It’s the dream of every business to have a social media campaign that goes viral. Everyone wants to have that retweetable quality that spreads across the Internet in a flash. The 30 minute Kony 2012 video has been viewed over 100 million times in 200-plus countries, garnering 3.5 million financial pledges for the non-profit organization Invisible Children.
So, how can you get your Tweets to go viral too?
Recent research published at New Scientist suggests that it might all be random. At Indiana University, Bloomington, researchers compared 120 million actual retweets with a random computer model and found very little difference in the way ideas propagated. The theory is that the limited attention span of Twitter users prevents them from evaluating every tweet, but once something is retweeted a few times, it starts to be seen by more people, and eventually it goes viral.
This is the lottery version of Twitter marketing. You have to be in it to win it, so just keep tweeting and wait for lightning to strike. You can up your odds of having a tweet go viral simply by tweeting more and having more followers.
University of Pennsylvania assistant professor Katherine Milkman disagrees with the randomness theory of tweets, however. According to a paper she co-authored, emotions are a key factor in the “virality” of tweets. Just as when audiences view and remember a TV commercial or a printed poster ad that is a tear-jerker, a quote or story or video that strikes a strong emotional chord will be more likely to be remembered as well as re-quoted/retweeted. Whether strongly positive or negative, an emotional tweet will be more likely to go viral.
Whatever you do, don’t be bland. Be funny, be happy, be angry or snarky or sarcastic. Be a real, emotionally-driven person and connect with other Twitter users on an emotional level.
If everything is random and the lottery analogy applies to tweets, then timing is a key factor to consider. Just like more people buy lottery tickets when the jackpot is high, it makes more sense to tweet when more eyes will see your words. Typically mid-morning and mid-afternoon are the peak times for Twitter for the most users to be logged in to the service.
If you can only tweet twice a day, do it around 9am and 4pm. Your tweets will be more likely to be seen and, therefore, shared by the most amount of people.
The more followers you have and the more people you follow, the greater your influence on Twitter. It’s far easier to have a tweet go viral if you have 6,000 people looking at it versus just a few dozen. Grow your followers and be kind to them. Just remember to not get out of proportion. If you follow far more people than follow you, it can make your account look spammy. Follow people, but also ask people to follow you. Include links to your Twitter page on your blog, your business card, and in emails you send out.
Grow your followers slowly and consistently to increase your influence.
People are scanning Twitter so certain words will jump out and grab them. According to Jason Rudland of the Get Me In Google blog, people like the words, “you,” “your” and “because.” Let people know that you care about them and then tell them why they should care about you. Rudland also recommends using unusual words to grab people’s attention. His favorite: “discombobulation.” Whatever makes you stick out of the crowd helps.
Choose your words carefully to stand out and appeal to your followers.
Ask and Be Polite
It seems almost too easy, but just asking for people to retweet can dramatically increase the number of times your post is shared. Just 12% of tweets that don’t ask to be shared are retweeted, but 51% of people who ask get their posts shared. Make sure, however, that you have something for people to share. Include a link to your site or blog – 70% of all retweeted posts have a link in them.
Ask people to share your post and then thank them for doing so with an at-reply.
If you don’t offer compelling content on the other end of the retweet link, then your Twitter campaign will end quickly. Part of what made Kony 2012 so successful is that the content of the video was high-quality. Don’t skimp on your articles, discounts, coupons, and website content that you link to. If you do, then you destroy trust, lose influence, kill emotion, and ruin your chances of having your tweet go viral. As Tim Berry points out, it’s just good etiquette to only tweet about quality content.
Produce consistently high-quality content and share it freely online.
One tweet won’t go viral. After a dozen tweets, people still may not share your words. Don’t give up. Twitter is a long-haul game, not a quick-shot scheme. It may seem like the viral tweets are instant successes that didn’t take any work, but in most cases they come from people who have thousands of tweets over a long period of time. Keep tweeting good content. Be patient. It won’t happen overnight.
Determine that you will tweet a certain number of times a day for at least six months. Don’t give up, following the tips above, and the likelihood of one of your tweets going viral has that much higher of a probability.
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