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5 Things Twitter’s Trending Topics Can Teach You About How To Create Viral Content

November 16, 2010

Twitter’s trending topics are always a great snapshot of what people are obsessing over online at the moment, but if you look at them in a slightly different way you can see that they’re actually about much more than that. In fact, you’ll notice that there are some very specific things that trending topics on Twitter tend to have in common and those things are actually the very same things that can help any kind of content (even outside of the Twitter universe) go viral.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been paying attention to what’s been trending on Twitter and noticed five specific traits that a lot of the trending topics during this time had in common. These traits are worth keeping in mind as you create any kind of content that you hope will have the potential to go viral. Here they are:

Holidays Are Viral

Around Halloween, there were multiple trending topics on Twitter related to the holiday including #HappyHalloween and #GhettoHalloweenTreats. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that any holiday-related content around that specific holiday has a good chance of going viral and this is nothing new – back in the days when MySpace ruled the world I used to regularly get videos featured on the front page that were holiday-related. Editors of websites and blogs will inevitably be looking for holiday themed content on those days, so you might as well give them what they’re looking for and reap the rewards.

One other note: in general I think that the more you can put a clever/obscure twist on the holiday, the more success you’re likely to have. #GhettoHalloweenTreats seems a lot more fun than just the simple #HappyHalloween.

“I” Am Viral

This might be the most important thing to remember about viral content – people love the opportunity to express what they believe about something. The more something is about “me,” and the less it’s about “you,” the more likely it is to go viral. I would guess that more than 50% of the trending topics on Twitter start with “I” and this past couple weeks was no exception.

In the past couple weeks, trending topics included: #IShouldHaveKnown, #IFeelLike, #ImOneOfThosePeople, #ILive4, and #ICantLiveWithout among others. All of these went viral in part because they gave people the opportunity to talk about themselves and that’s something people LOVE to do.

Opinions Are Viral

The only thing people like sharing more than stuff about themselves is probably their opinions. Opinionated content is always more viral than non-opinionated content and sure enough the same is true when you look at Twitter trending topics. Some of the hottest topics on Twitter the past couple weeks were #ThingsThatPissMeOff, #ThingsThatGrindMyGears, and #WeCantBeFriends – all of which are about people expressing their opinions about things.

If your own content includes a strong opinion about something it’s way more likely to be shared by people who agree with your opinion and want to express that agreement by sharing your content with other people. Ironically, they’re also likely to share it if they strongly disagree with your opinion because sharing it gives them a chance to express their disagreement. Even if they share it and say “This guy’s an idiot and here’s why…,” they’re still sharing it and you’re still getting more exposure for your content.

Pop Culture Is Viral

It should come as no surprise that people love pop culture and celebrities so it also shouldn’t be surprising that content related to those things tends to be viral as well. For example, #MoviesInMyPants, #BandNamesInMovieTitles, and #CelebsWhoMightBeDead all were trending on Twitter recently because they gave pop culture lovers a chance to show off some of their knowledge about movies, bands, and celebs in a fun way.

Nostalgia Is Viral

One of the other lessons I’ve learned over the years that’s reflected in Twitter’s trending topics as well is that people love to share things that are nostalgic. Recent trending topics such as #TweetYour16YearOldSelf and #ThingsWomenDontDoAnyMore probably went viral in part because they allowed people to reminisce about the good old days.

People love nostalgia and they like to share videos and content that reminds them (and their friends) of things they used to do or love. For example, look at how many people are sharing stuff on Twitter right now and saying “Remember this?” about it.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ralph Fontaine February 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

Great info, thanks! Now to look for some trending topics that allow people to talk about themselves and that can relate to Time Travel! Need the Charlie Chaplin movie to trend again!


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