What did you think of Caine’s Arcade? Didn’t it warm your heart and make you smile? If so, you’re not alone. It warmed the hearts and put smiles on the faces of several million people — all within a few days thanks to the Internet!

Caine’s Arcade is an example of what’s called a viral video. In the wintertime, viral is a word you probably don’t want to hear. Children spreading viruses from one person to another can lead an entire classroom to be sick at one time.

If you’re an Internet marketer or someone who wants everyone in the world to see your latest YouTube video, then viral is a word you love. Today, “going viral” refers to the sharing of something — often a video or a website link — via email or social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter.

viral videos can consist of just about anything. Many are funny videos that make people laugh. Others may contain actual events that just happened to be caught on camera. The common theme of viral videos is that they’re interesting and they inspire people to share them with their friends.

Many of today’s smart phones contain video cameras. This allows just about anyone to shoot a quick video of what’s going on around them. Popular video sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, allow users to upload their videos directly to their sites from their phones.

Once a video is uploaded, many people post a link to their video on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Friends can watch their video and then share it with other friends. Before long, a video can have hundreds and even thousands of views.

The most popular viral videos can generate millions of views within a matter of days. viral videos started circulating by email long before video sites, such as YouTube, became popular. The term “viral video” didn’t come around until 2009, when it was first used to describe the video “David after Dentist.”

viral videos can turn formerly-unknown YouTube users into Internet celebrities overnight. Having a video go viral is promotion that marketers wish they could buy. Unfortunately, the very nature of going viral means that you can’t predict what will go viral and you can’t just make it happen.

That doesn’t stop people from trying, though. Many musicians will make release videos to Internet websites with the hope that the video will go viral and lead to increased popularity. Most viral videos will quickly inspire copycat videos from users hoping to latch on to the original video’s success.

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