24.9 million tweets were sent during Super Bowl 48 — and the scrollable refresh trigger is lining Twitter’s pockets


There’s a chart of the peak moments on Twitter during last night’s Super Bowl, via Twitter’s official blog. Overall 24.9 million tweets were sent — last year’s Super Bowl, which was a much closer game, had about 24.1 million tweets sent — and while it’s no Castle in the Skythat’s still a lot of cultural relevance for one event. The question for advertisers and marketers is a mess, though: consider that during the Percy Harvin runback to start the third quarter, about 381,000 tweets were being sent per minute. If you’re a company that wants to get in on that — say, a Seattle-based company like Starbucks or NIKE or something — how do you possibly rise above that din and make some money (aside from perhaps sponsoring a tweet)? (If you want to learn more about Twitter’s real value, read this.)

Well, there’s a new concept/idea out there that could be kind of interesting. Start with this basic idea: you know how sometimes you’ll be waiting for someone at a pub or just fiddling with your phone, and you’ll pull the screen down with your thumb to refresh content? You may do this on Twitter’s app, Facebook’s app, or a news app of some kind. It’s technically called “a scrollable refresh trigger,” and Twitter actually has a patent on it, although they’re not out to fleece other companies that use the technology (although theoretically, someday they could), but here’s the big thing you should know:

Every time you refresh your tweets, Twitter banks a tenth of a penny.

Yep. So every 10 times someone refreshes their timeline, Twitter makes 1 cent. Every 1,000 times a timeline is refreshed, Twitter makes a buck. That seems meaningless, no? In the third quarter of last year alone, this happened 158 billion times; that’s about 685 times per active user. Clearly, the world is very compulsive (and, of course, the entire idea of Twitter is what’s new and what’s fresh and what’s at the top; this is why it was ultimately a tremendous format for journalists to hop on board with).

So here’s the new plan: if you pull down on your timeline (refresh it) and there’s nothing new, instead Twitter will show you suggested content to look at, people to follow, or notifications about what people are discussing elsewhere in the micro-blog world. In the future, it may charge for those types of placements.

If you read between the lines on all this, essentially Twitter is going to monetize the idea that people compulsively re-swipe their phones for new information. That seems like a good idea, broadly speaking, from a business perspective.

Now of course, this is going to be an irrelevant feature during next year’s Super Bowl, this year’s Oscars, etc — last night I checked Twitter maybe four times (once per quarter, give or take). I hate being on there during major events because it feels like a really shitty, crowded sports bar where everyone is screaming some opinion at you and you just want to get a drink and maybe SCROLLABLE REFRESH TRIGGER your phone for a bit as you wonder where your life is headed (can you tell this exact situation has happened to me a few times?). But clearly, because it was the Super Bowl, I’d be on there for 10 seconds and suddenly my screen would say “19 new tweets.” So I doubt the big events are the spots where this “sponsored/recommended/charged for” content will come into play, but still … the entire process of a massive social media company with 231 million active users and 24.9 million micro-conversations during a major cultural event finding new ways to monetize is interesting.

Ted Bauer

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