When North Carolina father Tommy Jordan set out to teach his daughter a lesson after she posted a bratty rant on Facebook, he probably never intended for the resulting video to go viral.
But go viral it did … big time. As of this writing, Mr. Jordan’s eight-minute response has been up for six days and garnered over 23 million views.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, set aside the next eight minutes take a look. It’s OK, I’ll wait.
What fascinates me about “For the troubled teen” is that it breaks some of the most time-honored rules about viral videos:
Broken Rule #1: Keep it short—under 2 minutes if at all possible.
At over eight minutes, Mr. Jordan’s video is over four times longer than a video “should” be to go viral. So, why does it work? Because telling this particular story requires every second of those eight minutes. Spontaneous as it is, it follows the classic formula that has served storytellers since the ancient Greeks:
- Thesis: Daughter posts rant against parents on Facebook.
- Antithesis: Dad chastises her for posting said rant and systematically refutes her complaints.
- Synthesis: Dad goes all assassin on daughter’s computer.
Broken Rule #2: Add elements of visual interest.
A guy sitting in a chair reading from a piece of paper. From a visual standpoint, that pretty much sums up the first seven minutes and 15 seconds of Mr. Jordan’s video. No PowerPoint slides, no captions, no flying thought bubbles.
So what keeps notoriously ADD-ish YouTubers glued to their monitors for those seven-plus minutes? Content that gets an emotional reaction. Parents of teens around the world could instantly relate to Mr. Jordan’s had-it-up-to-here reaction, while many of those teens themselves expressed horror and disgust. And that’s the stuff viral video is made of, folks.
Broken Rule #3: It’s gotta be cute and/or clever.
Imagine how this video might have ended up had it been turned over to a Madison Avenue marketing firm. It would have been a helluva lot slicker, much more high-concept. In other words, it would have done everything “right” … and would have probably topped out at around 1,000 views.
Again, it’s Mr. Jordan’s raw, unscripted honesty and straightforwardness that makes this video work. As Mark Twain once said, “I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell it myself.”
So, those are my thoughts on 2012’s first viral video; what are yours? Sound off in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!
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