Monday, November 02, 2009

How hits happen on twitter

I've always been interested in how hits happen - how some ideas get spread around and some don't. This post is a look at some rules for how hits happen on twitter, using data from an analysis of the Jan Moir twitter storm two weeks ago (well covered by The Guardian here).

I used the tracking tool Radian6 to look at the total number of tweets on the day the story broke, then focussed on those that had the hashtag #janmoir. (There were 8,630 tweets about the story, and 3,063 using the hashtag; Radian6 will only let me download 5000 tweets, so I've had to focus on the hashtag).

I've then analysed this data, to produce some guidelines on how to create a hit on twitter (assuming that the content is worth sharing). I've written a longer version, and have tables, which I'll share if you email me (DM me your email address @dancall on twitter), but it seemed a bit long to post here.

Here are my guidelines for creating a hit on twitter:

1 - Give people something to support or easily identify. A hashtag acts like a banner on a political demo - it gives people something to rally behind

2 - Provide a link to what the you want them to share. works well, and as all links to the same page aggegate for tracking you can then monitor the number of clicks. In this case it was 70,000 in a day.

3 - Be direct. If you want people to re-tweet it ask them to, as Scott Pack, did here:

4 - Be respected. Contrary to a lot of the reporting, twitter hits can start with people with comparatively few followers, but their followers know and respect them so the combined reach of messages can grow quickly. In fact in this case the average number of followers of people using the hashtag did not rise above 500 until after 1pm, 5 hours after the first tweet. (The big spike at 6pm was Richard Bacon, the only person with over 1 million followers who used the hashtag).

5 - Be funny. In all of the analysis I've done, the second most re-tweeted person was someone with less then 500 followers, who tweeted "This is not just the Daily Mail getting kicked in the nuts... This is M&S kicking the Daily Mail in the nuts #JanMoir" when M&S demanded that their ads be removed from the page.
(The most re-tweeted person was the one who posted a link to the article as a Google document so that it wouldn't increase the Daily Mail's page views.

Other interesting points -

- Twitter is harder to influence than traditional media, particularly the press. The new film Starsuckers shows that it's comparatively easy to get fake stories into the newspapers as there are comparatively few 'gatekeepers' (people who decide what goes in) and they don't always check sources; with twitter fake stories get shot down pretty quickly.

- It doesn't take than many tweets to get to be the top trending topic. JanMoir was the top trending topic on Friday morning with less than 200 posts an hour.

See also - my other 'How Hits Happen' posts

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