Winning ways with video

Digital Video Recording

Are we one step closer to unwrapping the mystery of a viral video success?

There's enough of an element of chance in the formula that even serious money and planning can't guarantee a winner, but when they do fly – the gamble really is worth it.

Twitter offered some insight last week from three massive and very different campaigns. The self-serving point here was to show off Twitter as a distribution platform for advertisers, but feedback from the brands and industry researchers we are talking to all indicate that investment in the platform is working.

So why does it work for video? Firstly, the engagement is strong, according to Twitter, who estimate that 42% of viewers will retweet a link to a video. Users have to be motivated to act, despite the sharing network that powers social media, and video is the strongest driver.

Video formats are also shareable. Well-coordinated furniture – including a campaign hashtag, for example – helps to get traction and track sharing.

The paid element of a campaign, Twitter's promoted tweets and promoted trends, provides a focus and helps give the campaign a gentle lift. Tracking the spread of Dove's 'real beauty sketches' campaign – which has notched up 55m views on YouTube so far – shows that dozens of localised hubs of discussion and community helped push the campaign more widely, and that kind of take up can be supported with geo-targeted promoted tweets.

Commander Hadfield's galactic interpretation of David Bowie's Space Oddity spread furiously for the first three days to reach 17m views this week, but the lesson here was very different, being driven by influencers with large follower counts. And it was a similar story for Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal, which, whatever your take on Ryan Gosling, was a masterclass in using the video tool Vine. One version of the Gosling montage alone has clocked up 1.3m views.

One can only wonder at the creative late-night inspiration for this gem of a meme, but it hit just the right combination of celebrity, quirkiness and humour to strike viral gold. Now that Twitter is at the scale of the mainstream, success reflects the traditional media industry in that the biggest names attract the most attention – and you'll still need promotion from the biggest influencers to get your campaign noticed.

Powered by article was written by Jemima Kiss, for on Monday 19th August 2013 00.01 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010