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
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- 10 things you need to know today: November 28, 2014
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- Why the poor can't catch a break on Thanksgiving
Subscribe to the Week