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

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.

Highlights From NewTeeVee Live

Today’s NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco brought together a lot of people on the front lines of the rapidly changing face of television and Internet content and I thought it would be worth sharing a couple highlights from the conference.

How To Turn Viewers Into Fans, And Fans Into Dollars

The CEO of Blip.tv, Mike Hudack, spoke about how his company helps web content creators build businesses for themselves and what he’s learned about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s an excerpt:

“We have people making half a million dollars or more a year with an independent web show,” said Hudack. “It’s much easier now to get out there and make a show yourself,” he noted, but you need distribution, marketing, ad sales and other services to make it profitable. His favorite tool that Blip.tv offers is what’s called “the engagement curve.” An average episode on Blip.tv is 16 minutes long, he said. Over the course of those 16 minutes, “We watch second by second where people drop off,” he said. “You can see what people didn’t like,” and what snippets they wanted to watch again. “Every episode, you have constant continual improvement,” which leads to more engagement and more fans, he said.

A sizable and loyal audience is of course essential for monetizing video shows, said Hudack. “To have a sustainable show these days, you certainly need hundreds of thousands of viewers,” he said, adding that the ones that are “really making a lot of money” typically have millions of viewers. One key for building an audience is branding, and on that front, web show producers should take a cue from Law & Order (dun-dun) — devising instantly recognizable intro that’s 5-6 seconds long saying “this is what you’re watching.”

And here’s video of the full presentation:

Behind The Live Stream Boom

Executives from the leading live streaming platforms including Ustream, Justin.tv, Livestream, and YouTube got together for a panel to discuss the booming growth in the space recently which has seen a 600% increase in the amount of video watched online compared to last year.

Here’s video of the panel discussion:

The Social Innovation of Glee!

Hardie Tankersley, FOX’s VP of Innovation, spoke about the various ways the network has used Twitter to promote its hit show Glee!.

Here’s the video: