TwiTerra Statistics and Brilliant Viral Marketing

Twitter took its time monetizing, but there should never have been doubt.

760 words

(The presentation at the NY Tech Meetup went very well, and I will post about that later.)

As of the time of this writing, I have 161,984 tweets in the database. 72,215 of them are root tweets, or original tweets that were then retweeted but are not retweets themselves. This means that most of my chains of retweets consist only of one original tweet and one retweet. Furthermore, of these original root tweets,

  • 9,872 have at least two retweets
  • 3,063 have at least three retweets
  • 1,435 have at least four retweets
  • 738 have at least five retweets
  • 461 have at least six retweets
  • 286 have at least seven retweets
  • 199 have at least eight retweets
  • 152 have at least nine retweets
  • 109 have at least ten retweets

So, of all retweets, less than three twentieths of one percent have ten or more retweets. There are, however, several very interesting tweets with over one hundred retweets. They are as follows:

  • shefinds (115 retweets) : @shefinds is giving away a $500 #Kmart Gift Card on her blog — simply tweet or comment to enter
  • eMom (158 retweets) : @eMom is giving away a $500 Kmart Gift Card on her blog — simply comment or tweet to enter : I want you to win!
  • karllong (133 retweets) : @karllong is giving away 10 x $25 gift certificates for — just RT this to enter, will tweet the winners
  • Camiseteria (266 retweets) : @camiseteria vai sortear 5 vale-compras de R$55 do Retweet essa mensagem para participar. Google translates this from Portuguese as “@ camiseteria will raffle 5-worth of $ 55 purchases of Retweet this message to participate.”
  • chrisbrogan (145 retweets) : Please retweet the HELL out of this post:
  • Armano (115 retweets) : OK, here’s the favor. It’s a big one. For big hearts. Please help. Please retweet.

Some of these are not surprising — @chrisbrogan has over 32,000 followers, so when he tweets about something as important to the Twitter community as Twitter phishing scams, especially when that tweet is short, it will get retweeted a lot. @armano has only (only) 8,387 followers, but his tweet is compellingly humanitarian, and I can see the appeal of retweeting it.

The first four, however, are fascinating viral marketing campaigns. @shefinds has only 1,208 followers, @eMom has considerably more at 7,294 followers, @karllong has 2,774 followers, and @camiseteria has 4,767 followers.

An unusually large fraction of the followers of each of these accounts retweeted these viral messages. By intertwining the methodology of spreading the idea (“retweet this”) with an incentive (“to enter this contest”) the accounts were able to market the brand of whatever they were selling (as well as the brand of that specific account) to large audiences at low cost and low annoyance (clearly no one who retweeted it was annoyed with the message, and if a recipient of a retweet was annoyed, that is likely to be annoyance with the retweeter and not the brand). Remember that the retweet counts are not the number of people who received a message, but are instead the number of people who broadcast it — actual numbers of recipients would likely be one or more magnitudes larger.

Finally, note that these are only the retweets with associated geographic data — because I planned to display them on the globe, those are the only ones I kept in the database. Based on my informal observations while watching the application run of the other retweets in the database, there are not very many that either start in or are retweeted from South America. Thus the huge number of Brazil retweets that Camiseteria got that had geographic data associated with them is probably only the tip of the iceberg of retweets that did not have geographic data. I imagine that the t-shirt company got a huge amount of exposure for very little effort and very little cost.

I’ve made a slight modification of TwiTerra to highlight the Camiseteria retweets. Most retweets are in Brazil (where the original tweet was), but they also stretch to a variety of other places. (I’ll add that I came across that particular t-shirt store over a year ago; I can’t remember the circumstances, but they have nice shirts.) Download a Mac, Windows, or Linux version, be patient as it launches, and be sure to spin around the globe to Japan — two of the retweets are there, and the travelling of the information is visualized as going in opposite directions around the world from Brazil to Japan :)