Trending This Week: News Stories on Social Media


This week was a rollercoaster ride in news, between a tragic shooting in North Carolina, show hijacking Grammy interruptions, Netflix leak, and of course the imminent holiday that bums out so many singletons – Valentine’s Day.

We looked at a few of these stories and the way social data and conversations reveal some interesting trends about our society, and how the news organism works in today’s social media-first mindset.

If it wasn’t Tweeted, it didn’t happen. Photo or I don’t believe you. If we’re not Facebook official, well maybe we just aren’t official at all.

Let’s see what the social data reveals.

The Sammys

The Grammys, or what everyone’s calling the Sammys (can ya “Latch” on to that!), were last Sunday. We saw nearly 12 million mentions of the awards show. The most popular hashtag was #Grammys (no surprise there) with more than 4 million tweets and retweets.


The most popular minute of the show that occurred on social media was at precisely 11:10 p.m. ET just after Sam Smith won record of the year. We saw many mentions of his speech when Smith said, “I want to thank the man this album is about. Thank you for breaking my heart ’cause you got me four Grammys.”

Of note, this graph represents GMT timezone


Unsurprisingly, Kanye West was one of the most mentioned topics when he almost repeated 2009’s “Imma let you finish” interruption du jour after Beck won album of the year over Beyonce. I think Jay Z’s face said it all.

Jon Stewart, 2016

We’ve all had to come to terms with the news that Jon Stewart will be leaving “The Daily Show” after 17 years. Forever. Please make this be a joke? No? Okay.

It’s time to move on, to remember the good times, and be grateful for the time we’ve had.

But most importantly to see how the social users of the world reacted to the news.

Immediately after the announcement — broken from the studio by The AV Club — Twitter flat-out exploded. Average mentions per minute shot up from 3 to over 700. Since February 10, there have been over 226,000 mentions of his departure.

Within minutes of the news social media began to speculate who will replace him. We saw mentions of John Oliver, Amy Schumer, and Tina Fey. There were also more than 12,500 mentions of Brian Williams replacing Stewart as people sarcastically Tweeted Williams already has “that fake news thing nailed down.”

Ouch, that one hurt.

Hashtag activism, meet hashtag news-breaking

With the tragic shooting of three Muslim students near UNC at Chapel Hill, many learned about the breaking news exclusively through social media updated on Twitter or Facebook.

The news was slow to gain momentum with media outlets, which actually shifted the conversation on social platforms to focus on how the news was mostly being shared on social. Incredibly meta, yet highly poignant in this age of social media breaking most news stories.

Since February 10 we have seen more than one million mentions of the shooting. Hashtags most associated with the conversation online were about the lack of media coverage, in addition to the societal and cultural implications, included #ShameOnUSMedia, #MuslimLivesMatter, and #IslamoPhobia.

The reaction of what happened in Chapel Hill has been compared to the deadly shooting in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, as many question “why” was there a delayed response in media reporting?

This isn’t the first incident that has sparked these types of conversations on social, about why the media is slow to pick up on stories that are coursing quickly on social channels. Earlier this year, there was a bombing at an NAACP office in Colorado, the same week as Charlie Hebdo, and the news did not receive nearly the same amount of coverage.


What’s interesting is that these two incidents barely registered in the media until social users started to make some noise, connect hashtags, and mention them in conversations related to the widely covered shooting in Paris. Social media’s power has never been so blatantly potent as the key source for news dissemination and societal dissection.

Social is clearly a potent transmission of what stories garner importance for media, so why isn’t the media paying close attention to topics that are trending and have spiked mentions in a certain time frame? It can be a clear indication of the magnitude and severity of real-time events.

In Washington, D.C., there’s always a leak

I thought it was an early Valentine’s Day present from Netflix, instead it was just heartbreak.

For a fleeting moment this week, season three of Netflix’s hit original show “House of Cards” was available. However, it was just a glitch and Netflix pulled the episodes faster than you can say “who are YOU lobbying for?”

Since the episodes leaked, we have seen more than 40,000 mentions of the incident (6,800 of those under the #HouseOfCards hashtag). The intense excitement and appearnace of a “leak” drew comparisons to Beyoncé’s unexpected album drop in December 2013. Her name was actually mentioned over 1,600 times in conversations about “House of Cards.”

Of note, this graph represents GMT timezone

The leak, like so many stories, broke on social media first. This is a constant theme with breaking news and trends appearing on social channels before they appear elsewhere.

News sources are no longer how we get breaking news. We’re living in a time where people check their Twitter feeds before turning to news outlets. No matter how big or small a story is, details are more often than not seen on social first.

Is there even a place for media outlets in the social media age? Of course there is, for the in-depth reporting, cited sources, and eloquent journalism (some of us) still crave and need. But only time and social trends will tell how media and journalism continues to shift and adjust in a world that counts the populations of Facebook and Twitter in the top 7 most populated “countries” (I’ll go with entities for correctness).

I guess we’ll all have to spend Valentine’s Day without President Underwood.

Love is in the tweets

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so this week we decided to take a look at how people are are discussing the “day of love” on social media. Because we’re masochists.

So far we have seen more people expressing their love of Valentine’s Day (81%) on Twitter than other social channels. Within those conversations we have seen women (70%) discuss Valentine’s day more often than men (30%). At the same time, out of all the negative tweets about Hallmark’s “made up” holiday, women are more likely to hate (65%) Valentine’s Day than men (35%). When all is said and done, it’s widely acknowledged the lovey-dovey holiday is steeped in actual history (thanks a lot St. Valentine).

We also took a look to see where people in the US are tweeting the most Valentine’s Day to compile our “Top Five Romantic Cities” list. This list is based on the amount of Valentine’s Day mentions we have seen from tweeters in each city.

“Top Five Romantic Cities”

  1. Los Angeles

  2. Chicago

  3. New York City

  4. Houston

  5. Miami

We also saw the hilarious #RejectedCandyHearts hashtag trend last week which has received more than 53,000 mentions since the beginning of the month.

Katy Perry’s infamous Left Shark made it’s way on to the fake candy hearts in addition to our real live heard, that stereotype-breaking phenom that he is.

White Castle also decided to class things up and become the “Love Castle” for you to take your bae. We saw nearly 600 mentions of people planning to spend the special day with their significant other at the Love Castle.

Ben & Jerry’s can expect a slight increase in sales this weekend, with more than 1,200 mentions of people planning to spend Valentine’s Day with two very special fellas from Vermont – Ben and Jerry. Lucky guys.

Bright side to Valentine’s Day? Chocolate will be 50% off on Sunday, February 15.

Interested in learning more about social listening and data or have a question for Brandwatch? Visit us here or email me [email protected]!


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