Tips to Scoring a Viral Video from a Pro

This is the first of a two-part post on crowdfunding pitch videos. I got lucky and nabbed the smart and talented John Trigonis, artist, writer, filmmaker and film specialist for Indiegogo. He’s going to weigh in next time on how filmmakers can use the pitch video to their best advantage. So stay tuned!

Part 1

People are constantly asking , How can I make a crowdfunding viral video? Though pros like Upworthy have done their best to deconstruct the process there’s still no magic bullet.

But we may have gotten one step closer. Or so I thought when I got this week’s issue of New York magazine and read a piece that simplified the steps in many helpful ways.

We’ve all watched America’s Funniest Home Videos, right? And we’ve laughed, often despite ourselves?  The reason for this, I learned, is one person: Richard Connor, the supervising editor of the show.

In an illuminating visual chart of screen grabs accompanied by Connor’s commentary, he shares the secret sauce that’s kept the show on ABC for 25 years, as of this Fall, despite fierce Internet competition.

I’ve distilled from Connors tips the ones that I think are applicable to making a crowdfunding pitch video with an eye to virality.

In order to illustrate these suggestions in real terms, I’m using my all-time favorite pitch video. So watch it first and then read the comments that follow below.

Note: The tips are Connor’s, the commentary is mine.

Genius, right? Let’s apply the principles to crowdfunding video making.

Set the tone right away

Crap is an inherently funny word for pretty much all human beings no matter age, gender, race, or ethnicity. (If you don’t find it to be a funny word you simply may not be viral video material, at least not the funny kind.) Notice how the video immediately shows us what we’re getting ourselves into by the text on the screen:

What if every crap you took made a difference.

You’re happy already, aren’t you? But pay attention to those final words: made a difference. For purposes of a pitch video, those words make us feel that we’re in good hands; the video creator isn’t going for gratuitous laughs. It’s scatological humor, sure—but for a cause. Very important distinction.

Get the music right

I love the upbeat music they selected as an opener. It feels to me like a throwback from an “I Love Lucy” episode or some other classic TV show we tend to watch when we need a lift. I think going classic is a smart move because we’re all familiar with those fluffy-happy sit-com numbers; it washes over us instead of hitting us too hard. If the music makes too strong a statement on its own it’s going to compete with your video. You don’t want to risk that.

Sweeten with sound effects

Who Gives a Crap uses the best sound effects throughout the video. Here are some highlights:

Starting at about 8 seconds a motif emerges: whenever Mr. Aussie ticks off a benefit it’s illustrated with a pull on the TP roll and that wonderful sparkly sound effect. (It may be a xylophone but I’m not sure. If anyone knows, please let me know!)

At around the one-minute mark, Mr. Aussie gets serious and begins to talk about the fact that relieving ourselves is not always a pleasant experience for many people in the world. He highlights this by using another familiar sound effect in a minor chord. (Actually, I’m pretty sure this sound is produced by a xylophone.)

About 20 seconds later, Mr. Aussie sets yet another mood: As he begins to describe how his toilet paper can help make the world a better place, the music morphs into another classic genre. This time a gentle but hip jazz ditty—complete with finger snapping and brush stick drumming!

He also makes great use of an absence of all music, followed by an echo effect, when he wants to make a vital point. An example begins around 2:25 when he makes his ask and throws down the gauntlet to “sit down for what he believes in.”

Talk about dramedy!

Finally, not only the music but also the visuals transforms one last time, at 2:40, when we see him on a mocked-up “video feed.” The music gets tinny and the screen gets grainy. And belly laughs ensue.

Surprise is your friend

Between the smart script, with a joke or a pun subtley lobbed at us just about every other sentence, these guys keep us on our toes. I’d encourage you to watch it several times. With each viewing I manage to find one more funny turn of phrase that got by me the time before.

Chronoligical surprises:

The first surprise comes about 8 seconds in when the camera zooms out and we see a conservative red-headed Aussie sitting on a toilet in a large, exposed warehouse, pants bunched around his ankles. (He’s dressed in a khaki suit, pin-striped shirt and sweater vest. Would it work as well if he looked like a slacker dude? No way.)

The next surprise comes at about 1:39 when Mr. Aussie tosses the role of TP to his partners—who are also sitting on thrones in what looks like the interrupted privacy of their own homes. Hi-larious!

The third one comes when we see him in a “live video feed,” which I discuss further above.

Keep it short

The video clocks in under three minutes, and there’s not an ounce of fat in it. High praises for that.

Finish strong

Bit of help?

I just love that closing line! It’s strong,  yet subtle at the same time. It’s an Aussie colloquialism—no dumbing it down for an American audience—and that not only shows confidence but it also serves as an inside joke for whomever happens to pick it up.

In case you’re an AFHV fan, here’s the New York article in full.

How to Use Soft Skills to Boost Audience Support

 Tip of the Week

Have you seen this video making the rounds? It’s called ExFEARiential and it’s a parody on making memorable branding.

Pretty great, right? It got me thinking how high the stakes have gotten when it comes to capturing the attention of an audience in the crowded space of online fundraising. Most of us have the inclination to go the earnest route. This is probably because we hear over and over again how important it is to gain an audience’s trust.

But trust encompasses many things, and you can gain trust through well-developed soft skills—those personality traits that can include qualities like friendliness, optimism, and being comfortable in your own skin. Feeling a little awkward? Use that in a positive way.

Humor is a great soft skill to nurture. So if you have a product or idea that lends itself to some well-placed humor, I say go for it.  Here are some examples to aspire to.

To Continue reading please go to my Tip of the Week column on