It happened Sunday night. At the end of her performance at the 2011 Video Music Awards, Beyonce unbuttoned her sequined tuxedo jacket and rubbed her (obviously) pregnant stomach. She’d told the press corps earlier in the evening, but this was her message to the world: We’re expecting. Within seconds, Twitter exploded in a barrage of tweets noting the news. “OMG”s abounded. Shift keys were broken typing out all those exclamation points. The world reacted online as two of the globe’s favorite pop stars shared such an intimate moment.
At NJI Media, we talk with clients about how to share important moments and news with their audiences through social media. As Sunday night proved, people turn to platforms like Twitter when something noteworthy happens. We also discuss the importance of expanding Twitter reach to bring in new demographics and wider audiences. On the flip side, we’re also ever mindful that social media statistic are not always what they’re made out to be. Which brings us back to Beyonce and Jay Z’s big reveal.
Twitter’s official public relations feed (@TwitterGlobalPR) confirmed that in the wake of Bey and Jay’s announcement, Twitter users published 8,868 tweets per second. That’s a record for the most tweets per second (TPS) published about any event … ever. This means Beyonce’s happy announcement beat out the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup (7,196 TPS), the East Coast earthquake (5,500 TPS), the Japan earthquake of March 11, 2011 (5,530 TPS) and the death of Osama Bin Laden (5,106 TPS). That’s a lot of newsworthy events, but that’s not to say Twitter considers Beyonce’s baby bump more important than the Japanese earthquake or the death of Osama Bin Laden.
By the raw numbers, it seems fairly clear cut. But those numbers exclude a fairly important detail: the size of the Twitter population. As we’ve noted before, Twitter continues to be one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. The Huffington Post notes that 572,000 people created Twitter accounts in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of people created accounts day in the weeks leading up to the Japan quake, too.
Twitter’s rapid and continued growth means that record-setting events should not be weighed equally. Blockbuster movie openings of decades past aren’t measured against last week’s releases; context is everything. The Twitter community that responded to the Virginia earthquake last week is far different – in size, particularly – than the community that responded to Japan’s quake or Bin Laden’s death. The makeup of those using Twitter changes all the time, so direct comparisons are impossible without distorting the underlying truth of the facts.
Was Beyonce’s announcement a big deal? The number of people mentioning it in their tweets suggest so. But does Twitter activity suggest users thought it was a bigger deal than Osama Bin Laden’s death? That’s a stretch.
We’re eager to watch Twitter grow, and you too, Bey. And if you and Jay are listening, we’d be happy to design the baby announcements or build a website for the kid’s first mixtape. Just sayin’.