Twitter Conversation Statistics - Power of Replies and Retweets

Replies and Retweets on Twitter

Sept 2010
By Sysomos Inc.

→ Also Read Other Twitter and Social Media Reports

When a tweet generates a reply (aka @) or a retweet (aka RT), it suggests the tweet has resonated enough with someone that it sparks a conversation or encourages someone to share it with their followers.

Given the power of the reply and the RT, we thought it would be interesting to explore how many tweets actually generate a reaction. We also wanted to collect more insight into the characteristics of these reactions. For example, what is the timeframe for a retweet to happen?

To carry out the research, Sysomos examined 1.2 billion tweets posted in the last two months.

Retweets and Replies on Twitter

29% of Tweets Generate a Reaction

We found that 29% of all tweets produced a reaction - a reply or a retweet. Of this group of tweets, 19.3% were retweets and the rest replies. This means that of the 1.2 billion tweets we examined, 6%, (or 72 million) were retweets.

Most Retweets Happen in the First Hour

We discovered that 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour of the original tweet being published, while an additional 1.63% of retweets happen in the second hour, and 0.94% take place in the third hour.

This means that if a tweet is not retweeted in the first hour, it is very likely that it will not be retweeted.

The graph below shows the fraction of tweets from the second hour onwards - the x-axis shows the time in hours since the original tweet, while the vertical axis shows the fraction of retweets within a particular hour. The 92.4% of all retweets, which happen within the first hour, are not displayed in the chart. 1.63% of retweets happen in the second hour, and 0.94% take place in the third hour.

Retweet Time Span Histogram

Most Replies Also Happen in the First Hour

When examining replies, there is a similar pattern to how retweets behave. We found that 96.9% of @ replies happen within the first hour of the original tweet being published, while an additional 0.88% of replies happen in the second hour. After that, reply activity dramatically declines.

Only 1.53% of Twitter Conversation are Three Levels Deep

We also examined the distance between an original tweet and the replies it attracts. Of all tweets that generated a reply, 85% have only one reply. Another 10.7% attracted a reply to the original reply - the conversation was two levels deep.

Only 1.53% of Twitter conversations are three levels deep - after the original tweet, there is a reply, reply to the reply, and reply to the reply of reply.

The chart below shows how the fraction of Twitter conversations (on vertical axis) with respect to how long the conversation lasted (on horizontal axis). It shows that only a small number of users actually have the ability to engage on Twitter in a significant way.

Reply Hop Distance Histogram

Appendix: Additional Data

The table below shows the fraction of retweets as number of hours since the original tweet.

Retweet Time Span Histogram Table

The table below shows the fraction of @ replies as number of hours since the original tweet.

Reply Time Span Histogram Table

The video below shows a sample visualization of tweets and their retweets over time. The spiral represents the time axis. Each blue dot is a tweet, with the size of the blue dot representing the number of retweets and replies to that tweet. Each green line shows a retweet to the original tweet and each orange line shows @reply to the original tweet.

About Sysomos, a Marketwire Company

Business Intelligence for Social Media, Monitoring and Analytics

Sysomos is the leading provider of social media monitoring and analytics technology. Through the use of contextual text analytics and data mining technology, Sysomos collects and analyzes data from blogs, Twitter, social networks, messages, boards, wikis and major new sources. Sysomos' software platform is used by corporations, marketers, public relations agencies and advertisers around the world for real-time consumer insights and social intelligence. Sysomos is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marketwire. More information about Sysomos and its services can be found at

Sysomos' Products Include

Social Media Analysis Platform (MAP) Media Analysis Platform (MAP): A full-feature social media analytics service with unlimited access to billions of online conversations, as well features such as automated sentiment and geo-demographics. MAP is ideal for in-depth research, historical analysis, and the preparation of value-added reports.

Heartbeat - Social Media Monitoring Dashboard Heartbeat: A cost-effective, social media monitoring and engagement tool with measurable metrics and automated sentiment. Heartbeat organizes online conversations, manage workflow, facilitate collaboration, and provide ways to engage with key influencers.

Audience - Social Media ROI Audience: A full featured platform to connect visits to a website with social media mentions. Using Audience, sales managers can identify and engage with their most valuable leads; community managers can focus on most important relationships, and marketing managers can finally measure social media ROI and attribute value to their campaigns.

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Sysomos has collected a comprehensive collection of data from Twitter user profiles and updates. We will be publishing our analysis of this ever-changing and growing data on a regular basis. To leave comments (including the kind of information you would like to see in future) about this report, visit our blog.