasy pole climbing.

We were prepared, we were practiced and, eventually, there was a perfect pitch for our team to hit. That’s enough to make any skipper proud.