SocialFlow Company Blog: Breaking Bin Laden: visualizing the power of a single tweet

A full hour before the formal announcement of Bin-Laden’s death, Keith Urbahn posted his speculation on the emergency presidential address. Little did he know that this Tweet would trigger an avalanche of reactions, Retweets and conversations that would beat mainstream media as well as the White House announcement.

Keith Urbahn wasn’t the first to speculate Bin Laden’s death, but he was the one who gained the most trust from the network. Why did this happen?

Before May 1st, not even the smartest of machine learning algorithms could have predicted Keith Urbahn’s online relevancy score, or his potential to spark an incredibly viral information flow. While politicos “in the know” certainly knew him or of him, his previous interactions and size and nature of his social graph did little to reflect his potential to generate thousands of people’s willingness to trust within a matter of minutes.

While connections, authority, trust and persuasiveness play a key role in influencing others, they are only part of a complex set of dynamics that affect people’s perception of a person, a piece of information or a product. Timing, initiating a network effect at the right time, and frankly, a dash of pure luck matter equally.

At SocialFlow we’ve analyzed the effects of timing and topicality within social streams. In this study we looked at 14.8 million tweets and bitly links with the goal of reaching an understanding on how timing, along with other core dynamics can amplify the reach of a single tweet to a massive scale. Below is a visualization of the network graph showing the spread of Keith Urbahn’s single speculative tweet across users on Twitter.

The image above illustrates the spread of information about Bin Ladens death following Keith Urbahns posted tweet.

Click through and read the whole thing.

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