Whether it's the latest song parody or the cutest baby on Earth, viral videos are as much a part of the online news cycle as anything else. And these days, getting a clip to catch fire on Twitter all but guarantees that thousands of eyeballs will get the message. But how do videos reach the holy land of "virality"? Twitter's own U.K. research team analyzed three recent, high-profile viral clips and mapped out the different paths they took to fame. Here's what they found:
1. Attract the right kind of eyes
The first case study centers on the meme-tastic Vine series "Ryan Gosling won't eat his cereal," which features the handsome Drive star in various scenes from either his films or interviews refusing to eat real spoonfuls of cereal. The videos' viral success stemmed largely from the attention paid them by major Vine-specific Twitter accounts, such as @BestVinesEver and @VineLoop. When these big-name accounts tweeted the Gosling videos, it was a quick trip to Twitter stardom.
2. Make a video no one else can
The second case study centered on astronaut Chris Hadfield's cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," which he performed while flying through space aboard the International Space Station. In this case, it wasn't recognition by famous accounts that earned Commander Hadfield virality — he posted the video to Twitter himself — but rather its truly one-of-a-kind premise. The video spread quickly, receiving more than 90 percent of its shares in its first three days. The lesson here is simple: Record something cool and totally original, and people will want to see it.
3. Aim for the heartstrings
The third video was a marketing campaign by Dove titled "Real Beauty Sketches," which played on the theme of how people see themselves versus how they are seen by others. The video's tear-jerking appeal gave the clip a longer shelf life than, say, Hadfield's Bowie cover. Shares did not drop off sharply after a few days, nor did the video experience the quick increase in views that the Gosling videos did after being picked up by major Twitter accounts. Instead, the Dove videos achieved viral status because they tackled a universal subject — preconceived notions of "beauty," in this case — that sparked longer, more drawn-out conversation across the global community.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What is driving the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely not.
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Stop hating on cyclists
- Why America should team up with Bashar al-Assad's regime
Subscribe to the Week