18 minutes of fame: the prime life of a tweet

Twitter logoHow long does a tweet attract attention for? A few of course get read, re-read, shared and re-shared a long time after they were sent. Barack Obama’s tweet on being re-elected will probably feature in various forms for years to come.

But you and I are no Barack Obama. (Though if you are, hello! Nice of you to stop by. Good luck with the deficit, health care, Middle East and the rest.)

A good way of judging how long a more typical tweet really gets attention for is to look at how long it is before retweets stop. That is what Peter Bray did back in November, and his conclusion is:

Ready for it? The magic number?

Eighteen minutes.

Yep, for half of the users sampled, 18 minutes or less was the time it took for half of their tweets’ RTs to occur…

High follower count users have a longer life than low follower count users. Okay, not that surprising. (By the way, it’s kind of in vogue to dismiss follower count, but generally it’s the most informative and productive metric there is.)

The full post is well worth a read at it contains lots of other useful points, and the bottom line is – tweets are short-lived.


John Symons
John Symons

I like to look at the ratio of followers to followed. I manage to keep mine at about 2. Now and again I lose a couple from my total of followers and then I unfollow a relatively and recently active tweep whose tweets have become less interesting.

Duchess of Hackney
Duchess of Hackney

Music analysis guru Bob Lefsetz, blogged about it last year: Most tweets go unread. Just because you tweet, don’t expect your followers to see it. Few view their feed comprehensively. They check in and check out. Catching only bits and pieces. Even forgetting your fake and dormant followers, which are voluminous, far fewer than fifty percent of your followers see one of your tweets. Actually, I’d be stunned if 10-15% of your active followers see one of your tweets. So, natural reaction would be to repeat your tweet. But this only pisses off those who are truly paying attention. People use Twitter as a snapshot of what’s going on, they check in when they’ve got time to waste and when really important stuff is going on. Tweet, but don’t expect it to pay dividends. It’s a gift to your loyal fanbase, which is a far cry from your total fanbase. As for driving your follower count up… Shy of buying or begging for followers, you can’t. Something else has to drive adoption. Twitter is just like everything else online. A minor piece of the puzzle. I know it’s overwhelming, trying to get traction. But have sympathy for the public, which is bombarded with more information than it’s got time to pay attention to. And when you sneak into their feed, through subterfuge or sheer attack, you only piss people off. People trust their friends. And they’re constantly checking the momentum online, what’s trending, they don’t want to be left out of the discussion. You can’t create mo by inundating people who don’t care with junk.

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