Moriarty's return and Sherlock's girlfriend help His Last Vow break Twitter record

The Sherlock series three final was the most tweeted about single episode of a drama series ever, while the season as a whole racked up almost 1 million tweets

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Moriarty's return and Sherlock's girlfriend help His Last Vow break Twitter record
Written By
Kay Dekker

If there were ever a show made to cause a reaction on Twitter, it was series three of Sherlock. The numbers from the three episodes have been nothing short of colossal, generating more tweets than even we at SecondSync expected; and believe me, we expected a lot. Before getting into the total series figure, let’s do a recap. The figures for season opener The Empty Hearse have already been announced (369,682 tweets) so let’s skip straight to the second episode.

Although not doing as well as The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three saw a total volume of 237,723 tweets, a very substantial tweet total in itself. While not quite overtaking the final episode of Broadchurch, the second episode of Sherlock series three nevertheless stands fifth in SecondSync’s Drama leaderboard. With a peak of 4,524 tweets per minute in the moments following the end of the episode, The Sign of Three averaged 1,523 tweets per minute, down from the 2,046 tpm average that The Empty Hearse secured. The most RT’d tweet during the airing came once again from the official BBC1 account. “THAT Best Man’s speech…” was RT’d 1,758 times. As with the first episode, the user with the most followers tweeting about Sherlock was Simon Pegg who tweeted “I can’t believe Martin and Amanda are live streaming their wedding…” to his 3.7million followers. The appearance of actor Alfred Enoch, who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films, also saw a fair amount of buzz on Twitter as 2,561 Tweets mentioned him.

The Sign of Three generated a fair few peaks during the episode. Naturally, during the opening minutes there were thousands of tweets coming in, hitting a peak of 4,043 tweets per minute at 8:32pm. There was another surge at 8:59pm – John’s emotional hug with Sherlock during the Best Man’s speech hit a peak of 2,821 tweets per minute – and again at 9:19pm, hitting a peak of 2,940 tweets per minute during the duo’s drunken Name Game. The highest peak of 4,524 Tweets per minute came at 9:59pm as Sherlock left the wedding alone.

After only two episodes, Sherlock series three stood at a total volume of 607,405 Tweets, already up to third place in our Drama leaderboard, ahead of the likes of Downton Abbey (#4, 18 episodes) and Broadchurch (#5, 6 episodes). Ranked just above it was BBC1’s Waterloo Road with a total of 823,075 Tweets from 40 episodes. Topping the table was, and still is, Doctor Who, with an impressive 2,303,086 tweets from 16 episodes – including the 50th Anniversary episode and two Christmas specials. Take out these specials and the cult show is left with a total of 593,994 Tweets, ranking it below Downton Abbey. Again, just to clarify, these are the figures after only two episodes of Sherlock.

And then His Last Vow aired.

The Sherlock finale generated a whopping 377,182 tweets, beating the record previously set by The Empty Hearse and making it the highest tweeted volume for a single episode of a drama series in the UK (second overall only to the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary adventure, which is counted as a special). Furthermore, it is also the episode with the second highest tweet volume of 2014 so far, 100k Tweets behind the launch episode of Celebrity Big Brother.

The peak minute of His Last Vow came a minute after the episode ended, hitting a spectacular 10,592 tweets per minute as the hashtags #didyoumissme and #MoriartyLives began to trend. The episode averaged at 1,727 tweets per minute, up on The Sign of Three’s average but not managing to beat The Empty Hearse. There were also a fair few peak minutes in the episode. The opening minute saw 3,339 tweets per minute, while the revelation of Sherlock having a girlfriend saw a peak of 3,131 tweets per minute. The moments around the near fatal shooting of Sherlock saw a peak of 3,548 tweets per minute, the highest of the episode before the final minutes. The most RT’d tweet of the evening once again came from the official BBC1 account, with 5,521 retweets of “Did you miss me?” It seems like Twitter certainly did miss Moriarty, as his shocking reappearance generated a staggering 74,447 mentions of the character and the actor Andrew Scott.

The ending of the episode caused a Twitter frenzy, as people began to tweet their thoughts. There are few shows that achieve what Sherlock has managed to do as a substantial amount of tweets were sent after the episode ended. 188,328 tweets were sent in the 30 minutes after the episode, just under half of the entire total generated.

In a battle of the hashtags, #SherlockLives had a tough act to follow after the success of Doctor Who’s #SaveTheDay. In the 57 days from the hashtag announcement to the end of the episode, #SaveTheDay was mentioned 577,540 times across Twitter. This is an extremely large amount for such a unique hashtag related to a TV show, and something that seemed virtually impossible to replicate in the future. But do not underestimate the tenacity of the BBC Social Media team! If anyone knows how to create a strong Twitter buzz for a TV show, it’s them. Tactically, #SherlockLives was unveiled straight after The Day of the Doctor to the biggest television audience possible at the time. Cue uproar as thousands of people turned to their second screens to tweet the hashtag, first tweeted by user @FlyingMook at 21:06pm, followed immediately by users @captainkathryn and @nexustheduck. 22,935 tweets mentioning #SherlockLives were sent in the first hour which, had it been a TV show, would have ranked sxith on that day’s leaderboard. In total, in the 53 days from the minute it was unveiled up until 10:30pm on Sunday 12 January, #SherlockLives was mentioned a total of 570,893 times on Twitter, less than 7,00 tweets behind #SaveTheDay’s total.

Sherlock series three's Twitter impact has been nothing short of incredible. For three single episodes to generate consistently high totals is unheard of, especially for a drama. It’s certainly set the barrier high for similar shows. So how many tweets did the series generate? It didn’t quite hit the one million mark, but still comes away with 984,587 tweets, a figure that is nothing short of phenomenal for three episodes. Jumping to second place in our Drama Series leaderboard, the overall total will be near impossible to beat – at least until series 4 rolls out… 

Kay Dekker is a social media TV analyst at SecondSync

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