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How videos go viral: Twitter maps the spread of Ryan Gosling and Chris Hadfield

Study makes it clear that 'there are no rules to “virality”'

The obscure alchemy of what makes content go viral seems destined to remain a mystery as a study - read marketing ploy - by Twitter's UK team concludes that “there is no single magic formula”.

“While some ignite, and spread like wildfire across the web, the growth of [viral videos] is much more measured, like ripples spreading across a lake,” says the post on Twitters official blog.

Twitter’s UK team looked at three different viral videos, each of which represents a different origin (from a dedicated ad team to a dedicated astronaut) as well as different patterns of sharing.

Twitter has illustrated these patterns with ‘dynamic visualisations’ with blue nodes representing tweets (the bigger they are the bigger the tweet’s potential audience) and yellow dots representing retweets.

A series of six-second clips entitled ' Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal' spread as it was picked up by ‘global influencers’ (ie, Twitter accounts with massive followings - see below) whilst the music video for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s ‘ Space Oddity’ had more retweets from Hadfield’s own account.


The ‘Space Oddity’ video spread incredibly quickly (and so disappeared just as speedily) with over 90 per cent of the shares occurring in the first three days.

The video for a Dove advertising campaign titled ‘ Dove Real Beauty Sketches’ showed off a completely different model. Shares of the video were slow-burning with fewer bumps from high-profile Twitter users and with user engagement “largely driven by a long tail of link-sharing and by positive audience sentiment.”

The post ends with the expected soft-sell of  Twitter's services for advertisers, but at least the videos (and their popularity) speak for themselves. With that in mind, see below for another look at Chris Hadfield's amazing David Bowie cover - a video that spread quickly but certainly deserves another watch: