Growing popularity challenges the long story format
165 million people use Twitter. The popularity of the 140 character message threatens to change how people communicate. It is also changing how newspapers and bloggers write their headlines.
The downside is the life of a Tweet is about one hour and a Tweet is not the whole story.
But will it be another nail on the coffin of the newspaper business and will bloggers shift to Twitter instead?
People love the economy of Twitter. We don’t have to read 250 words, or even 50 words to find out what is happening. It’s all boiled down to 140 characters or about 25 words.
For people who want to communicate news or views, Twitter is a dream come true. If you have breaking news, just Twitter it from your smartphone or computer. Potentially thousands of people will find out, and think you are cool for sharing.
In the case of a single train of thought or newsworthy item to you, nothing is more efficient. “Plane crashed over Pacific near Hawaii.”, “Social Network is dud movie”, “Cops beat cyclist w/pic”.
However, Twitter can only communicate a single thought and not a whole story, certainly not the back story. For that you still need to click the link to the site that promoted the Tweet. Or upload the picture to Tweetpics or video to Youtube or some other upload site.
One hour lifespan
Most Tweets are lost within one hour. The shelf life of a Tweet is very short, shorter than lettuce in the grocery store. Stories on news sites and blog posts have a much longer shelf life.
Most of my posts have a 1-2 day life but the best of them, in the reader’s estimation, stay popular for years. Often due to the viral nature of the internet links, stories are more popular 30 days after posting than on day one.
An August 2010 study of 1.2 billion Tweets by Sysmos showed that if a Tweet isn’t re-tweeted or doesn’t get a reply within the first hour, it dies.
71% of Tweets get no reaction from fellow Tweeters, 6% get a re-Tweet and 23% get a reply. Considering people get hundreds of Tweets per hour, that’s not unusual but it does show the short life of those 140 characters.
Last week I tried to find, three hours later, a Tweet that I had read at breakfast. There were so many Tweets on the same topic, it took more than 15 minutes to locate it. How many people go to that bother? The task was so frustrating I almost quit several times.
The following chart shows that the number of re-Tweets drops quickly in the hours that follow the first hour.
Chart credit Sysmos
Tweeting is changing things but it won’t replace telling the whole story.
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