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Discovering Subcultures

This post was written by Erin Hoffman, a social media analyst at Cision.

Subcultures and niche groups can be small, isolated and thinly spread, making connecting with these publics too expensive and labor-intensive. Fortunately, social media measurement opens a treasure trove of data from a handful of sites where disparate communities come together.

For an example, this social media analysis takes a look at the online community created by lindy hop, a jazz swing dance popular from the 1930’s to 1950’s, which has had a resurgence over the past 20 years. Most U.S. cities have a “scene” of dancers who gather at specific venues on specific nights. They DJ their own music, hire a local jazz band, or “lindy bomb” random jazz performances.

Courtsey of Jon Woodbury Photography

Scenes take turns hosting “lindy exchanges” where dozens of visiting lindy hoppers are housed by local dancers for a weekend of workshops, competitions, and dancing from 1:00 p.m. to 6 a.m. (with occasional breaks for food). Lindy hoppers have a unique vocabulary, submit to an unusual hierarchy and pride themselves on their hobby-turned-lifestyle.

The Gathering Place: A Source for Rich Data
Lindy hoppers love talking as much as they love dancing, so online forums are like focus group transcripts covering everything lindy and more. A researcher can easily gather psychographic data from 760,000 posts on 43,000 threads on Yehoodi, one of the America’s most popular lindy sites, then determine which “type” of dancers live in their area by visiting the local forums, like the Austin Swing Syndicate.

From Near and Far
It’s not unusual to see 95% or more of a social media conversation happening within the United States, but one in five comments about lindy hop originate from outside of the continental U.S. Aris Allen, a shoe brand specializing in swing dance shoes, would have a hard time reaching her publics in Korea (whose Seoul scene numbers in the thousands) were it not for the popularity of YouTube videos from Korean dance events.

Big Fish, Small Pond
The last thirty days saw more than two thousand mentions of “lindy hop”, one-tenth of which was posted September 6th by iDance. The lindy hop conversation is wide enough to influence most scenes, but also narrow enough that a strategic campaign can saturate conversation without requiring inordinate time and resources.

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Cision's research staff makes over 20,000 media updates to Cision's Media Database each day! For more updates and other thought leadership in the industry, follow @Media_Moves.

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