One Good Tweet Can Make You Famous!

Posted by Rob Campbell on January 22nd, 2016

Someday Stephen Bell will say, “It all began with a tweet”, and he’d be referring to this dispatch sent at 4:42 pm Tuesday 20 Jan 2016,

Genius. This tweet has been much celebrated, and has resulted in Stephen’s growing celebrity status.  At 4:42 pm that Weds afternoon the guy had a little over 350 followers, and now..?  The tweet has thousands of likes and just as many retweets. How many new Twitter followers he will accrue because of this one update? What will happen to him in the future? What opportunities will come his way and for how long will his Twitter fame last?

With no paid promotion or 3rd party media amplification of any kind, Stephen Bell, a nobody from middle America catapulted to world wide fame with one solid, astute, relevant, timely tweet. The science article he references also benefited from the exposure the tweet granted, Astronomers say a Neptune-sized planet lurks beyond Pluto, and sadly that’s probably how many American teenagers will learn about the rumours of a new celestial object in our solar system.

Another wildly successful tweet by @DrakoTsunami brought his Twitter profile worldwide attention.

Drako tweeted this in August 2015, and has it pinned at the top of his account as it is clearly his best tweet pulling in 67,256 retweets and 104,536 likes at the time of this writing. But what is it specifically about this tweet that made it catch fire?  What can we learn here about the secret to making viral tweets?

words to use in TwitterThe driving force behind the success of most viral tweets is humour. A recent article on bplans entitled, 8 ways to help your tweets go viral put humour first and among the other components of tweet virality is randomness. “Recent research published at New Scientist suggests that it might all be random. At Indiana University, 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.”

Regarding ‘viral behaviour’ patterns, most Twitter users want to be the first to retweet something to their base, and they fear being the last to tweet something and have their users reject it as ‘old news’.  Viral tweets are essentially just random, highly satisfying text messages to the world; you cannot predict when they will occur, or where they will come from, which is part of the beauty and magic of how they stick and are shared.

Another school of thought believes that emotions are at the heart of the mystery of what makes a viral tweet.  Proponents believe that using words to express emotions and being generally positive or uniquely cross or remarkably sad or even a plea like ‘feeling strangely lonely’ etc can tap into the same emotional reserve in other users and extract retweets as comfort or expressions of solidarity.

Timing matter and I’m sure everyone already knows that the most people are on Twitter on Friday afternoons, and Monday and Tuesday are the worst days to tweet high value messaging. Influence matters especially when users include a call to action like ‘please rewteet this’ (which is a good strategy for important things), and word choice matters. The curious adjectives and compelling verbs that users select for their messages also has a lot of impact on audience reaction path.

Suffice to say there are many different theories floating around out there for what makes viral tweets and nobody truly has all the answers as the platform and the global audience continue to evolve.  At the time of this writing, Jan 2016 there are an estimated 500 million Twitter users worldwide with an average of 400 million tweets sent per day.  80% of all tweets are sent from mobile devices now, and there are an estimated 20 million fake accounts that just fav and retweet real users.  The average user has about 300 friends and knows at least half of them personally.

The Top Five Viral Tweets

Here is the top 5 most retweeted tweets in all of history: You dont have to click the link as I will tell you now that #5, #4 and #3 are all RIP celeb tweets, #2 is one by Barack Obama and #1 is that legendary Ellen Show #oscars selfie tweet with every single celeb they could fit. It’s safe to say that being famous IRL does help them crush the rest of us twerps in terms of ease of amplification, latent audience numbers and so an obvious increased probability of success in viral tweets.

Stephen Bell’s tweet will make the top ten best tweets for January 2016, and probably the top twenty five for the whole year. Stephen if you are reading this please reply in the comments and tell us how it changed your life?