No news travels faster than bad news, unless it’s celebrity death news. And ever since the trifecta of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson passed away in mid-2009, regular Twitter users have feared the worst whenever a celebrity’s name graces that service’s Trending Topics. (Just ask Jeff Goldblum‘s PR team.)
As soon as a media outlet reports the death of someone recognizable, that news sweeps across the social media sites — and Twitter in particular — like wildfire. Why? Easy:
- It’s celebrity news, so everyone already has a frame of reference
- It’s emotional (in some capacity)
- It’s non-controversial — death is death; no interpretation required
- It’s an easily-retweetable headline; just copy and paste
- It’s not even news you need to read (or verify) in order to pass along
Example: When Patrick Swayze died last night, his name raced to the top of Twitter’s Trending Topics. A search of “RIP Patrick Swayze” on Twitter brought up 20 mentions in under 30 seconds, and another 25 were posted in the time it took me to scroll down the page. A significant portion of Twitter users, it seems, care enough about an actor primarily famous for melodramatic ’80s movies that they felt a 140-character eulogy was in order.
So the next time you’re hoping your own news goes “viral” on Twitter, ask yourself: Is what I’m about to say as momentarily relevant to people as the death of a famous person they’ve never met but are vaguely familiar with? And if not, how can you bridge that obituary gap?