UPDATE, January 14, 2013: A perfect storm of circumstances led to a number of serious statistical errors in the initial version of this post. Specifically, the data I collected on January 11 was incomplete. I have since corrected my configuration, collected the missing data and updated this post (including analysis). To make up for my error, I’ve expanded this analysis to include geography and language. Please accept my apologies for under-reporting the activity. Read on…

During an interview with a Globe and Mail reporter on Friday (January 11), I noted most of the Idle No More online traffic exists within an ‘echo chamber’. That is, a significant portion of the #IdleNoMore traffic I’m reporting on is coming from within the Idle No More movement (organizers and participants) and media (including retweets of media headlines/reports). So, it’s not entirely surprising that traffic skews positive and neutral, and that negative mentions are getting drowned out.

That’s a good thing for the IdleNoMore movement (and any public affairs campaign). It’s adding to their positive story. However, it means ‘we’ don’t have a true sense of public sentiment. I hope in the coming days I’ll find time to identify and remove the media and IdleNoMore epicentre from the data I’ve collected, and conduct manual sentiment analysis on a random sample of publicly-generated content. That’s no small project. Don’t expect me to publish anything in the next few days.

My sense from scanning content is the public is probably split on its feelings about the movement. Most of the criticism I’ve seen is in response to the blockades and the recent threats to bring Canada’s economy to its knees. Saying that prompted the reporter to ask me an interesting question. I can’t remember the exact wording. It was something along the lines of: What could the Idle No More movement do to have a greater impact? I offered the following as my thoughts.

  1. Create a Canadian team. The blockades are adversarial and they penalize real companies (of all shapes and sizes including small businesses) and real Canadian people/families. That’s more likely to turn people against the movement rather than galvanize them into joining it. Focus on building support rather than capitalizing on anger. The movement has a lot of attention. If it can take the high-road and align itself with Canadians, Canadians will align with the movement.
  2. Turn the flashmobs into flash-workshops. The flashmobs have captured a lot of public attention and resulted in a lot of videos, tweets and the like about these ‘spontaneous’ displays of culture and energy. As a result, many Canadians are being introduced to First Nations’ culture and creativity in-person for the first time. Rather than perform to Canadians, build bridges by involving them. Bring extra drums and show people how to participate. Put ‘social’ into ‘media’ both online and off.
  3. Be creative. Riffing on the first two points, look for opportunities to engage, positively, with the public. One idea that occurred to me when speaking with the Globe and Mail reporter is the Idle No More movement could have conducted an improptu cultural event for Ontario students who found themselves out of school for the day (due to the planned-then-cancelled-strike). Perhaps the movement could have arranged for a participatory cultural event at a museum on the condition the event was not political. That kind of positive and creative approach (provided politics could be put aside briefly) may have helped convert public opinion. It certainly would have made for amazing press.

And, that is a long way of getting to my analysis for January 6 through 12. All analysis was performed using Marketwire/Sysomos Heartbeat.

Tweets Sources Average
Jan 6 20,461 7,660 2.7
Jan 7 24,953 9,170 2.7
Jan 8 21,966 8,767 2.5
Jan 9 23,928 9,748 2.5
Jan 10 33,462 11,387 2.9
Jan 11 56,954 17,439 3.3
Jan 12 24,082 9,618 2.5

Despite the substantial increase in media attention including blockades and national protests, traffic for this past week (233,320 mentions) was up only 10% from last (211,356 mentions). Twitter activity was up 8% (from 191,050 to 205,806), Facebook mentions increased nearly 19% (from 14,569 to 17,302). The biggest gains were in more mature online media. Mentions on blogs increased 52% (from 1,277 to 1,946), online news sites 42% (from 2,682 to 3,802) and a whopping 219% on forums (from 1,075 to 3,426).

I’m not providing sentiment analysis this week. The automated sentiment analysis indicates a significant increase in criticism of the movement within online chatter. However, until I can conduct manual, random-sample analysis of online activity, I can only say that the pendulum is now starting to swing the other way. That kind of shift can impede progress and chip away at support for a movement that wants change.


The most active day was Friday, the day of meetings between a group of First Nations Chiefs with the Prime Minister and subsequently with the Governor General. The 10 most active tweeters that day accounted for 2,138 of the 56,954 tweets (4%). The three most active tweeters were Denver singer/songwriter @evanherzoff (358), retired print editor @chuddles11 (270) and @fruitloopychic (203).

Traffic for Friday built up throughout the morning and peaked at 5,750 tweets between 1pm and 2pmET. It trailed off during the afternoon and dropped sharply between 9pm and 10pm, after First Nations Chiefs has wrapped up their evening meeting with the Governor General.


There were 14,673 online mentions #ChiefSpence or #TheresaSpence, up 68% from last week’s 8,735, but still significantly lower than the 20,680 mentions two weeks ago.


Idle No More is gaining support around the globe including the United States (22,123 mention, 19% overall), the United Kingdom (1,833, 2% overall) and Australia (1,041, 1% overall). In context though, US contributions came from 4,359 sources (roughly 5 tweets/source).

English dominated with 95% of all traffic, followed by French at 4% and Spanish (less than 1%).


While #IdleNoMore generally remains a gender-neutral movement (at one time it skewed female), participation is now shifting to the male side of the scale for the first time in the movement.


There are a number of hashtags which are included with #IdleNoMore. The most popular is #cdnpoli, the hashtag used to identify tweets relating to Canadian politics (by participants-in-the-know). Hashtags like #redwinter and #nativewinter which were being used early on to describe the movement aren’t really catching on.


Tweets mentioned people including Chief Theresa Spence, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, media outlets including CBC and CTV, and a variety of locations in Canada. Anonymous (through their popular Twitter handle @youranonnews) even made it to the mix and so did India.


The most popular tweet for the week was issued by @NaomiAKlein. Her January 11 tweet announcing she is declining the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was retweeted 1,404 times and ‘favorited’ 311 times. Nellie Furtado issued the second- and third-most popular tweets of the week, the latter of which featured a photo of Ms. Furtado wearing an Idle No More t-shirt.


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