Going Viral

How does one go viral? Oftentimes, the answer to this question is simply a matter of luck. The follow-up answer is one that I’m sure you’ve heard before – you have no chance to win if you don’t play the game.

Such was the case for Boston University student Patrick Curran last night when his tweet suddenly thrust him into an internet sensation. Sprouting from only 300+ followers, Curran’s internet celebrity status was cemented when one tweet about the debate started spreading like rapid fire beyond his social circle.

Driven by the power of Twitter’s “Retweet” functionality, which allows users to share what another person said to all of their followers, Curran’s post has been viewed on over 15,000 individuals’ accounts.

So just how did this go viral? There is certainly no formula for virality, but in hindsight let’s look at the factors that could have been:

  • Engaged community: Curran was an active member of his school community which included membership in a social organization – the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
  • Humorous Post: His post was perfect for his audience. He meshed a serious topic with humor that also included modern culture in his song choice. His message was right on point.
  • Timing: Curran’s tweet was perfectly timed as over 50,000 tweets were happening about this topic at that time. That means people were consuming and submitting content on this topic. If he had tweeted this even hours beforehand it would not have had the same effect.

Of course, with 50,000 tweets happening at the same time it is anyone’s guess how his got picked out of surely the other 10,000 sarcastic, well-timed posts. But that mystery is what makes the internet great. In the end, there is no exact formula for virality. The best opportunity you have is simply to play the game.

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David is an avid social entrepreneur and Boston sports fanatic. He founded Diversified Data Technologies way back in 2009 and stuck around to see it grow. His party quarks include unnecessary dancing and being an overly hospitable host. When looking, he can be found capturing the twitterverse at @DLanphear, being professional on LinkedIn, or bouncing around town with Foursquare.

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