The World Watches #Ferguson Through Social Media

Ferguson Police (image via Reuters)Last night most of North America and people around the world were glued to the televisions as they awaited the the Grand Jury’s decision on indictment charges of an officer in Ferguson, Missouri who shot and killed 18 year-old Michael Brown in August.

The build-up to last night’s decision was a long time in the making as people believed that Michael Brown’s death was unnecessary and the cause of poor race-relations not just in Ferguson, but across the United States. Claims that Brown had surrendered before the officer opened fire, led the general public to believe that race was the real issue at hand and not the crime the young man may have committed just before the shooting. This has led to protests, sometimes violent, and lots of talk about the situation both in Ferguson and around the world since the shooting on August 9th.

We were also watching and waiting to hear the decision last night. We were also tracking talk of Ferguson through social channels using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software.

Just before the press conference to announce the Grand jury’s decision, at 8:20pm(EST), mentions of “Ferguson” or the hashtag “#Ferguson,” which has become the official hashtag people have been using to talk about this topic, were above 613,000 across blogs, forums, online news and Twitter.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary at  8:20pm

At the time that the press conference started, around 9:10pm(EST), the number of mentions of Ferguson had risen by over 200,000 to 838,695 mentions across those same channels.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary at 9:10pm

The full press conference, including the question period, in which they announced that they would not be indicting Officer Darren Wilson took about an hour. At 10:10pm mentions of Ferguson had risen to over 2 million for the day. Many of these started to come in as soon as the news of the no charges was said, but we waited until the entire press conference was over to check these numbers.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary at 10:05pm

After the press conference, protesters started to voice their anger at the decision. Many people in Ferguson started to riot and others around the United States who stood in support started their own protests. Many people sat at home and watched these events unfold through their televisions and online. At 11:10pm(EST) the number of mentions of Ferguson had risen by another million to over 3 million.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary at 11:10pm

The rioting and demonstrations continued long into the night. We looked back at all of the mentions of Ferguson that accumulated over the entire day (Novemeber 24th). Over the entire day, mentions of Ferguson surpassed 3.9 million mentions across blogs, forums, online news and Twitter.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary for November 24th

While yesterday created a lot of social media action around Ferguson, as expected, this is an issue that has been bubbling for quite some time. The hashtag “#Ferguson” and references to the whole situation have been happening since August 9th, the day that Michael Brown was shot. We pulled up some data from August 9th up until today to help illustrate this.

Since August 9th to today, Ferguson has been the topic of over 29.7 million social conversations. Ferguson has been mentioned in 168,200 blog posts, 452,673 online news articles, 376,132 forum postings and 28,767,440 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

In that same time, we’ve also found 120,086 videos posted across various video sites that contain “Ferguson” in either their titles or descriptions.

Sysomos MAP - Video Activity

On Tumblr, there have been 6,685,980 different posts about Ferguson since August 9th.

Sysomos MAP - Tumblr Activity

And even on Instagram, we were able to find 566,760 photos that have been tagged with the #Ferguson hashtag.

Sysomos MAP - Instagram Activity

All of these mentions across various social media channels has been building up to yesterday. We plotted the mentions out over time and found that mentions were high towards the beginning of the whole ordeal as riots and protests were happening in Ferguson and police were retaliating with military grade weapons and tactics. After those initial protests calmed down, so did the talk, but not completely. There was a steady stream of conversation around Ferguson that occurred over the next 3 months, but they were all overshadowed in our graph by the spike that came after last night’s announcement.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

And while this issue stemmed from the United States, the whole world has been watching and joining in on the conversation over the past 3 months. A look at where mentions of Ferguson were coming from shows that the majority of the conversation was coming from the United States (72.8%), but a look at our geo location heat map of where tweets were originating from shows that people across the globe had an eye on what was going on and something to say about it.

Sysomos MAP - Country Distribution

Sysomos MAP - Geo Location Heat Map of Tweets

While the trial of Officer Darren Wilson may be over, we have a feeling that the conversation around this will continue for quite some time and that “Ferguson” will still be used not as a hub for activity, but as a hashtag and theme that will bring people together to connect and talk.

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