Viral Twitter Popularity Happens by Pure Chance

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Ever start feeling down on yourself because you're really confident that the wisdom you're tweeting out into the world is just not appreciated in spite of the sagacious value you believe to exist in each of the deliberately selected 140 characters used in your message? Good news for you, then, you overlooked titan of Twitterscape: turns out what makes a tweet hit viral status may rely less on what the tweet actually says and more on something less coordinated altogether: chance.

A new study from researchers at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, analyzed 120 million retweets from 12.5 million Twitter users in order to identify the patterns of the archetypal viral tweet. Based on these mechanisms, the research team built a computer simulation that mimicked the activity on Twitter and found that, despite tweets being assigned the same values, whether a tweet reached viral status was completely random.

Filippo Menczer, the lead researcher on the study, told New Scientist that the factors involved in boosting a tweet to a viral status depend upon unpredictable factors such as the time of day its posted and emotions of people who might see it. Additionally, the tweet could also be eclipsed by other tweets that have already achieved viral status.

"When a meme starts to get popular it displaces other memes; you start to pay attention to the popular meme and don't pay attention to other things because you have only so much attention," Menczer says. "It's similar to when a big news story breaks, you don't hear about other things that happened on that day."

So don't lose faith in your would-be celebrity just yet, young and intrepid tweeter that you are. Just stay in the game for now and, eventually, chance may sprinkle great fortunes upon you and your primo Twitter account. But rest assured that at least you aren't doing anything wrong.

Well, you should still probably try to tweet out a thought that doesn't look like it was dug out of a dinosaur's dung pile. That probably won't hurt. If you do end up producing a viral tweet, you should at least try to produce a tweet worthy of being hung on your parents' fridge.

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