Behind the numbers: Tweets per minute

Tweets per minute is the highest number of Tweets reported within any given minute during a specific event.

If you look at the chart below around the Super Bowl blackout in February 2013, it shows mentions of the words “super bowl” or “blackout” in Tweets per minute which start spiking soon after the blackout started at 7:38 PM local time. In fact, the peak was an hour later after the electricity came back on. That means that although there were 2,979,398 Tweets shown in total on this chart, the highest number happened around an hour after the blackout as conversation flooded the web. It’s useful because it also tells you how soon after the event itself the crescendo of noise started happening on Twitter.

Several marketers took advantage of this surge in interest on Super Bowl night to post tweets such as this one from Oreo, which was Retweeted nearly 16,000 times – having been posted on the company’s Twitter feed only 10 minutes after the blackout started but as the subject started to trend.

But it’s important to note that Tweets per minute is only used to measure Tweets around a specific event or hashtag. On its own, it’s just an abstract number.

It’s a measure of the rollercoaster build-up of interest in a subject

Another important factor is that TPM can only be measured by looking for tweets that have event-specific keywords, and that it is typically an underreporting of the “true” volume of conversation. For example, all of the “OMG WOW!!!” tweets following a perfect gymnastics routine in the Olympics wouldn’t be counted because it doesn’t contain an event-specific term. 

But compare it to something else and it starts to tell you something. That’s when TPM comes into its own.

TPM is a very simple guide to how Tweets can reflect events - as something happens before you, the first inclination is to see what the people you follow have to say about it. TPM gives you that indication that a topic is important enough to feature heavily. It’s a measure of the rollercoaster build-up of interest in a subject, which comes to a peak and then slips back down to normal. This is the velocity of that content.

Read more: Behind the numbers - how we measure things

Have you done something interesting with our data? Let us know at mediablog@twitter.com.