(CBS/What's Trending) - Twitter has reported that Osama bin Laden's death is the most tweeted about event in the social media site's history. Most notably, many people first found out about the news through the site and numerous retweets of reports before the official confirmation was made. So, I decided to analyze the earliest tweets to see what we could learn from them.
I analyzed over 1 million tweets that were posted between 10:25 and 11:30 eastern time on Sunday night. The major networks broke the news at around 10:45 and the president addressed the nation at approximately 11:30.
I found that many of the most retweeted accounts were major news sources like the New York Times, CNN and the AP. They all started tweeting around 10:45. The first major spike in Osama related tweets occurred at 10:32 and centered around a tweet by CNN news producer Jill Jackson. Jackson was retweeted more than 11,000 times, the highest in my data set.
Most of the accounts that were retweeted thousands of times tweeted the news very early on in the night, between 10:32 and 11. This indicates that in times of breaking news, it is exceptionally important to be quick. Lady Gaga, the most followed user, came late to the party and subsequently was only retweeted a little more than 200 times in this hour.
Humor also played a major role in the Twitter activity about the news. Commedian Jimmy Fallon had the first highly retweeted joke with: "Got Bin Laden AND interrupted Celebrity Apprentice? Win for Obama all around." During the hour, it was retweeted more than 7000 times.
This tells me that when news is breaking there are 3 ways to get celebrity-amounts of tweets:
- Break the news first, before anyone else.
- Be a major news organization or journalist and confirm the news.
- Be fast and funny.
Dan Zarrella is an award-winning social, search, and viral marketing
scientist at HubSpot and author of two O'Reilly Media books: "The Social Media Marketing Book" and The Facebook Marketing Book. He is also a biweekly columnist for What's Trending. To learn more about the author, .