How to Make a Viral Video With the HERO System


What if I told you that I had a system that ensures every single video that you made had the potential to go viral? This methodology is called the HERO System. I created this when I was running a big video team at New York Magazine as a way to train staff members. When I was first in the world of publishing, I used to think I knew a lot of the stuff already from listening to my gut feelings. But how was I supposed to build a strong team solely off of my gut feelings? I needed to develop a system in which everybody had an equal chance of going viral all the time. This is exactly where the HERO System came from.

Let’s begin by going through each step in this system. The H in the HERO system stands for Hook. So the hook is all about how you start your video. When you’re doing a video on social media, the first three to five seconds have to be absolutely incredible. They have to be amazing so you blow people away. There’s two ways you can do this, either by having crazy visuals or by putting whatever footage you have that’s the best of the best goes right at the front. Don’t wait for it, people won’t get to the end of the video anyways most likely. So it’s all based around sharing, you want people to share your content right away and you want to give them a chance to share it before they even watch the whole thing. This is how it goes viral since sharing is really our currency here, not views. If you don’t have a crazy good visual, what you want to do then is fly in a headline that’s extremely empathetic and really cuts to the core of the story angle. This is a way to get people into the video, even if they don’t have good visuals because you’re speaking directly to them.

The E in HERO stands for Empathy. I’m personally obsessed with the concept of empathy which is why I called my book, Producing Empathy. I really feel that at the end of the day, the reason why all of these videos I have created have racked up billions and billions of views is because people saw themselves in them. They saw a mirror and they were brought into the fold, it was all empathy, emotional intelligence, it was feeling in other people what you feel in yourself and making them feel that you feel these same things. This is what people will click on, this is what they will watch so it’s important for it to be the absolute core of every single video that you make online.

The R in HERO stands for Response. When I’m talking about response here, I’m talking about emotional response, so this means not a passive response where you may feel an emotion and go on with your day. It has to be an emotion that people feel and it urges them to take actions that are very closely tied to empathy once again. Empathy does a lot of the work for you, but actually response is much more nuanced than that. With emotional response, you’re actually feeling a type of empathy which gets something inside the viewer to want to share that content. So, what I’m talking about here is something where people feel like they’re doing a service to the world. A service to you specifically by sharing it with others and having others feel the same way they   did when watching this video.

The O in HERO stands for Overdeliver. There’s an abundant amount of content out there now today so it’s incredibly difficult to compete. Therefore, you need to make sure that the level of value that you deliver to people in every single piece of video that you create is at least a 7 out of 10. A lot of other people are going to be making the same types of video that you’re making, it just happens that they’re not all going to be using this Hero system. So, you’re in a really good place but you still need to overdeliver on value. People search for video content looking for value as they’re scrolling through their feeds on Facebook or Instagram. They want value, they want to feel something even though they wouldn’t admit it. They also are not thinking about if they want to feel something, so what you need to do is give them crazy amounts of value. Sometimes if you’re planning to tell a story, that means you add an extra five minutes of your time googling to add that extra layer of value on top to provide more context.

All of this information is what makes the HERO System so powerful. If you got value from this blog/video please subscribe to my channel! I’ve got so many more tips on viral video for you so stay tuned for the next video.




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Matt Johnston and Allie Bloyd