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Viral tweets and Twitter.

Five essential tips to make a tweet go viral

Ask any psychologist and he/she will tell you that the single-most important rule of communication is this: how you communicate matters more than the content itself. The same applies to any social media platform. This rule assumes greater significance on Twitter where brevity and timing are the key elements. The idea of this post is to help you disseminate information in the fastest and the smartest way on Twitter, help you understand what makes a tweet ‘click’ and why wording is important.

A study conducted by Cornell University students titled, The effect of wording on message propagation: Topic- and author-controlled natural experiments on Twitter, threw light on the different aspects of a tweet that made them ‘shareable’. In a bid to find the answer to the question of what makes a message successful, they sifted through 1.7 million tweets, crawling through the timelines of 2,36,000 users.

Ideas to maximize chances of a tweet going viral

1. It helps to ask people to share

It might sound obvious, but asking people to share you tweet helps. Words like ‘rt’, ‘retweet’, ‘please’, ‘spread’, ‘pls’, and ‘plz’ that capture explicit requests have a powerful effect on the user.

2. Should be informative

“Messages that are more informative have increased social exchange value, and so may be more worth propagating,” it said. More importantly, the information should be targeted at the community that is more likely to appreciate it. The study said that the key idea to getting noticed is to use the right words; and not necessarily in how you combine them.

3. Imitating news headlines helps

The idea behind trying to get a headlines-type of tweet is to have both — information and attention-grabbing wordings. 

4. Include positive and/or negative words

The study also found that positive or negative sentiments improve the chances of the tweet getting retweeted. This can be explained through a psychological principle called the Cognitive Dissonance theory.

We all have our set of ideas and points of views through which we see the world. Our upbringing, tradition, education (environment) help us shape our worldview and it is through this prism that we see everything around us. But what happens when you encounter a foreign idea that doesn’t quite go well with yours? At this point we have to make a choice: either embrace the new idea or protect the old one. This state of imbalance in the mind is called cognitive dissonance. It is at this juncture we start seeking reinforcements. It gives rise to a cycle of tweeting and sharing, and slowly feeds on itself, seeking reinforcements at every stage.

The positive or negative sentiments work as reinforcers, helping them spread easily.

  1. Your tweet should be easier to read

This is self-explanatory. Here’s a nice tool — created by one of the authors of the study —  that helps you predict which of the two tweets is likely to be retweeted more. Try here


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