Some videos hit the Web and fizzle out, others pick up momentum slowly and build over time. But every once in a while, a genuine hit takes off on the Internet and spreads out like sailors hitting the big city during Fleet Week. The industry calls it a “viral video,” and companies and marketers seek out its elusive appeal like a corporate holy grail.

Toward that end, Unruly set up a novel hi-tech space in London last year to let brands and marketers navigate this viral video landscape, and now it has done it again with yet another Social Video Lab, this time in New York City.

Over the last seven years, Unruly has kept dibs on more than 329 billion video views, and this state-of-the-art lab benefits from all that data, to enlighten and educate clients on the nature, and perhaps secrets, of viral videos. So why do some vids pick up steam while others sputter out? As you’d expect, it all boils down to shares. Those are social currency, says the company, and Version 2 of its lab houses an interplay of videos and APIs from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vine, so guests can see see and track how popular videos move through the Internet. 

The analytics are stunning. Sure, the list of top-ranking vids last month, year or all time are easily available, and visitors can even drill down by market or demographic, but the real wow factor lies in ShareRank, Unruly’s tool that predicts what the next big thing will be before it even launches. The algorithm-based technology does this by factoring in more than 10,000 data points to project the number of shares it will get.

So, after having parsed all those data, Unruly had to have learned something about what makes a vid go viral, right? Indeed, it did. And the secret has common sense written all over it. According to the company, the key is finding an emotion trigger that speaks powerfully to people. That’s the difference between a video that we watch and enjoy, and one that we just can’t keep to ourselves.