How twifficiency became a Twitter sensation in 24 hours

Published 19 August 2010

This week saw an Internet phenomenon which affected millions of people around the world, all due to the creation of a Scottish student.\r\n\r\nIf you haven’t heard about Twifficiency, it’s an application which suddenly appeared in most people’s Twitter feeds this week purporting to calculate their Twitter efficiency score.\r\n\r\nIt became quite literally an overnight success, where it’s 17 year old creator woke up to find his application had gone viral and become a trending topic – the Twitter holy grail.\r\n\r\nHe inadvertently achieved what whole teams of overpaid social media marketing gurus long for every day.\r\n\r\nSo how did he achieve this?\r\n\r\nThe foremost reason was that the application automatically posted a message to the participants Twitter feed when they use it. This was purportedly due to a programming bug which is understandable given his testing team is not extensive.\r\n\r\nHowever this is not a sufficient explanation for its wild success, since any malicious person could create a similar application with ease.\r\n\r\nThere are a few other ingredients which aided Twifficiency’s meteoric success, becoming the number 2 trending topic on Twitter and in the top Google search results.\r\n\r\nFirstly there’s intrigue in the messages, which simply state \“My Twifficiency score is X%, what’s yours?\” and a link to the application.\r\n\r\nThe message is sufficiently lacking in detail, such that we could guess what the score means but won’t find out till we follow the link.\r\nPeople being fundamentally vain are lured in by the opportunity to learn something about themselves assessed by an \“expert\”. The same principle explains the success of fortune tellers.\r\n\r\nSecondly, clicking things on the internet is free, which is why the back button is the most clicked button on a web browser. I can scan my twitter feed and click all the interesting looking links and visit them one after another. Any which are boring, irrelevant or slow loading I simply close.\r\n\r\nThere is an aspect of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites where an application asks for permission. However people don’t generally bother giving much consideration to these. If an application asks to access my account and I’m sufficiently interested then I will grant it.\r\n\r\nFinally when we follow someone on Twitter we are implicitly relying on them to post interesting, relevant and trustworthy content. If someone whom I respect posts a link to this Twifficiency application I would assume they’ve tried it and deem it worthy of posting. They act as a natural filter of the myriad crap on the internet.\r\nHowever due to the programming bug this filter was bypassed and the application posted a message regardless of whether its users liked it or not.\r\n\r\nThe pioneers and early adopters on the internet, the ones we all follow and who try out all these new services would normally disregard Twifficiency as a gimmick and it would die quietly.\r\nHowever much like the guy who first contracted aids from a monkey before it spread virally though mankind, one of these internet explorers tried Twifficiency and unleashed it upon the millions of Twitter users.\r\n\r\nNow brace yourself as malicious developers adopt its successful principles and Twitter, Facebook, et al. becomes overrun with similar applications but which aren’t so benign.\r\n\r\nDo you agree? Leave a comment below.