Be A Virus, Not Viral – YouTube For Social Good

Jaz Cummins

By Jaz Cummins

In Blog, Empower Life, Moments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Be a virus, not viral.” – that was my favourite takeaway from the YouTube for Social Good event that took place at Google’s new offices in Kings Cross, London.

The event brought together guest speakers from channels that have been successful in using YouTube for social good to discuss storytelling, audience development, social movements and power of video, including Shabnam from SoulPancake and Jason Yee from the Jubilee Project.

The two keynotes were followed by a panel discussion between YouTube creators, discussing how they’ve used YouTube for social good. The panel of creators included Hannah Witton, Rowan Ellis, FunForLouis, Jana Vlogs and Ms Anne Green.

Here are a few notes I took from the event, with plenty of ideas for how you can use YouTube to create social good.


SoulPancake make stuff that makes you think, laugh, and cry – including shows like Kid President, My Last Days, Metaphysical Milkshake, 0-100, Science of Happiness, Top of the Monday, and BRICK X BRICK.

They encouraged us to “speak your mind, unload your questions, and figure out what it means to be human” and had the following tips on how to make your videos a success on YouTube:

  • Don’t take accidental hits as predictive. For example, Kid President blew up after 8 months of them posting weekly videos
  • “Be a virus, not viral” – You can’t create a viral video, but you can invest and create regular storytelling and momentum
  • Viral videos are one big moment, not a strategy – often they don’t result in ongoing high views / engagement for a channel
  • Build content consistently, so when you do go viral, you’re ready to engage your new audience with other videos
  • Engagement builds momentum – so beyond comment engagement, revisit videos your audience loved before and mine those videos for content that can reflect current issues
  • People tell you what they want via views, so make sure you are mining your analytics and know your audience
  • People want to spread inspiration and awe – this is the key feature of viral content over last 10 years

Jubilee Project

Jubilee Project is exists to tell stories that inspire change. They make short films and documentaries in collaboration with non-profits to increase awareness and inspire action. Their vision is to produce entertaining content that will empower, enable, and inspire others to do good.

Here’s what they had to say about using YouTube for social good:

  • Simplify your videos – focus on one key takeaway or action per video
  • This means that you may feel like you’re losing opportunities and that you may have to fight this internally, but you’ll actually deliver your key message, instead of failing to deliver five competing ones
  • If you ask people to do multiple things, they will ignore all of those actions. Better to have one ask only.
  • Integrate your action into the video – try making your one ask a like or share, then get major donors to match fund each share or like with a donation
  • Young people want to be part of a movement – aim for that feeling with the videos you create

Both creators, when asked whether they still focus on YouTube or other platforms, said:

“YouTube is still a home for creators, library and audience, but we adjust as needed to reach as audiences grow into Facebook, or new audiences feed in from SnapChat.”

YouTube for Social Good

Here’s what the YouTube team had to say at the event:

  • Having a YouTube content strategy is essential – explore their great guide for more details on creating yours:
  • For YouTube and the creators, a hit is a series of videos, not a one-off viral success
  • It can help to plan your videos with block filming in mind, where you plan a series you can make three episodes of a video in one day, which helps with cost management
  • Develop presenters who can connect authentically with your audiences

This last point is a huge point we’ve heard mentioned in every conversation with YouTube in the last few years.

Developing presenters who can connect with your audience, speak in their language and discuss the topic with them – vlogger style – is consistently recommended.

This does come with many challenges for not-for-profits, around resourcing, budget, and around messaging and consistency.

But developing a presenter that your audiences gets to know is clearly worth considering as a route to reconnecting with YouTube audiences, and as a content approach is equally applicable to other platforms such as Facebook.

Want more on how to use video on social media? Download our free guide now!


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