The Half-Life of a Tweet

The textbook definition of Half Life is “the time required for something to fall to half of its initial value.  The term is mostly commonly associated with the behavior of atoms in a radioactive substance and how radioactive the substance is over periods of time.  But I’d like to use it in connection with today’s social media marketing channel Twitter.

When you tweet about something, the message is sent at the speed of light to your list of followers wherever they are.  If they happen to be logged into their Twitter account or some other Twitter reader, you have a decent chance they will see your tweet right away.  But if they aren’t, then the more time that goes by and the larger the list of others they follow on Twitter, the lower the odds they will ever see your tweet.  So this can leave you with a very short half-life on your tweets – maybe just minutes and commonly just hours.  Keep that in mind when deciding which marketing channel(s) to use for your various news updates and campaigns.  In fact, most marketing activities utilize multiple channels anyway (website, PR, Facebook page, blog, etc) – each with different half-life characteristics.

Some things that can enhance the half-life of your tweets:

  • Use a hash-tag that might later be searched by others researching the topic.  But, of course, the hash-tag has to be established enough to be known for searching.  In other words, you can’t just easily make up a hash-tag and hope people will later find your tweet.  Instead, if your topic relates to an established hash-tag, then latch onto it and use it in your tweet.
  • Re-tweet from other accounts you directly manage
  • Recruit an active set of Twitter followers that regularly re-tweet for you.  This propagates your tweet further and, like the branches of a huge tree, gives you further reach and a longer half-life.  Now you just have to figure out how to gain an active set of followers.
  • If someone responds/replies to your tweet, make sure to re-tweet it as soon as practical from your various accounts
  • Schedule the tweet to be published on good days and at good times.  Late at night or in the middle of the afternoon possibly aren’t the times when your audience is scrolling through their Twitter feed.  When is?  Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to schedule your tweets into the future.
  • Publish the tweet two or three times over the course of a few days – you might even want to pick different times of the day for each to capture different audiences

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Author: Gordon Daugherty

Over the past 15 years Gordon has seen more than 1,500 startup pitches, given personal advice to more than 500 entrepreneurs and been involved with raising over $45M in growth and venture capital. Throughout his 28 year career in high tech, Gordon has two IPO’s and a $200M acquisition exit under his belt. Now, through his advisory practice called Shockwave Innovations and as Managing Director for Austin’s Capital Factory startup accelerator, Gordon’s focus is purely on educating, advising and investing in tech startups.

One thought on “The Half-Life of a Tweet”

  1. I was gonna tweet this, but my half life on Twitter is about 2 times the time it takes me to depress the enter key, so I didn’t. Interesting use of half-life, which I remember from all the radioactive 60’s conversations.

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