February 15, 2012
/ by ckettmann
The tragic loss of Whitney Houston this week sent shock waves across social media, partly due to how the story first broke via Twitter. Unlike the death of Michael Jackson that was broken by celebrity gossip site TMZ, or the death of Osama Bin Laden that was confirmed by Donald Rumsfeld, Whitney’s death was broken by an unknown individual, @ajadiornavy. The spread of news of her death is certainly another example of the how the press missed breaking the news by around 27 minutes, based on the tweet from @chilemasgrande, or 45 minutes by the first from @ajadiornavy before Associated Press confirmed the death.
How did the news spread? While the death of Whitney Houston spread fast across Twitter because of the organic nature of the story, breaking it was a gradual spread of the tragic news. According to Viralheat data, most people only posted a single tweet or ReTweet about it. While there was a handful of celebrities that had their initial reactions and messages ReTweeted thousands of times, overall her death didn’t receive the polarized response that the death of Steve Jobs, Osama Bin Laden or Michael Jackson saw. The story of her death also didn’t have as many high profile social influencers reacting, as seen in the death of the other celebrities mentioned in this post.
What was the sentiment like?
Reading the Viralheat Conversation Analysis report, it identifies around 52.31% of all tweets showed Positive Sentiment. This matches up with the raw data feed that shows many people are remembering her for her gift of music and also sharing songs of her’s that they will always love.
There are much more positive tweets around her loss, similar to when Steve Jobs passed away, in regards to how much they impacted peoples lives or changed music. Conversely, there was not the anger towards Press/Media seen around the death Michael Jackson. The only major negative tweets seemed focused towards Sony Music where they appeared to have raised the price of Whitney’s digital music catalogue within 30 minutes of her death. There was no anger towards a single event or person outside of some trolls looking to get a rise out of Bobby Brown. Part of the shift influence was also due to the positive statements by fans, friends and people in the music industry, but also inspirational performances done in her memory seen during The 54th Grammy Awards.
What was the conversation like? According to Viralheat data, around 39% of all conversations around Whitney Houston is ReTweets of other peoples messages and even a majority of the Top Influencers by volume showed a low average of 5-12 mentions about Whitney’s death. Part of this change in frantic conversation is also because we are looking back at data after the news broke. However, there is still a much lower amount of coverage around Whitney’s death than you would expect based on past celebrity events.
What are people sharing about Whitney? One of the interesting insights from Viralheat data is that around 51% of the tweets about Whitney Houston contain links. So far it seems a majority are links to news releases and official responses from music industry publications regarding her loss. There are likely a handful of commercial links hidden in the thousands of tweets about her death. However, of those links, I failed to discover any of the exploitation experienced during Michael Jackson’s death that included a spike in malware and scams targeting his fans.
What platforms have the greatest reach? Looking at a single day of Viralheat data, Twitter had the total number of messages about Whitney Houston, but it was close to a 1:1 relationship between unique authors and messages. Facebook had a far lower number of posts of 5 primary Facebook pages but had a far larger total fan reach of 747,000. This was dwarfed by YouTube’s estimated 10.1 million video views across the 549 videos featuring Whitney Houston.
What can you learn from this? The key here are policies, such as the BBC, who raise concerns about news being broken first by Twitter, which is already happening so it is too late to worry. The key factor is the next breaking story likely won’t come from an official news channel, which is why you should be monitoring keywords and not just accounts if you depend on staying ahead of the curve in the 24-hour news room we now live in. If you have a vested interest in a particular company, person, country or product you should monitor all that is said about it right now and even how the sentiment is tracking overtime.
Note: The snapshot of data for this post was taken on Tuesday, February 14th, which was 2 days after the news first broke.
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