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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wong

I went viral on Twitter: one year on, here's what I've learned

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

A year ago, I had the rather surprising experience of something I tweeted going viral. So I've distilled all that knowledge into a simple, fool-proof formula that you too can use to guarantee going viral on social media...

Just kidding.

I'm not about to pretend that doing something once makes me any kind of expert. And as someone who works in digital communications, I can tell you there is no way to guarantee what will or won't get masses of engagement.

That being said, there are a few things I've taken away from the experience of writing something that got three million impressions and 168,000 engagements.

It wasn't planned

I didn't sit down and decide 'I should think really hard of something to tweet that will get lots of people talking'. I was on holiday with my family, during that heatwave that hit the UK in July 2022. It was hard not to be thinking about climate change. Over dinner one evening, I shared an idea. It was a joke, not a serious strategy, but meant as an observation that we need to motivate big companies to take action on climate change.

My husband replied, 'You should tweet that.'

You might be surprised how many of my tweets start like that.

So, I did.

After all, no one wants to work when it's hot, anyway. And I liked the idea that the more exploitative companies out there might suddenly be motivated, if not for altruistic reasons or any sense of environmental responsibility, then at least by the prospect that climate change could directly harm their profits.

You can't control how far content travels online

At first, it was friends responding. It got retweeted a bit and strangers started to like or comment too. I expected that to be that. I'd shared a thought, got a positive response, and was satisfied. Then a few higher-profile people shared it (people who had the blue tick back when you couldn't buy a blue tick) like MPs and columnists, and that's when things really started to snowball. The hundreds of likes grew into thousands, then tens of thousands. By the time we got home from holiday, I'd stopped checking the numbers because they didn't seem real anymore.

An interesting thing about Twitter is that not many of my real-life friends and family are on there. So I don't have many face-to-face conversations about what I post. But screenshots of the tweet popped up on Instagram and Facebook, and suddenly people from university, church and work were asking 'Is this you?' I hadn't anticipated that at all.

Not everyone will agree with you

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, on the internet, there is no truth we can all universally agree upon. As someone once said, if you post something as innocuous as 'I love puppies', someone will comment 'I can't believe you're excluding kittens from this, why do you hate cats so much?!' and another will ask 'why are you posting something so trivial when there are so many bad things happening in the world? You should use your platform for more serious subjects'. It seems to be the way of things.

There were, roughly speaking, three categories of comments that I received in response to the tweet.

  1. People who agreed and got the point of the tweet. These replies were positive, sharing that common ground of being concerned about a big, global issue. One person recommended I be made Prime Minister (very kind, but I'm not sure I'd like living and working in London).

  2. People who were adamant climate change is a myth. I was called 'arrogant' and 'a moron'. I quickly learned that there's no rule that says you have to take to heart things written about you by strangers online.

  3. People who had nothing to say on the matter of climate change, but were furious with me for suggesting a bank holiday, because not everyone benefits from a bank holiday. In particular, retail workers felt aggrieved that I was evidently proposing they work while others got time off.

You don't have to get drawn in to arguments

Despite there being two camps (who, I have to say, were still in the minority, with most people being encouraging and civil) who vehemently disagreed with my proposal, I decided I was not going to spend the following weeks doubling down, explaining myself, or getting dragged into arguments in the comments section.

For my own sake, this was the best decision I made. Yes, I could have tried connecting with some of the commenters to gently explain my point and hope to change their minds, but I don't think many people are willing to have their perspective changed by some stranger on the internet. Besides, with over 750 comments, there was no way I could have kept up with all the conversations. I can barely reply to my WhatsApp messages.

One viral tweet will not make you a celebrity

You'll be shocked and dismayed to learn I did not get any phonecalls from local press, asking me to appear on radio or television, and that I am not a world famous public figure off the back of that one tweet. I did sell a few more books that month, which is nice. And then life went back to normal, and I went back to tweeting silly things about books, parenting and wildlife. And I think that's quite as it should be.

But if you want to keep an eye out, in case I ever accidentally write something that catches the eye of three million people again, you can find me on Twitter as @ClaireRWong

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Dec 19, 2023

In order for your content to continue to grow your brand, you need to constantly work on its quality. Before uploading videos to Twitter, I recommend using twitter video compressor to improve your videos.

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