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Strategic insights
More on Replies and Retweets



Written by on October 4, 2010

Sysomos, a social analytics company, recently studied 1.2 million tweets, replies, and retweets, and finding something we all knew deep down: Twitter is a realtime stream, with a very short attention span. Almost 97% of all replies happen within the first hour of a tweet being posted, and only 6% is retweeted.

But the study lacks people, and the one number we all desperately need.


Looking at retweets, Sysomos found that only 6% of all tweets gets retweeted, and of those, 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour. 96% is retweeted after the first 6 hours.

While the numbers are very interesting, it doesn't really come as a surprise to anyone. We all see this pattern everyday. Most of the activity happens immediately after it is posted, and then quickly drops off to oblivion.

There is also another story here. A tweet can grow fairly large because of the network effect (viral effect.) Sysomos posted a video of the life of a tweet, where it is clear that some tweets grow far beyond their original scope.

In the screenshot below you see several big blue dots, representing the number of retweets and replies that a tweet gets, and the green and yellow lines representing retweets and replies respectively.

While this video is not the most informative one I have ever seen, it does show that there is network effect. Some tweets grow fairly large, and go viral. They are still very short-lived, but it is an effect that you wouldn't get from other forms of media.

Note: Sysomos only looked at retweets marked as /RT, not all the other variations such as /VIA or /BY.


Looking at replies, we see much of the same pattern. The share of replies is a bit bigger: 23% of all tweets, but with a staggering 97% of all replies being made within the first hour.

More interesting is when we look at debt of the conversation.

Of all tweets that generated a reply, 85% have only one reply. Another 10.7% attracted a reply to the original reply; the conversation was two levels deep. Only 1.53% of Twitter conversations are three levels deep: after the original tweet, there is a reply, reply to the reply, and reply to the reply of reply.

Again, this illustrates the very short life of a tweet and the engagement it creates.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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