By Henry Woodbury, May 10, 2011
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 shape of rumors on Twitter
On the evening of May 1st, people using Twitter figured out that Osama Bin-Laden had been killed over an hour before the formal White House announcement. Within minutes of hearing about the emergency presidential address, Twitter users were actively working to figure out the puzzle. 38 minutes after the announcement about Obama’s address, a certain tweet confirming speculations posted by @keithurbahn, Chief of Staff at the office of Donald Rumsfeld, started spreading like wildfire. Keith was not first to speculate that the address is related to Bin-Laden, nor did he have a particularly influential presence on Twitter, with a following of 1,016 and a casual digital portrayal. But the right network effects came into play, and enabled his post to generate enough trust amongst his followers, their followers, and so on.
At SocialFlow we analyzed 14.8 million public Tweets, and bitly links, posted between news about an unplanned presidential address (9:46 p.m. EST) and Obama’s address (11:30 p.m. EST) to see how dynamics of rumor creation played out during those critical hours on Twitter. Out of the dominant information flows observed in the data, we focus on the largest flow, engaging tens of thousands of users, validating speculation around Bin Laden’s death.
Who knew what and when?
Twitter has proven time and time again its value in tracking events as they unfold in realtime, accelerating the flow and spread of information across the globe. Twitter has become the dominant mechanism to get timely updates about events that are taking place regardless of geography, topic or even language. However these same network properties that make Twitter so effective for accelerating information flows, can just as easily lead to misinformation spread. Rumors about OBL’s death leaked out to Twitter, before hitting TV, and certainly before the formal presidential address. But how and where did they start? And how did they solidify from being merely speculative, to common belief?
News about the presidential address reached Twitter as early as 9:46 p.m. EST, prompting curious Twitter users to make guesses about the nature of the unplanned address. Many guessed that the breaking news has to do with Gaddafi, whose son was killed a couple days beforehand. Others passed jokes, such as the following by a user named @pandagon: “Obama to address nation at 10:30 to announce that Bill Ayers is his real father.”
The following logarithmic figure is a minute-to-minute detailed comparison of the frequency of appearance of Bin Laden vs. Gaddafi related tweets during the three hour window. Before the announcement about an emergency presidential address, the terms were equally used on the network. However, as speculation about a connection to Bin Laden strengthened, we see a clear rise in people’s discussions and reposting of content about OBL. This spike occurs at just about the same time that Keith posted his valuable piece of information:
Influence, trust and attention
Authority, trust and persuasiveness play an important role in influencing others, but are only part of a complex set of dynamics that affect people’s perception. Connections are another important factor, along with timing and a dash of pure luck. But as humans, we are still incredibly irrational, and constantly make decisions based on our intuition, or whatever we feel like at that moment.
As we build out digital social spaces, we must not get derailed by metrics of status affordances that have taken center stage. Just because we have easily accessible data at our fingertips doesn’t mean that we have the capacity to model and place a value tag on human behavior. Followers, friends or likes represent an aspect of our digital status, but are only a partial representation of our general propensity to be influential. 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. And with that, the perfect situation unfolded, where timing, the right social-professional networked audience, along with a critically relevant piece of information led to an explosion of public affirmation of his trustworthiness.
SocialFlow is a social media optimization platform that is used by major publishers, brand marketers and retailers around the world to increase engagement (clicks, re-tweets, re-posts and mentions) on Twitter. Our technology determines the optimal time to release the right Tweet based on when your audience is most receptive.
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статья сложная,большая-репостил частично на английском языке.перевести может только квалифицированный переводчик,ну или автор) суть анализа- публичные аффирмации,как работает "заряженная" мысль даже ОДНОГО человека. как создавать общественное мнение,эгрегоры* мнений,как создавать позитивгные и деструктивные маятники*-в чем разница? как сделать Позитив из негатива?...