Many people who might otherwise be familiar with YouTube aren’t aware of the changes made recently to how videos go viral. It isn’t only about having an eye-catching thumbnail to rake in views. Hits alone don’t increase visibility anymore.

YouTube has changed how videos gain in popularity by combining hits, how long someone watches the video (so that actually finishing videos matters rather than just clicking a good image and being disappointed in the content), and how often watching a video compels viewers to click on others like it.

Engagement is key, because no matter how many hits you get on a single YouTube video, people need to stay and watch it to get the video promoted and in front of others.

Responding to customers as part of your video campaign is also important. Behind the Scenes with McDonald’s, one of the most successful digital campaigns of 2012, encouraged Canadian customers to ask anything about McDonald’s and their food, and receive a video response. This not only piqued people’s interest but got McDonald’s Canada an average viewing time of 4 minutes on any given video response.

Consumers love to respond and engage with their favorite brands, and they love transparency even more.

The American Express Shop Small campaign was another huge success of 2012. By focusing on how they could help their clients instead of just what they offer, American Express created and spread a concept of helping small businesses prosper. They had thousands of companies involved, received 2.7 million LIKES on Facebook, and even got President Barack Obama in their video to say how amazing the operation is.

What makes any good video content go viral? Engagement—plain and simple.