Jimmy Donaldson, 23, popularly known as MrBeast, is the king of virality, topping the lists of most viewed and highest paid creators on YouTube.
His 50-person company operates six YouTube channels, including MrBeast and Beast Reacts, which alone have more than 100,000,000 subscribers.
Other content creators close to his rank include David Dobrik, the ninth most-paid YouTuber, and Dude Perfect, the third most-paid YouTuber, who also feature high-level stunts and large sums of money in their videos.
Copying YouTube content is a widespread disease in the creator world and many have tried replicating MrBeast’s formula, too — trying to replicate the idea, thumbnail or the catchy caption.
Has Donaldson cracked the formula for going viral? Let’s dive into it.
The viral recipe
Born in Greenville, North Carolina, Donaldson created his first channel in 2012. In order to crack the algorithm, he cycled through different types of videos like livestreaming, uploading funny video compilations or commenting on YouTube drama.
It was in 2018 when he finally found his niche that helped him go viral every single time — stunt philanthropy. His video “Hit The Target, Win $300,000” earned over 80 million views and video “I Gave People $1,000,000 But Only 1 Minute To Spend It!” earned close to 94 million views.
In an interview with YouTuber CoffeeZilla, Donaldson broke down what it takes to create a viral video.
There are a few things that set him apart — one of them is spending large sums of money.
“We spend half a million to a million dollars a video. Normal people spend $1,000 or $10,000,” he said.
But that’s not all; his team spends a lot of time brainstorming and filming content. “Sometimes we’re filming for three or four days, like 10 hours a day, while most creators film for a couple of hours a day,” he said. “By doing all of those things, it distinctively sets us apart.”
But most importantly, “YouTube’s biggest philanthropist” understands the bigger picture. “Every time you think of the word ‘algorithm,’ replace it with ‘audience,’” said Donaldson. “The algorithm didn’t like my video? No, it’s the audience.”
The art of going steady
YouTube values a click-through rate (the number of clicks a video receives) as a metric, but viewer retention is also crucial. And MrBeast does that through “Jenga Storytelling,” where the video shows the viewer a quick peek of the end result at the beginning of the video, which keeps the viewer motivated to watch the whole video.
Title and thumbnail set expectations. Match those and then proceed to “blow their mind,” said Donaldson.
Don’t forget to remove every dull moment, as well as using different camera angles to keep it interesting, keeping a good pace and revealing the payoff at the end. Donaldson even recommends showing friends and family the video to catch inconsistencies or boring parts.
Is the science of virality enough?
In the interview, Donaldson was asked how long it would take him to get 1 million subscribers on a brand new channel without using money. “Three to four months,” he promptly responded. His shtick would be doing extreme zero-cost challenges like walking across America, he said, as he pulled out a dense list of ideas on his phone.
But controversy has followed Donaldson’s success. A New York Times report revealed that 11 ex-employees thought the philanthropic web star was a “perfectionist” who made “unreasonable demands” and the company culture encouraged bullying and hostility.
Matt Turner, an editor for Donaldson from 2018 to 2019, said he was often insulted and struggled to get acknowledged. “I was not to be credited for anything I did,” Turner said. “I’d ask for credit, he’d credit someone else.”
Another former employee, Nate Anderson, expressed that it was hard working for Donaldson. “Nothing ever worked for him,” Anderson said. “He always wanted it a certain way.”
MrBeast has yet to respond to the allegations related to working conditions.
Stardom that size requires more than just positive YouTube videos, and it seems that MrBeast is willing to take on the challenge. “I want to be Elon one day,” the millionaire tweeted, referring to Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX.
Donaldson has a 50 person company that works from the $11 million warehouse he recently bought. He makes more money than Vin Diesel, Jay Z and Billie Eilish. So, whatever he’s doing seems to be working, right?