We’ve all seen our share of viral videos. And by now I bet you can identify a few features that – if not guarantee – at least help a video go viral. Does it have a cute kitten or a baby? Check. How about a college prank gone wrong? Check. Or maybe it is ultra-mysterious and intriguing and doesn’t give any information whatsoever about what it’s about. Makes me want to share it!
There are certainly some guidelines that video bloggers and makers can follow to create a viral video, but what about Twitter? Is there such a thing as a “viral tweet”? And if so, how do you write one?
I’m going to say right off the bat that there is no guaranteed formula for making something “go viral” on Twitter. In fact, there are actually several definitions that would fit virality on the network: lots of retweets of a single tweet; a hashtag taking off and becoming a Trending Topic; or a high number of clicks on a shared link.
But let’s say that all of these possible definitions of a viral tweet have one thing in common: they all spread like wildfire on the network. So whether it is a single tweet, a hashtag or a link, there are certain pieces of information that may take on a life of their own once they’re tweeted.
So what does a viral tweet look like?
As I said before, none of these features will ensure your tweet goes viral on Twitter, but they’ll help it at least be more interesting. Which is usually what makes people share.
A viral tweet is usually shorter than 140-characters. As we have explained in the past, 120 characters seems to be the sweet spot in terms of length, as it leaves room for “RT @user” at the beginning, without the retweeter having to modify the original.
Tweets that really take off are usually topical in some way. Twitter users love to be “in the know”, so breaking news and commentary on current events – whether political, entertainment or something in between – is a good place to start in the search for the viral tweet.
It’s a toss-up whether having a link in your tweet makes a difference in how far it will spread, as this really depends on the context of the tweet. Don’t just throw a semi-related link in there for good measure. Likewise, do include a link if it is relevant to what you tweet.
Quotes seem to do well on Twitter, especially if they are controversial or inspiring.
And finally, the one thing that proves that virality is truly elusive on Twitter… celebrity. If a celebrity tweets something, you can bet that tweet – regardless of its content or quality – has a better chance of going viral than most others.
So there you have it. No hard-and-fast rules to going viral, but some guidelines for writing a good tweet. Maybe one day “viral tweets” will be common currency amongst the social media elite like “viral video” is today, but for now we have to be satisfied with just being interesting without relying on a formula.
(Image courtesy of S.john via Shutterstock)