Twitter reacts to the Trayvon Martin shooting

Trayvon Martin’s shooting in central Florida has generated a great deal of anger and protest, with a huge protest rally taking place in Sanford, FL yesterday.  And the protest has taken place on Twitter as well, with huge volumes of tweets being sent and resent.

Looking at yesterday, we can see that nearly 200,000 tweets were sent on the topic.  Here’s a graph of the volume of tweets during the day (you can click on any of these charts to see larger versions):

Tweets during the day of 3/20 on the topic of Trayvon Martin

What’s interesting is the explosion of re-tweets towards the end of the day.  This is like an avalanche picking up speed — the initial bolders dislodge other bolders, until the side of the mountain is slipping down to the valley.

We can get a sense of who’s being retweeted by looking at the list of people mentioned in the tweets, the user in the RT @user:

User PrettyBoyJake made one tweet, at 5:18 pm, which said “R.I.P. To The Young 17 Year Old Boy Trayvon Martin From Florida Who Was Shot & Killed By A Racist Neighborhood Watchman #RT To Show Respect” and got nearly 6000 retweets.

At 9:13pm, user _MacKISSES tweeted “R.I.P. Trayvon retweet to show respect !” — and that tweet caused the spike we see during the 21:00 (9pm) and 22:00 (10pm) hours with over 8000 retweets.

The right message at the right time can generate a huge response on twitter!

There were a couple of hashtags that stood out:

I think the “#rt” hashtag is interesting — it’s asking people to retweet.

Finally, a look at the top 50 words used across all the tweets (“stop” words  — the, and, etc. — not included):

It’s not surprising that “Trayvon” is at the top, FYI, as that was a search term used to identify the tweets — every tweet analyzed used that word. (Click on the chart to see a larger version).

All told, I analyzed 181,622 tweets that had been sent yesterday, 3/20, between midnight and midnight, EDT.  The volume is impressive, and the 61% or so that were retweets (I was fairly strict in defining what is a retweet) show that retweets are a powerful way of demonstrating support for a topic, somewhat akin to the “Like” button in Facebook or signing a petition at