The Power of a Single Tweet: How the Bin Laden News Broke on Twitter

More than any other recent news event, the news of the death of Osama bin Laden showed the power of Twitter. A single tweet by Donald Rumsfeld’s former Chief of Staff Keith Urbahn managed to set the Internet on fire long before the news was made official almost two hours later. The researchers at social media optimization platform SocialFlow analyzed almost 15 million tweets and bitly links to examine how Urbahn’s tweet spread across Twitter in the hours after he posted his now-famous “So I’m told by a reputable person they killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

Here is what Socialflow’s visualization of this analysis looks like (click on image for a larger view):

What’s interesting is that Keith Urbahn – while well kown within the political sphere in Washington – was likely not on most people’s radar as he only has 1,016 followers at that time. His tweet however, according to SocialFlow, was retweeted 80 times just minutes after he posted it. What really made his message reach the masses, though, was the fact that New York Times reporter Brian Stelter also retweeted it within this first minute and that other large accounts like @laughinsquid, @ObamaNews quickly picked it up as well (likely because they saw Stelter’s tweet).

For a more detailed look at SocialFlow’s analysis, head over to the company’s blog here.