How Fast the News Spreads Through Social Media

By Sheldon Levine - Monday, May 2nd, 2011 at 11:23 am  

Unless you have been totally disconnected from any sort of news over the past 12 hours, you’ve no doubt heard that Osama Bin Laden has been found and killed. Barack Obama, President of the United States, made the announcement late last night, but wasn’t the first one to break the story to a lot of people. Most people who are active on Twitter (and who weren’t asleep at the time) first heard the news through the popular social network where it spread like wildfire.

I first saw tweets about Bin Laden’s death start sometime around 10:30pm(EST). At first no one was sure if this was true or just an internet hoax that was taking off, but by about 10:45pm(EST) most of the TV channels had switched to some sort of coverage about it, so I knew it was real. From there, the tweets just kept on coming. By 11:30 Barack Obama had come on TV to address the world and tell us all what had happened.

Around 11:45pm(EST), just as Obama’s address was finishing, I decided to check MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, to see just how much the word had spread through social media. Although I didn’t think to take a screen shot of what I saw, I did tweet out the info I found and it looked like this:

I continued to track the progress of how the talk about Bin Laden exploded throughout the night from the time of the announcement and it went like this:

Midnight(EST):


12:30am(EST):

1am(EST):

2am(EST):

I then had to finally go to sleep, but I woke myself up at 4am(EST) just to see how the talk had progressed with it now being 9am(GMT) in London, meaning that most people around the world would have now heard the news.

4am(EST):

I then went back to sleep and woke up again around 8am(EST) and started tracking the talk again.

8am(EST):

9:30am(EST):

In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 blog post and news articles and an astounding 2.2 million tweets all talking about Osama Bin Laden. As well, while no surprise that people in the US were talking the most about this event a look at our geo-location map shows us that people all over the world were tweeting about the news.

Some other interesting things that I noticed was that people were making jokes about Foursquare leading to the finding of Bin Laden. As time went on, people started started using Foursquare to check into places associated with the death of Bin Laden. Some people were checking in to the location where Bin Laden was found, while others were checking in to a “Post Osama Bin Laden World”.

By 10am(EST) this morning I was able to find 11,570 tweets that made reference to Foursquare and Bin Laden or were check-in’s tweeted out that were related to Bin Laden.

Just on an interesting side note, to see a little bit more about who was making these tweets, for the first time ever, I’m proud to debut one of our upcoming new features, the gender breakdown for Twitter. This is a new feature to Sysomos which has not been released into the public version of our system yet that uses a library of names to help determine the gender of Twitter users. According to our analysis 63% of tweets about Bin Laden came from males while the other 37% were female. Watch out for this new feature coming soon.

If this event isn’t proof of just how quickly social media can be used to spread news, I don’t know what is.

Where were you when you heard the news? How did you hear the news? Was it through social media? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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49 Responses to “How Fast the News Spreads Through Social Media”

  1. Tony Wong says:

    Amazing that within the space of three days we likely witnessed two of the largest social media events in history. How did the numbers compare to the Royal Wedding?

  2. Sheldon Levine says:

    Hey Tony,
    That’s actually a great question that I’ve been meaning to look into, and will, whenever I get a spare moment in the day.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  3. Yep, I heard about the news through Twitter.

    I landed at Denver International Airport at 9:06 PM Mountain time. I had checked into the airport on Fourquare at 9:19 PM then turned on Twitter (Echophon app for iOS) to see what my friends were up to. It was immediately apparent that some big news about Bin Laden had occurred while I was in flight.

  4. [...] were 2.2 million tweets yesterday. Sysomos did a data mining visualization map  showing the concentrations of tweets per [...]

  5. [...] was curious about just how fast and how much volume was created by the death of Bin Laden and broke down the numbers. Within 12 hours of the news being broken around 10:30 p.m. EST (UTC-4), there had been 40,000 blog [...]

  6. hornblower says:

    I heard about it 7:36 PST on my stream.
    http://twitter.com/#!/rickklein/status/64881005865091072

    Color me a bit skeptical about your gender feature; my screen name wd most likely come up as masculine but I’m a woman.

  7. [...] How Fast the News Spreads Through Social Media. [...]

  8. Sheldon Levine says:

    Hi Hornblower (sorry, not sure of your real name),

    I can understand how you may be a bit skeptical, but we release some more information about the system works when it’s ready for public launch. For now, I just thought it would be something nifty to include in this post.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  9. James Topham says:

    I think the thing with twitter is that, while it’s often first, it’s cried wolf so many times that you can only really believe a story once the mainstream has confirmed it. However, once that has happened, the twitterverse turns to it’s favorite sport of proclaiming the mainstream dead for being so slow – or ‘taking the time to fact check” as it is otherwise known…

  10. [...] Sysosmos has done a really interesting (and visual) job of showing what went down last night, check it out! [...]

  11. [...] first reaction was not surprising. Information is spread on social networks faster and with more emotion than any news site. Some go as far as calling it a [...]

  12. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  13. [...] portata della trasmissione d’informazione di Twitter e social media,  Sysomos ha realizzato un’analisi dettagliata che, sostanzialmente, conferma la fotografia effettuata dal sottoscritto a [...]

  14. [...] della trasmissione d’informazione di Twitter e social media,  Sysomos ha realizzato un’analisi dettagliata che, sostanzialmente, conferma la fotografia effettuata dal sottoscritto a [...]

  15. [...] agrégé quelques chiffres sur la rapidité de diffusion de cette information de premier ordre, et y a consacré un article. Des données édifiantes obtenues grâce à MAP, un outil d’analyse statistique que propose [...]

  16. I was asleep. But when I woke up I checked Twitter and like most thought it was an internet hoax. But the more sites I scanned the more I began to believe that it was true. I was in shock and still am.

  17. [...] mensajes un 63% fueron hombres y 37% mujeres, según la monitorización llevada a cabo por la firma Sysomos. En este tiempo se publicaron unos 40.000 post y nuevos artículos. Más sobre: [...]

  18. [...] how much the word had spread through social media. Although I didn’t think to take a … read more Sysomos Blog read [...]

  19. [...] mensajes un 63% fueron hombres y 37% mujeres, según la monitorización llevada a cabo por la firma Sysomos. En este tiempo se publicaron unos 40.000 post y nuevos [...]

  20. [...] Your free Offer @ Wbcom Designs Originally posted here: How Fast the News Spreads Through Social Media « Sysomos Blog Share this:EmailFacebookStumbleUponRelated Social Media ExchangeBest Antivirus Programs for Social [...]

  21. [...] Via - http://blog.sysomos.com/2011/05/02/how-fast-the-news-spreads-through-social-media/ [...]

  22. Shirley says:

    I first heard the news on TV at 10:20pm or so…I was watching Brothers and Sisters on ABC when ‘Breaking News’ came on. The networks all stayed live until the President spoke at around 11:40pm. NOTHING beats real time TV news/reporting. I love to see the activity, the expressions etc. This is something that unfortunately cannot be achieved by Twitter or Facebook…

  23. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  24. [...] social media monitoring site Sysomos noted that “In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 blog post and [...]

  25. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  26. [...] how fast the news spreads through social media … stats, facts about how bin laden news spread through twitter etc (tags: socialmedia binladen advertising stats) [...]

  27. Elizabeth says:

    I also heard the news via Twitter and was completely astonished at how quickly it spread. These are awesome stats… I created an infographic on reactions on social media… Paired with this data and it paints an incredibly interesting picture on the social reaction around the world.

    http://ellynet.tumblr.com/post/5162429688/how-social-media-reacts-to-breaking-news-osama

  28. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  29. kopitiamdi says:

    [...]  Bin laden’s death saw twitter reach its highest peak so far in its history with 2.2 million tweets within 12 hours according to Syosomos [...]

  30. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  31. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  32. [...] to 38,7 million tweets in just 3.5 hours.Social media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing.In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 blog [...]

  33. [...] por mais tempo em evidência do que qualquer outro tema “quente” até então. Segundo a Sysomo, empresa de marketing de internet, menos de 12 horas após o anúncio da morte, a rede social já [...]

  34. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  35. Roshan says:

    The Bin Laden was also the most sustained twitter trend.

  36. [...] killing of the world’s most-wanted terrorist, starting around 7:30 pm Pacific time on Sunday. Sysomos said that its social media monitoring tool measured the [...]

  37. [...] less than 12 hours since the tweeting began,” reports the social-media monitoring firm Sysomos, “we saw almost 40,000 blog post and news articles and an astounding 2.2 million tweets all [...]

  38. [...] was curious about just how fast and how much volume was created by the death of Bin Laden and broke down the numbers. Within 12 hours of the news being broken around 10:30 p.m. EST (UTC-4), there had been 40,000 blog [...]

  39. [...] hundreds of thousands of individuals. Take a look at how quickly the Osama Bin Laden news spread :View the stats . You can reach audiences and people that your traditional print, TV, web, radio or email mediums [...]

  40. [...] May, Sysomos did an impromptu survey of the rise in Tweets after the death of Bin Laden. Some of the first mentions appeared on Twitter and within 12 hours, there were 2.2 million Tweets [...]

  41. [...] May, Sysomos did an impromptu survey of the rise in Tweets after the death of Bin Laden. Some of the first mentions appeared on Twitter and within 12 hours, there were 2.2 million Tweets [...]

  42. [...] May, Sysomos did an impromptu survey of the rise in Tweets after the death of Bin Laden. Some of the first mentions appeared on Twitter and within 12 hours, there were 2.2 million Tweets [...]

  43. [...] May, Sysomos did an impromptu survey of the rise in Tweets after the death of Bin Laden. Some of the first mentions appeared on Twitter and within 12 hours, there were 2.2 million Tweets [...]

  44. [...] Sheldon Levine saw an opportunity to use Sysomos to measure it – he wrote a blog post called How Fast the News Spreads Through Social Media, and looked at the number of Tweets, news and blog [...]

  45. [...] media monitoring and analytics platform Sysomos published data that was equally revealing. In less than 12 hours since the tweeting began we saw almost 40,000 [...]

  46. [...] thing is, I know how the news cycle works. News breaks faster on Twitter than it does on television. The news that Osama Bin Laden was captured released on Twitter before TV. The news about Whitney [...]

  47. [...] headlines in the palm of your hand via your mobile Twitter account. Plus, news stories usually surface fifteen minutes earlier on the Internet than they do on TV. Follow Breaking News, Huffington Post, the Today Show, and CNN Breaking News to [...]

  48. […] The velocity with which Citizen Journalism functions can be seen when looking at the death of Osama Bin Laden, which sparked a large amount of Citizen Journalism. More than half a million posts on the subject across different platforms being made in the first fifteen minutes after Barrack Obama announced the news, which only continued to increase with a similar velocity to which it started (http://blog.sysomos.com/2011/05/02/how-fast-the-news-spreads-through-social-media/) […]