The Virality Map: Now We Know How Things Go Viral

Going viral.

It’s the thing that a lot of social media marketers aspire to as the instantaneous brand exposure it provides can be a massive boost.

Yet it’s a process that’s shrouded in mystery.

Why did a certain story catch the imagination more than others? How did one article or tweet or Facebook post lead to another to create this social media phenomenon? Which PR outlets or influencers contributed to this amplification?

These are all questions that are very hard to answer with standard social media analytics. The key links that show how a post went viral instead have to be discovered manually which can be time consuming.

But using Talkwalker’s virality map, brands can now see exactly how a successful tweet, Facebook post or news article spreads through different media types, countries or languages. The virality map can reveal the hidden levers that helped make a post popular providing pivotal online marketing, influencer management and PR insights for companies in all industries.


The following blog will use the example of a couple of online phenomena to show you exactly what you can see and how you can use this new social listening feature.

Marketing: Towards Global Awareness - The Case of Nike and Back to the Future Boots

As part of a campaign tied to #BacktotheFuture Day Nike decided to create some self-tying boots and send them to, who else, Michael J. Fox. Needless to say social and online media went into a frenzy.

This one tweet from Nike’s official Twitter account has clearly had a big impact on the social web generating over 10,000 retweets.  But how did it go viral and how was it spread by online news sites, blogs and tweeters around the world?


The above Talkwalker virality map shows how this tweet from Nike spread across multiple media types. At the top we can see that the tweet was reused in several blogs which were then mentioned on Twitter.  Each bubble represents a time that Nike’s tweet was linked to showing how extensively the tweet was shared and used far beyond Twitter.

We can see for example that coverage in an online newspaper in Venezuela helped the tweet reach a new audience:

For global brands like Nike the key linking publications and Twitter accounts from around the world can also be analyzed. The below example shows the key article that helped spread the news to Japan:


Global brands can use the virality map to understand how buzz about their products and services is spreading around the world. They can then use this data to refine communication strategies for their campaigns and make sure they are targeting key influential publications in each region of the world to amplify their outreach.

PR: Influencers That Matter - The Case of the Star Wars Trailer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have heard that there is a new Star Wars movie coming out this Christmas. The latest tantalizing trailer was released last week and was quickly made available on the official Star Wars YouTube channel.

It’s had around 35 million views so far so it is fair to say it’s been pretty popular. But what (or who) made it possible?

Once again, using the Talkwalker virality map we can track the video’s diffusion path through multiple media channels:

As you’d expect, our social media analytics shows that the video was shared widely across numerous media channels from blogs and magazines to Twitter and Facebook but there are particular publications that have greater influence.

Below we can see a cluster of four articles that had enormous impact on making this video viral:

The darker red lines show the different directions that the video was then shared to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and beyond. The four articles that made such a big impact were the following:

For PR and marketing teams, understanding the most influential media outlets can help them to better analyze the performance of their PR outreach and be more efficient when spreading the word about new releases or product launches. By targeting the right publications they can ensure releases have the biggest possible impact.

Crisis: Find the Source – The Case of Volkswagen

In a crisis situation every piece of information you can get about the nature and the spread of the crisis can be important. Which publications are having the biggest impact in which regions? What was the original source of a negative headline?

German carmaker Volkswagen have been involved in a global crisis over the last couple of months over the emissions made by their vehicles. The scandal continues to rock Volkswagen and the car industry as a whole but how exactly has the bad news been spreading? Below is a virality map of an article from UK newspaper the Guardian about the widening of the emissions scandal that was shared extensively:


The map shows that while the Guardian article itself did generate a high level of engagement there were many other articles preceding it that built up the story coming from various media types.  By tracing these back brands can find the original sources of negative posts and better understand the causes of a crisis.

This particular article also spread into a variety of other regions showing the wide influence that news articles can have on nations outside the original country of publication:


Here we can see that this story has spread not only through the UK but has also been shared extensively in the US and Spain. And what’s more, the articles born from this one article have been shared themselves.

By tracking the virality of particular posts and articles during a crisis brands can localize the source of the negative buzz, understand which publications amplified it and contact the right outlets with the response.

The virality of social and online media has changed the way that marketers and communications professionals operate. But the exact way in which messages go viral has until now been a mystery. Using the Talkwalker virality map you can now get a clearer idea than ever before of exactly how something goes viral and use that information to improve your marketing, influencer management, PR and crisis management.



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