Twitter answers the age-old question: What makes something go viral?

While there's no magic formula for a viral video, Twitter has provided some insights by studying how three massively popular viral videos did it

As soon as things started "going viral", the question immediately arose: why do some things go viral, and why do some other things stagnate in virtual anonymity?

 Twitter answers the age-old question: What makes something go viral?

A screengrab from the 'Real Beauty Sketches' by Dove

What is the common link between Gangnam Style, 'Man sees double rainbow', Rebecca Black's Friday, and the robust defense of Islam by scholar Mehdi Hasan at an Oxford University debate?

The question, despite the best efforts of marketing professionals, has no definite answers yet. But there might be some insights emerging with a new study done by Twitter UK, which the company shared on a blog post on Monday.

"There are no rules to 'virality,'" wrote the post's author, Gordon MacMillan, Twitter UK's editorial manager. "While some ignite, and spread like wildfire across the web, the growth of others is much more measured, like ripples spreading across a lake." The study looked at three examples of "going viral", and you can check them out below. A Vine clip of actor Ryan Gosling supposedly refusing to eat his cereal, a Youtube video of astronaut Commander Hadfield singing 'Space Oddity' and Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches'.

In the case of the Ryan Gosling viral video, the study found that the video was affectively "seeded" into a few top influencers, such as Twitter accounts @BestVineEver and @VineLoops. "This ensured that the videos went viral quickly, echoing the online journey of a major breaking news story," says the study.

Is there a better place to sing David Bowie's song Space Oddity, than, well, in space? When Commander Hadfield decided to give it a shot as he was orbiting the earth in the International Space Station. The study finds that in this case, more than 90 percent of the shares happened in the first three days.

"Hadfield's link was much more appealing to the crowd because of its unique nature than a more earthbound video and as a result he featured much more prominently in the sharing of this video than other viral examples," says Twitter's blog post. So apparently one way of going viral is to post it from space. Good luck with that one.

Of the three examples taken by the Twitter study, the Dove 'Real Beauty' video is the one that prompted the most conversations - viewers didn't just watch it, they shared it and discussed its merits, as well as the social issue it was highlighting.

It was driven by "a long tail of link-sharing and by positive audience sentiment," says the study. "Conversation existed in clusters of communities spread around the world - showing the value of local engagement - and highlighted the good use of a digital outreach programme."

Read the whole study over at Twitter's blog.

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