Is anyone else tired of the word "viral"? Anybody? Bueller?
In my circle, using that horrid word is a red flag for someone who just doesn't "get" digital. I think it's because the word's origin has to do with viruses.
As we know, viruses spread between people like wildfire (whether we like it or not!) If we really reflect on the way the internet works, we find that viral is one of the worst words we could be using to describe this phenomenon.
Content of any kind has no inherent "virility" - a piece of content would stay in the long tail of garbage on the 'net without a conscious decision to share it. It takes someone discovering it, loving it, and choosing to send it to friends that makes it go anywhere at all.
When clients ask you for a "viral" video, it's important to temper expectations and ask a lot of questions. Nothing... no, no amount of cute kittens will guarantee your stuff gets looked at on the internet. (Unless you buy views, which means your content probably sucks anyway. Not to mention it's inauthentic.)
How Things Spread on the Internet
There are some things you can do to up your chances of going "viral." (It even feels gross typing that word.)
The first is to understand why people share things. MIT/USC scholar Henry Jenkins talks about a few things your content needs to do to get some digital love.
1) Strengthen my bond
2) Define our collective identity
3) Give me status
Know your audience and hit one of those three. The other way to up your chances is to allow the content to be spreadable. A bad idea would be to host a video on your own website. Nobody goes there and nobody cares. A better idea would be to host your video on YouTube and embed it in your website. An even better idea would be to find out where your audience likes to watch videos and host it there. And if you don't know all the hipsters are on Vimeo, then I really can't help you. Be transparent. Focus on relationships. Make content that feels good to your audience first, not you.
And stop saying viral, jeez.