On Facebook, if you post a link, perhaps a couple dozen friends will see the link and visit it. On YouTube, your video is likely to garner almost no views without strong promotion. However, a single tweet on Twitter can be seen by tens of thousands of people, even if you only have a couple dozen followers. A single link shared on Twitter can be spread across thousands of Twitter accounts. And this can all happen in the span of a few hours.
Why is Twitter such a breeding ground for viral content? What makes Twitter better than Facebook or YouTube at spreading content to thousands of people very quickly? There are many reasons, most of them related to the design of Twitter’s platform and its sharing culture. Here are my top 8 reasons things go viral on Twitter:
1. It’s an open platform: Unlike Facebook, anyone can see your profile, tweets, and links. This makes it easy for others to check out your profile if you suddenly become popular. It also makes it easy for others to follow you and retweet the items that you share.
2. There is a culture of link sharing: The Twitter community encourages sharing great articles. Links are posted all the time on Twitter, and people click them. Some people even use Twitter as an RSS feed reader.
3. @reply commenting: The conversations on Twitter can help spark attention and bring items to the forefront. If someone with a lot of followers, like@mashable, has a conversation with you, a lot of people are going to check out your most recent tweets.
4. It’s easy to follow others: It’s easy for others to find your content and to continue following what you say. This makes it easier for specific tweets to go viral.
5. Twitter Search and Trends: Twitter search makes it easy for people to find content. Twitter Trends, which appear on the Twitter search page and on the sidebar of many Twitter pages, shows what people are tweeting about the most. People are naturally curious, so they visit and check out the links, which perpetuates the viral cycle.
6. Twitter applications help spread the word: There are Twitter applications, such as Tweetmeme, that people use to track major trends and keywords on Twitter. They make information easier to find and help pile onto the viral bandwagon.
7. Brands are welcome on Twitter: Unlike many other social networks, you do not have to be a human being to have an account on Twitter – you can be a brand, business, or organization as well. Companies like Whole Foods have found success on Twitter.
8. Retweeting: I saved the single biggest reason items go viral on Twitter for last. Retweeting, for those who are unfamiliar, is the act of placing “RT” and then copying and pasting a tweet that you find interesting to share with your own followers. This very common practice spreads links across Twitter virally. A single Mashable tweet can have thousands of retweets. This not only leads to activity on Twitter, but on social media sites like Facebook and Digg as well.
Twitter, with its trend tracking, open platform, and sharing culture, has become the ideal platform for stories, videos, and items to go viral. As Twitter grows, it will only become more adept and powerful at spreading information, creating new memes, and promoting great content.