Postmedia ran an article titled ‘Denounce Harper’ Twitter-trending on Canada Day. The piece by Teresa Smith got me thinking about Canadian protests and how poorly attended they can be even when they get news coverage. Plus, I’ve been studying the role of digital in Canadian politics and public affairs, and the role tools like Twitter play in revealing public opinion and how it can be measured.
If Twitter reports something is trending, then it is. But what does trending really mean?
The number of tweets necessary to trend is relative to the overall amount of activity and how like-terms concentrate.
HAPPY CANADA DAY
Both #HappyCanadaDay and #CanadaDay trended during the day. That’s not surprising of course given the day. Collectively, those two hashtags accounted for 125,885 tweets, 64% of which were regular tweets (original content), only 30% were retweets and a paltry 6% were replies. The latter two categories matter because they respectively represent the amplifier effect and conversation. Participants were 53% female.
Essentially, a majority of Canada Day related tweets were people sharing good wishes and announcing activities and events taking place. The chatter included mentions of BBQs and beer, fireworks, hockey, the flag, syrup and being proud. The top 10 tweeters generated 102 tweets or 0.0008% of the activity. Meaning, this trend involved large scale participation.
The #DenounceHarper online rally generated 21,660 tweets. There’s no denying that’s a healthy amount of traffic. However, digging deeper, I found those tweets were issued by only 5,125 Twitter accounts (average 4.2 tweets/account). The top 10 #DenounceHarper tweeters generated 1,948 tweets, accounting for 9% of the traffic.
Only 27% of #DenounceHarper tweets were regular tweets (containing original content). The majority of traffic was retweets (68%) or the amplifier effect. You can liken that to a small group of people making statements and a large number of people saying “Yeah! What that person said!”
The #DenounceHarper participants were 52% male and published their concerns about Canada under Prime Minister Harper. They made statements such as:
- for destroying a 145 year old reputation that was the envy of the world, and hard fought for (@robertjensen2)
- for helping fuel the dirty and murderous dictatorship of China by giving them Canadian oil through the #NGP (@HippyHighs)
- for cheating real progressive conservatives out of their Canada by defrauding them out of their votes #reform (@bigpicguy)
However, the more interesting statistic is 2,592 tweets highlighted #DenounceHarper was trending. That means 12% of the traffic was participants patting themselves on the back.
Ultimately, the #DenounceHarper trend involved a small, committed group which managed to generate a healthy amount of online traffic which helped get their issues noticed [by the media]. One could argue it’s a start.
Online rallies have the potential to bring issues and concerns to a large audience. They can even generate news stories which can heighten public awareness and could influence public opinion. And, just like their real world cousins, online rallies have a hard time getting Canadians out of bed.