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August 12, 2013

Twitter talks virality

How exactly does one go viral?

By Cbr Rolling Blog


Commander Chris Hadfield’s orbital sing-song has had over 17 million Youtube hits

Amongst continued developments in relation to abuse on Twitter , the social networking giant has posted their latest blog today, and it deals with the subject of ‘virality’, or rather, how exactly does one go ‘viral’?

This is one question that’s been on our mind here at CBR for the past week as we’ve all set up new Twitter accounts and are competing for a prize chocolate bar for the winner: the person with the best retweet

Sure, we’ve done alright so far a week in, but nothing comparable to a few of this year’s big hits. Commander Hadfield on the International Space Station has racked up an earth-shattering 17 million hits on Youtube with his cover of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, and we’re told by Twitter that the series of ‘Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal’ videos were carefully seeded with key influencers to create the global phenomenon that saw Gosling throwing tantrums at the mere thought of eating some Cornflakes.

On a serious note though, how to make something go viral is a big question in digital marketing, and it can shoot your average blogger to internet stardom overnight, so let’s see exactly how Twitter thinks we can go viral…


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The UK research team from Twitter looked at three videos that were all of a different nature, and told us that there "is no single magic formula."

What they discovered was that videos don’t go viral in the same way; there are no set rules to ‘virality’.

"While some ignite, and spread like wildfire across the web, the growth of others is much more measured, like ripples spreading across a lake."


In these visualizations from Twitter, you can really see how the videos spread – with the blue nodes representing tweets and the yellow representing retweets. The bigger they are, the more potential the tweet had.

In the case of "Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal", the videos created by @RyanWMchenry were shared with the big players in the Vine world like @bestvinesever and @vineloops, which ensured almost instant massive virality.

What this route shows is that just a few key shares with big influencers can make your content go global from the get go. This is also reflected in the boosts of followers Twitter users see after a reply or retweet from celebrities. See the video for Ryan Gosling’s virality here.

Hey @billgates, we love your work!

Twitter then look at the case of Astronaut Chris Hadfield and his ‘Space Oddity’ success (obviously being an astronaut was not enough for him). The research says the over 90% of video shares took place in the first three days after he posted it!

"The viral effect demonstrated sustained growth that was driven by a single person’s effort. Hadfield’s link was much more appealing to the crowd because of its unique nature than a more earthbound video and as a result he featured much more prominently in the sharing of this video than other viral examples."

So , we need something unique? Getting into space might be tricky…but the Thames is next to us and we can all play an instrument.


Another video that Twitter say spread differently to others was the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. The #wearebeautiful sketch was "largely driven by a long tail of link-sharing and by positive audience sentiment."

"This video showed less burnout than the others, and there were also fewer influencer-induced spikes. Instead, conversation existed in clusters of communities spread around the world — showing the value of local engagement — and highlighted the good use of a digital outreach programme."

This approach sees a much more dedicated and long-term plan come into effect. Dove didn’t make a one-off home-made clip, but a thought out advertising campaign that is much more likely to generate revenue for the brand.

So there we have it! What an interesting insight into virality. Now if you could all just start folliwing me on @bensullivan_cbr, I’ll go and get my guitar.

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