MEOW! What can online activist learn from cat videos on Youtube?

I love cat videos. They are my go-to choice on Youtube. My usual search terms are “cats doing cute things“, “talking cats” and “sleeping kittens“. I am easy to please.

While cat videos may seem like a guilty pleasure to some they actually hold the key to successful online advocacy. Who would’ve thought?

Jessica Mason of YouTube for Good asks: one, why are cat videos so popular on Youtube; and two, what can nonprofits learn from them? What would happen if social good organisations could create advocacy videos that have the same appeal as Simon’s Cat?

Simon’s Cat is the most popular cat on Youtube. His channel has over 1 million subscribers and his videos have been watched more than 300 million times. But the prize for top cat in 2011 went to ‘Cat mom hugs baby kitten’ with over 40 million views.

There must be something then that cat videos do right. Something that makes them go viral and attract millions of viewers. If nonprofits could do what cat videos do they could share their messages with many more people. What can we learn from cat videos when we think about making advocacy videos?

Jessica explains that most of these videos use animation, little language, humour and beautiful story telling to convey their messages. It is this simple formula that make videos about cats, animals and babies do well. All of these videos make boundaries, languages and cultural barriers irrelevant.

Drawing from the success of cat videos she suggests three tips for online advocacy videos.

  1. Tell universal stories
  2. Engage regularly
  3. Be surprising, orginal and action packed

The only other tip I would suggest is: keep it short! You have a fleeting moment to get a person’s attention before they click away.

You can watch her full presentation online.

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