SYDNEY: Animals and a sense of danger play well in viral videos but the key to success is having them picked up by online news organisations which can help turn a local coup into a global sensation.

That's the conclusion of a social experiment conducted by The Woolshed, an independent Australian production company behind some of the most-viewed videos of the past two year, including a man fighting off a shark, a woman chased by a bear while snowboarding and two men fighting with selfie sticks.

The Woolshed has admitted creating eight viral hoaxes which have been viewed 205m times in 180 countries.

"We set out to better understand exactly how to create short-form, highly shareable, snackable content that is capable of reaching worldwide mass audiences without the luxury of pricey media buys, ad campaigns, publicity strategies or distribution deals," explained Dave Christison, managing director and co-founder of The Woolshed Company.

"We didn't have the budget to create movie magic like a $100m film can do, so we had to kind of work within the perimeters that we had," he told Mumbrella. Those perimeters included funding from Screen Australia.

"We had KPIs that we set out to achieve which were measurable metrics and views, and we have certainly shared with them our learnings and findings the whole way through," Christison added.

In terms of the type of content that has the best potential to go viral, "danger works, animals, close encounters with dangerous animals work," he said.

"We tried to play with humour in some of them, " he noted, "[but] the risk of danger seems to work stronger than others."

Topicality was something else the team tried to factor in. "We always kept our finger on the pulse and had strategies in place, especially as we built the momentum, and became smarter about when you would pull the trigger," Christison said.

The Woolshed also observed that debate among viewers as to a video's authenticity could increase the likelihood of it going viral.

And global success was driven by online news organisations which are always on the lookout for quirky things that are trending online. So, for example, the UK's Mail Online and Japan's Fuji TV were among the sites that picked up some of the videos and gave them exposure beyond Australia.

Data sourced from Mumbrella; additional content by Warc staff