The Life of a Tweet: A Look at the First 24 Hours

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Maggie Butler
Maggie Butler



alarm-clock-computerI’ve been swimming in a sea of Twitter stats lately -- not surprising, since Twitter went public at the beginning of November -- and I’ve found a lot of info about what happens every day on Twitter. What I've discovered is some mind-boggling data, like 9.6 million active users, 2.1 billion search queries and 400 million tweets (according to Saxum).

These figures provide really good insight into a day in the life of Twitter ... but it got me thinking: What about a day in the life of a tweet? Where does it go? Who sees it? And, more importantly, what should social media marketers be doing in the first 24 hours after posting a tweet?

I’ve broken down the day in the life of a tweet below -- as well as how you can take advantage of your tweet after it's posted.

The First 10 Seconds

What's happening?

Your tweet (whether posted on-the-fly or scheduled ahead of time) is now showing up on Twitter and other Twitter applications around the world. Although you’ve spent time learning how to optimize updates for social media, that doesn’t mean all of your tweets will get retweeted or spark up a conversation. There are about 9,100 tweets scrolling by per second on Twitter. Your followers have choices -- lots of them -- on which tweets to engage with.

Here's how you can take action.

It's a good practice to check out your tweet in Social Inbox (or whatever Twitter monitoring app you’re using) to see what it looks like in real time. It provides an objective view of what you’ve tweeted and can give you some hints for better Twitter marketing next time around. A couple of questions you should ask yourself to better your future tweets include "Did my hook method of promoting my tweet work?" and "Is that tweet headline attention-grabbing?" You can even ask a coworker to check out your tweets to see if they find it interesting enough to click on.

The First 60 Seconds

What's happening?

Since Twitter moves fast, there may not be any engagement yet on your tweet. But at this point, you’re not even close to nearing the end of your tweet’s lifespan, especially if you’ve taken precautions to extend it. But if you’re making a major announcement via Twitter and you’re not seeing the engagement you’ve expected, then it’s time to consider ... well ... time, as in when you posted the update and on what day.

Here's how you can take action.

In a report by HubSpot Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella titled "The Science of Retweets," he notes that retweets generally occur between 3 p.m. and 12 a.m. EST on Mondays and Fridays. Retweets are the easiest form of engagement for followers on Twitter, followed by an @reply. If you’re making a major company announcement or have big industry news to share, make sure you schedule your tweets during these peak times. 

The First 5 Minutes

What's happening?

Moz reports that the lifetime of a tweet is about 18 minutes. So right about now, your tweet is rounding the bases of its adolescent years and running straight for adulthood. And, like any good baseball player, your tweet needs plenty of exposure to get noticed and produce great results. If you haven’t seen any action yet on your tweet, don’t fret: While the number of followers your followers have isn’t something you can control, you can control the number of people who have the potential to see your tweet.

Here's how you can take action.

First, don’t fall into the trap of buying your followers -- it's just a bad idea. While buying fake followers is a multimillion-dollar business, it doesn’t give you the kind of engagement you’d have if your Twitter followers all cared about your business and industry. Find new followers by searching Twitter for relevant hashtags and industry terms or creating a Twitter list of people in your industry that are active on the social network. Showing your content to a group of people who actually care about it will yield better results.

The First 60 Minutes

What's happening?

It's been about an hour. Your tweet, depending on the time and day of the week it was posted, may have seen all the action it’s going to get. However, that’s not always the case -- unless you make it that way. What do I mean? I’m talking about cannibalizing your own tweets. Are you doing that? (Hint: You might be, without even knowing it.)

Here's how you can take action.

Make sure you give each tweet it’s time to shine. I hear of so many social media managers who schedule tweets closer than an hour apart. Don’t do it! The longer you leave a tweet up on the top of your page, the longer your followers will have an opportunity to engage with it. Give your followers some time to check it out and react to your tweet before piling on another one on top of it.

The First 12 Hours

What's happening?

While your tweet has comfortably settled into your timeline of tweets, you’ve been rockin’ and rollin’ with some other social media marketing too. This likely means, at this point, you’ve probably got some data to analyze. Whether you’ve hit on the “big 3” social networks or the likes of Instagram and Pinterest, now’s a great time to pit your post on Twitter against similar ones on other networks to see what’s performing the best.

Here's how you can take action.

You should check to see what posts that featured the same content on different social networks performed best. The reason to do this is because there are several different ways to promote one link on social media. Sometimes, a visual post will work best for your content, while at other times, taking a more personalized approach will help your content resonate with your fans and followers. Once you know which approach worked best for that kind of content, you can pre-schedule tweets that work best for the kind of content you’re creating.

(HubSpot customers: You can easily do this with our latest planning spreadsheet for Social Inbox.)

The First 24 Hours

What's happening?

Your tweet is officially one-day old ... and, sadly, also old news. Things move so fast on Twitter that your tweet has almost certainly been buried in your followers’ timelines, although you may still see a RT here and there by your followers who don’t catch up with Twitter on a daily basis. Use this “old news” status to your advantage because now’s the time for reflection and measuring your tweet’s performance -- not against other content on other networks, but on Twitter itself.

Here's how you can take action.

After a full 24 hours, take stock of how your tweet did in comparison to other tweets that week, regardless of the content. See where it stacks up in terms of favorites, retweets, or mentions. If it doesn’t stand out, why not? Was it a case of “tweet this, not that” syndrome? If it was, what did you learn that you can apply to future tweets? It may not be a bad idea to jot some of these learnings down so you can keep track of how your marketing on Twitter changes over time.

Have you noticed anything else about the day in the life of your tweets? Let us know in the comments!

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