Twitter’s 60 Minute Shelf Life

According to a new report from analytics firm Sysomos, which analyzed more than 1.2 billion tweets, Twitter may have the shortest life span among social media services.

Bieber Twitter

The Influence Project


Bono and Lady Gaga may be duking it out for social media supremacy, which a recent survey tried to determine by measuring the artists’ influence online (while somehow leaving out Justin Bieber). But it’s worth examining: Is social media even an effective tool to spread one’s influence? At least on Twitter, the reach of influencers such as a Gaga–even with her 6.5 million followers–is ephemeral.

According to a new report from analytics firm Sysomos, tweets have an incredibly short shelf life. Sysomos analyzed more than 1.2 billion tweets and determined that only 29% produce a reaction, which they define as a reply or retweet.

What’s more, just 6% of tweets are retweeted, and nearly all occur within the first hour. What happens after those precious 60 minutes? Just 1.63% of tweets are retweeted in the second hour, and only 0.94% in the third. @Replies too have the same life span–a whopping 97% happen within the first hour. Additionally, the majority of @reply threads end after just one response–only 15% of tweets generate a reply, and just 11% of those threads move to a second response.

What does this all mean? For every influencer on Twitter, you better get your message out there within the first hour. If it doesn’t cause a ripple effect within the first 60 minutes, chances are, it will be lost among the other pointless dribble that has somehow become micro-blog-worthy. Maybe true pop-stars like Gaga and Bieber have the luxury of having their tweets ride the wave of “influence” into that distant second-hour.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.