Zimmerman shows Twitter is an emotional, immediate medium

The Zimmerman jury came back last night. Twitter exploded.

Between 12:01 a.m. July 13 and 8:05 a.m. Central on July 14 (21 hours before the verdict to 11 hours after), there were about 220,650 tweets using the “#zimmerman” hashtag (there were other active hashtags, i.e., “#zimmermanacquitted,” but #zimmerman was the most active).

It’s no surprise that there were so many tweets. It is a surprising that the tweet frequency fell off so quickly. People use Twitter to vent, to react immediately and to share. Then they go away.

More than 60 percent of the 220,650 tweets with #zimmerman were made during the four hours immediately surrounding the announcement of the jury’s verdict.

The Topsy data gives a very clear view of this:


Tweets/hour using #zimmerman

Look at that giant spike.   There were about 81,000 tweets between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Central (the hour in which the verdict was announced). There were about 11,000 tweets in the hour before and about 32,000 in the hour after.

It’s even more apparent if we look at it in terms of tweets per second (TPS) and tweets per minute (TPM).

8:38 p.m.: .82 TPS/49 TPM

8:53 p.m.: 15 TPS/ 900 TPM

9:01 p.m. – 42 TPS/2,520

9:05 p.m.: 42.3 TPS/2,538

9:09 p.m.: 36 TPS /2,160

9:30 p.m.: 22.2 TPS /1,332

10:08 p.m. 12 TPS/720

Here’s the Topsy data:


Tweets/minute, #zimmerman

Tweets/minute, #zimmerman

Let’s say people went to sleep last night after the verdict. We’re not seeing any recovery in the hashtag this morning; the last hour was showing about 68 TPM.

To put it in perspective:

At its peak, #sharknado was doing 84 TPS/5,032 TPM. The 2013 Super Bowl had a sustained TPM between 4,000 and 8,000 TPM and peaked around 22,000 TPM.

There were diffused hashtags and that might have something to do with the relatively low numbers, but even looking at the other hashtags we see positive action — tweeting about the event, rather than reading tweets — fall off a cliff.