WHAT?! 230k+ Views ... Viral Video By Accident?

Story of how my YouTube video went viral by accident to over 230,000 views

On April 5th, 2020 I posted my 71st YouTube video to my channel titled (in all caps of course)


The video runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds.

It discusses the exotic Shoebill, breaking down its origins and unique physique.

The disgusting habit?

The Shoebill defecates on its own legs to keep cool.

I learned about the Shoebill long ago, researching exotic birds in my spare time. Sometime around April 5th, 2020, I listened to a podcast where Joe Rogan discussed the savageness of this stork.

After listening to Joe’s podcast, I knew I had my idea for video 71.

It fit in perfectly with my  3 criteria for “YouTube Worthy” ideas.

Delusions of Grandeur

In addition to meeting my 3 criteria, the Shoebill video had another factor in its favor:

The last video I made based on a Joe Rogan podcast topic was my top performer, earning nearly 30,000 views in its lifetime.

While it didn’t fit into my explainer video style, it had enough topical humor to give it momentum.

In the video I edited together a fictional conversation between Tom Cruise’s Tropic Thunder character, Les Grossman, and Justin Bieber after Bieber challenged Cruise to an MMA fight in real life.  

The promotional strategy for my videos consisted of basically one method: promote them in as many related subreddits as possible.

The Justin Bieber Tom Cruise video took flight in the r/JoeRogan subreddit, earning 1.9K upvotes.

It’s no surprise that I thought I had another winning video on my hands. All I would have to do is promote the Shoebill video in the Joe Rogan subreddit, along with other popular subreddits, and I'd be on my way to thousands of views.

In Reality Viral Don't Come Easy

I posted my video on April 5th, 2020. I shared my video across Reddit, expecting grand returns quickly.

The video got off to a disappointing start.

To put this in perspective, the Justin Bieber Tom Cruise video earned 16,000 views in just under a day, while it took the shoebill video nearly a year to hit the same number.

I took into consideration factors such as the newsworthiness of Justin Bieber wanting to fight Tom Cruise and how the two A-list celebrities would pull more traffic than the lesser known shoebill, but I was still disappointed with the results at first.

Where My Channel Sits Now - How Has It Grown?

Currently I have 79 videos on my channel. 480,000 total views, and nearly 830 subscribers. Almost all my videos have over 1,000 views.

As a testament to my previous point on not being afraid to publish, there is one video that is responsible for these numbers, and it covered a topic that was not trending at the time: “The Shoebill Stork

This video was posted over a year ago on April 5th, 2020. It was one of those videos that I thought would be a high performer, but it didn’t do so well...at first.

The video gradually built up views becoming a top performer in March of 2021.

That’s when it experienced its first boom.  

From March to July, it went from 15,000 to 85,000 views, which was great on it’s own.

Then in July, the bird took flight!

It soared from 85,000 to 231,000 views in one month! Earning me 353 subscribers in its lifetime.  

It is true that success yields more success. These views started coming from a different source: YouTube’s suggested videos and search features.

This was the kind of traction I hoped all my videos would get, becoming their own view generating machines outside of reddit. This all happened a year into the video's lifespan.

The 2nd Wind -

Shortly after reaching the 16,000 view milestone, something strange happened to the shoebill video, which never happened to any of my previous videos: it caught a second wind.

Usually, after promoting my videos on reddit and other social media platforms, views would fizzle out after a few weeks. They would get their initial 1,000 views and wouldn’t change much there after.

However, for some reason, still unbeknownst to me, even after examining the analytics dozens of times, this bird took flight all on its own!

Success seems to breed more success on YouTube, especially when a video starts performing well. Views indicate to YouTube’s algorithm that viewers are interested in watching a particular piece of content. So YouTube takes that video and starts to build impressions around it. You often see these impressions in video recommendations and on the YouTube homepage.

My Shoebill video earned over 1.5 million impressions, and out of those impressions, 11.4% of users clicked on to watch.

The source of traffic changed from external to internal. While Reddit would be the number one source of traffic for most of my videos, most traffic for the shoebill video was coming from inside of YouTube through search and browse features. This is the goal I had for all my YouTube videos: to achieve this level of organic growth, where Reddit is used to get the ball rolling, then the YouTube algorithm takes the reigns.

In Conclusion

I’m still not sure why the shoebill video caught a second wind, but I’m glad it did. The video helped promote some of my other content, building up my subscriber base to 830.

While YouTube is a great platform for creators it is difficult to make a career out of it due to how volatile it is. If I knew the magic behind the shoebill video, I would use it in all my videos moving forward. But unfortunately there is no secret sauce.

To make it on YouTube, or any social media platform, there is only one formula: keep posting content.

The more content you post, the more opportunities you’ll have to capture someone’s attention. Even if you don’t fully believe in your content; if you worked hard and you’re satisfied with the end result, post it. You can never predict the outcome.