What’s the Half-Life of a Tweet?

In emphasizing the ephemeral nature of Twitter when consulting with our Mayo Clinic physicians, I have often said the half-life of a tweet is about 30 minutes.

I put it in the lingo of radioactive decay because it is something that scientists naturally get. And while I didn’t have any formal data to justify that half-life estimate, it seemed about right.

But last week when I threw out the 30-minute half-life figure in a conversation, a physician asked: “Really? Is there data published on that?”

Because I didn’t know of any published data, and to see whether I was in the right ballpark, I decided to start a test on Friday.

First, to define the term Half-Life, I take it to mean the point at which half of the people who will ever see a given tweet will see it.

So in other words, if a tweet will eventually be seen by 200 people before heading into the abyss, the half-life would be the time it takes for the first 100 people to see it.

So this was the tweet I used for my quick-and-dirty estimate of half-life:

Going to analytics.twitter.com, I tracked the growth in impressions for this tweet in 5-minute intervals for the first hour. Here’s the graph:

Within the first hour the tweet had 410 impressions. As the slope of the line indicates, it was slowing down significantly. Here’s the graph of total impressions each day for the first two days:

In the first 24 hours the tweet had 593 impressions. On the second day it got only 55, bringing the total to 648. As of this writing, the total is up to 659, so it’s averaging a little over one impression per hour so far on Day 3.


This tweet is on a trajectory to reach perhaps 680 total impressions, which would make the half-way point 340. When did that happen?

At 25 minutes it was at 332, and at 30 minutes it had 350 impressions.

So, it looks like my 30-minute estimate might at least be in the right neighborhood.

This is just the analysis for one tweet, and not necessarily a typical one. Curves for those that get more retweets would have a longer climb before flattening out.

It was kind of a hassle to set my watch alarm to remind me to grab a screen shot every five minutes, though. But if anyone knows a way to automate capturing impressions data for the first hour from a larger sample of tweets, I’d be interested in collaborating with you. Leave a comment or drop me a note.

You can become a SMUG Research Fellow. 😉

What’s Your Health Ecosystem Twitter Reach?

I was in Austin, TX for the last couple of days for The Conference Board Council on Social Media, and on getaway day had the opportunity to attend parts of the W2O group’s PreCommerce event.

It was great to connect with several folks I’ve known for a long time via social, including Chris Heuer, Serena Ehrlich and Jeremiah Owyang, and also to see current and former #MCSMN External Advisory Board members Greg Matthews and Dana Lewis.

Greg and Dana debuted a neat project based on their MDigitalLife platform. They call it the MDigitalLife Snapshot. It lets you see how many Twitter connections you have in the health ecosystem, and in which categories, such as U.S. or non-U.S. physicians, journalists and media outlets. It also highlights the most-connected nodes in your network. Lots of other fun elements to explore, too.

Here’s my report. You can get yours by clicking the “Create Your Own” tab on mine.

I hope MDigital Life will be keeping this updated. I’m taking a screenshot of my Snapshot so I can see how my connections in various categories change over time.

Previewing the Mayo Clinic #ScopeScope

I’m getting a colonoscopy next Tuesday morning, and I hope it will encourage many others to get screened for colorectal cancer too.

Mayo Clinic will be broadcasting the procedure live on Periscope in an interactive event we’re calling the #ScopeScope.

I hope you’ll participate (the links at the bottom of this post give more info and three concrete ways you can help spread the word), but first some background:

  • Colorectal cancer is one of the leading cancer killers, claiming about 50,000 lives per year in the U.S. alone.
  • It’s also among the most preventable or curable cancers with appropriate screening. Finding and removing precancerous polyps keeps them from turning into cancer, and catching cancers earlier improves survival.
  • Colonoscopy is one of several good screening options.
  • Everyone over age 50 should be screened, and if you have a family history or other risk factors it should start earlier. Discuss timing with your doctor.

Why Periscope?

Periscope is a live video streaming mobile application owned by Twitter, and we’ve had a Mayo Clinic channel since June. If you’re not familiar with Periscope, here’s video from a broadcast I did yesterday, describing what we’re doing in the #ScopeScope:

With the Periscope mobile app (available for iOS or Android), you can comment and ask questions, provide feedback and share on other social networks.

You can still watch a Periscope broadcast without the app, but you can’t interact. So you’ll get the best experience if you install it.

Here are a few background links:

Three Concrete Ways You Can Help

  1. Go to the event page we’ve created on Facebook, indicate your attendance, and invite your friends. Especially those you know or suspect are 50 or older.
  2. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now, and
  3. Watch for the Tuesday morning announcements on Twitter and Facebook that the #ScopeScope is starting, and share those with your networks, too.

I welcome your ideas for how we can have the most impact through this project. Please leave your comments below, or share them by email through my contact form.




Big Advance: Periscope Video now in Twitter News Feed*

The announcement has a bit of an asterisk because it isn’t across all platforms yet (but that can’t be too far off, right?), but this week’s big news is that videos from Periscope are now being included in the Twitter news feed, at least on iOS devices.

Here’s how it appears when you’re scrolling through your feed on Twitter (to find this one I just did a search using the #Periscope tag):

Periscope in Twitter feed

You’ll note in the lower left of the video there’s a red box that says “LIVE” and also a counter of how many people are currently watching.

The video starts playing as soon as you scroll over it, although there is no sound at first.

It’s much like the experience of automatically scrolling video on Facebook and Twitter.

When you click on the video, it expands to full screen and looks like this:

Periscope video when watching on Twitter

Note that the follower count has moved to the lower right, and at the top is a button that says “Open Periscope to Chat.”

I think this is an important change that will lead to

  • significantly higher exposure for Periscope videos,
  • increased use of the Periscope app, and
  • further integration with Twitter on all platforms.

This current release only allows watching ‘scopes on Twitter; you can’t comment or give hearts. But just as pre-recorded Facebook and Twitter videos have gotten significant traction, so should live streams (or archives of up to 24 hours) from Periscope.

You can interact with Periscope video on Twitter just as you would with any other content, but those comments aren’t integrated back within the Periscope platform. At least for now.

When we were choosing which live-streaming mobile platform to use at Mayo Clinic, one of the main advantages we saw for Periscope was that it’s owned by Twitter, and that new broadcasts can be announced from our Twitter account.

Having Periscope videos show up in iOS Twitter news feeds is a big step.

Next request: It would be GREAT to be able to send Periscope users to a hyperlinked account page (like we have for Twitter or Facebook or YouTube) to make it easier for them to subscribe.

What new features would you like to see on Periscope?