The Anatomy Of Viral Tweets

Perhaps it is the nature of my marketing profession, but I have long been fascinated by how one tweet can attract a swarm of clicks and retweets while another remained ignored. This fascination motivated me to do some research and analytics on “the most viral tweet — of all time.”

My first step was to determine how to define “most viral”. Does it simply mean the number of times a particular tweet has been retweeted? Or is it measured by the amount of responses a tweet generates. Or perhaps it can be defined as a hashtag that takes off and becomes a “Trending Topic” and a high number of clicks on a publicly shared link.

This raises the next question: What makes the message in the tweet so effective? Why did this tweet – amid all the others that flood our twitter timeline – motivate so many people to take action?

By and large, at any given time, the most popular Twitter conversations change. Rifle through Twitter Search and you will see a list of “Trending Topics” which at that current time, represent the most popular Twitter conversations. Hence, I find it far more meaningful to focus on what is the trait of a viral tweet instead of identifying which is the most viral tweet of all time. After hours of wild searching on Internet, I was overwhelmed with the different answers from top-notch industry experts. To sum up my findings and cut a long story short, I would like to share with you a particular excerpt, that tactically describes what a perfect tweet is like.

Shea Bennet, co-editor of, in his article How to write a perfect tweet explains that only two things really count when striving for the perfect tweet:
1.  Maximum readability
2.  Maximum retweetability

Be ‘Retweetable’ on twitter, to certain extent is similar to Be likeable on Facebook.

Take a moment to peruse your Twitter feed or Twitter Streams on Hootsuite and you can easily identify which content is standing out. What makes a Twitter post seem interesting, witty, or compelling? When it’s not sheer genius, very often, it possesses at least one of the following characteristics:

Great Headlines

What’s in a headline? Plenty, if it is the title of a tweet. If the twitter users took more care in crafting their tweet titles, they would receive better retweets. A good title creates anticipation and sets up the emotional barometer of the audience. And most importantly, it answers ‘W-I-I-F-M’ (what’s in it for me) to get the individual attention.

Alexandra Watkins,the Chief Innovation Officer of naming and branding company Eat My Words says that “You have to catch someone’s interest with something unexpected, irresistible, fun or colorful – or with a clever twist on a familiar word or phrase.” She gives two examples on the title of photography related tweet: “How to shoot People” and “Confessions of a Sharp Shooter.” Which one do you think is more ‘clickable’ ? The later, obviously.

Great Story and Excellent Content

Entertaining, Educational, Informative and Motivational.

These tweets tell a story behind the links – a story that is deceptively simple in the telling. In a mere 140 characters, we are sold when we click on those links. Those of us who offer services for a living – and not visible products – often hear about “selling invisibly,” where the targeted person does not feel like he or she is being sold to. It’s an appealing concept, especially when the concept of selling is uncomfortable. The key to selling invisibly is to tell great stories. Likewise, behind every popular tweet, there is a Chief Storyteller.

Well Formatted

It is possible to write more meaningful, engaging, and influential Twitter posts, even with the 140-character limit? A well structured tweet can help you get your messages across despite the character limits of your every tweet. As the ‘SEO‘ for Twitter – hashtag “#” is used by many to easily organize tweets carrying the same topics and search for them via Twitter’s search feature. According to a report from Buddy Media, tweets with fewer than 100 characters get 17% higher engagement than longer tweets. Short tweets leave followers with more room to not only retweet but to also add a brief comment.

These were some of the things which speaks the traits of a good tweet. If you have more point to add, please do share them in the comments section. 


Post Mortem

Being a skeptical person myself, I did a post-mortem on my personal twitter account to determine whether the aforementioned criteria can be applied as the yardstick for my personal reference in the future.  My intentions were to share a truthful account of my findings.

Thanks to Joel and Leo for bringing great Twitter tools like Buffer App, which allows its users to view the real time statistics. The screenshots below depict the most ‘popular’ tweet out the 500 tweets I have tweeted for the past 90 days.

Brilliant ideas without human connection cannot create a ripple effect. Right connection builds trust and fosters relationships. When you see how you move others and are moved by them, you grow in wisdom and authority. As up-and-coming Social Media Ninja Aaron Lee asserted ,” it’s not about the number of followers, but the connection you’ve built.” (Source: Start Twitter All Over Again)

Viral content can certainly bring you some following. The whole twitter ecosystem is based on connection and sharing — let’s continue to make twitter a better place! Happy Tweeting!

Source: Hashmeta

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